The WSJ article that preceded the firing of U. Va. President
Source Louis Proyect
Date 12/06/22/16:29

Chubb and Moe: Higher Education's Online Revolution; The
substitution of technology (which is cheap) for labor (which is
expensive) can vastly increase access to an elite-caliber education.

John E. Chubb, Terry M. Moe. Wall Street Journal (Online). New
York, N.Y.: May 30, 2012.

At the recent news conference announcing edX, a $60 million
Harvard-MIT partnership in online education, university leaders
spoke of reaching millions of new students in India, China and
around the globe. They talked of the "revolutionary" potential of
online learning, hailing it as the "single biggest change in
education since the printing press."

Heady talk indeed, but they are right. The nation, and the world,
are in the early stages of a historic transformation in how
students learn, teachers teach, and schools and school systems are

These same university leaders mentioned the limits of edX itself.
Its online courses would not lead to Harvard or MIT degrees, they
noted, and were no substitute for the centuries-old residential
education of their hallowed institutions. They also acknowledged
that the initiative, which offers free online courses prepared by
some of the nation's top professors, is paid for by university
funds--and that there is no revenue stream and no business plan to
sustain it.

In short, while they want to be part of the change they know is
coming, they are uncertain about how to proceed. And in this
Harvard and MIT are not alone. Stanford, for instance, offers a
free online course on artificial intelligence that enrolls more
than 150,000 students world-wide--but the university's path
forward is similarly unclear. How can free online course content
be paid for and sustained? How can elite institutions maintain
their selectivity, and be rewarded for it, when anyone can take
their courses?

This challenge can be met. Over the long term, online technology
promises historic improvements in the quality of and access to
higher education. The fact is, students do not need to be on
campus at Harvard or MIT to experience some of the key benefits of
an elite education. Moreover, colleges and universities, whatever
their status, do not need to put a professor in every classroom.
One Nobel laureate can literally teach a million students, and for
a very reasonable tuition price. Online education will lead to the
substitution of technology (which is cheap) for labor (which is
expensive)--as has happened in every other industry--making
schools much more productive.

And lectures just scratch the surface of what is possible. Online
technology lets course content be presented in many engaging
formats, including simulations, video and games. It lets students
move through material at their own pace, day or night. It permits
continuing assessment, individual tutoring online, customized
reteaching of unlearned material, and the systematic collection of
data on each student's progress. In many ways, technology extends
an elite-caliber education to the masses who would not otherwise
have access to anything close.

Skeptics worry that online learning will destroy the "college
experience," which requires that students be at a geographical
place (school), interacting with one another and their professors.
But such a disconnect isn't going to happen. The coming revolution
is essentially about finding a new balance in the way education is
organized--a balance in which students still go to school and have
face-to-face interactions within a community of scholars, but also
do a portion of their work online.

In this blended educational world, the Harvards and MITs will not
be stuck charging tuition for on-campus education while they give
away course materials online. They and other elite institutions
employ world-renowned leaders in every discipline. They have
inherent advantages in the creation of high-quality online
content--which hundreds of other colleges and universities would
be willing to pay for.

In this way, college X might have its students take calculus,
computer science and many other lecture courses online from
MIT-Harvard (or other suppliers), and have them take other classes
with their own local professors for subjects that are better
taught in small seminars. College X can thus offer stellar
lectures from the best professors in the world--and do locally
what it does best, person to person.

Don't dismiss the for-profit colleges and universities, either.
Institutions such as the University of Phoenix--and it is hardly
alone--have embraced technology aggressively. By integrating
online courses into their curricula and charging less-than-elite
prices for them, for-profit institutions have doubled their share
of the U.S. higher education market in the last decade, now
topping 10%. In time, they may do amazing things with computerized
instruction--imagine equivalents of Apple or Microsoft, with the
right incentives to work in higher education--and they may give
elite nonprofits some healthy competition in providing innovative,
high-quality content.

For now, policy makers, educators and entrepreneurs alike need to
recognize that this is a revolution, but also a complicated
process that must unfold over time before its benefits are
realized. The MITs and Harvards still don't really know what they
are doing, but that is normal at this early stage of massive
change. Early stumbles and missteps (which edX may or may not be)
will show the way toward what works, and what is the right balance
between online and traditional learning.

But like countless industries before it, higher education will be
transformed by technology--and for the better. Elite players and
upstarts, not-for-profits and for-profits, will compete for
students, government funds and investment in pursuit of the future
blend of service that works for their respective institutions and
for the students each aims to serve.

Mr. Chubb is interim CEO of Education Sector, an independent think
tank, and a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University's
Hoover Institution. Mr. Moe is professor of political science at
Stanford and a senior fellow at Hoover. They are the authors of
"Liberating Learning: Technology, Politics, and the Future of
American Education" (John Wiley & Sons 2009).

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