Published on 2012/05/04

eLearning Tidal Wave Changing Higher Education

“If I were president of a mid-tier university, I would be looking over my shoulder very nervously right now,” George Siemens told Tamar Lewin of the New York Times. “Because if a leading university offers a free circuits course, it becomes a real question whether other universities need to develop a circuits course.”

Online learning is certainly becoming more than a flavor of the week. Increasing numbers of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) being made available and huge investments are being committed by major institutions like Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan would suggest that the online learning market is becoming as competitive as traditional higher education.

“My guess is that what we end up doing five years from now will look very different from what we do now,” Provost Alan M. Garber of Harvard, who will be in charge of the university’s involvement, said.

The joint project between Harvard and MIT will see both schools commit $30 million into developing EdX, an organization that is slated to deliver its first five online courses this fall.

“Online education is here to stay, and it’s only going to get better,” Lawrence S. Bacow, a past president of Tufts who is a member of the Harvard Corporation, said. “What faculty don’t want to do is just take something off the shelf that’s somebody else’s and teach it, any more than they would take a textbook, start on Page 1, and end with the last chapter. … What’s still missing is an online platform that gives faculty the capacity to customize the content of their own highly interactive courses.”

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