The Tipping Point for Online Universities?

While I’ve been studying the Internet, it has somehow ‘passed a tipping point’ for online learning! At least that is the claim of a number of really ambitious projects in e-learning, including EdX at Harvard-MIT and Coursera at Stanford-Pennsylvania. There is a very clearly argued and supportive piece on the promise of these initiatives on BBC News Online by Sean Coughlan, where I am about the only skeptic. See:

Well, have I been scarred by my experience in trying to teach an online course over several years, or by the earlier push for online education around the time of the dotcom crash? Has access to the Internet and the availability of online materials really reached a tipping point when the early visions can be realized?

I am not a luddite in this area, having focused on this promise for some time, such as with a book with Brian Loader.* However, I fear that some enthusiasts today are not focusing on the ability of EdX for example to raise 60M in grants and other support to provide a ‘free’ service. Others will not be able to use this business model. That said, I am delighted to see new developments in this area, and hope they succeed.

*Dutton, W. H. and Loader, B. D. (2002) (eds.), Digital Academe: New Media and Institutions in Higher Education and Learning, London: Taylor & Francis/Routledge.


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