“The continual rise in the cost of a college education has led to a growing educational gap that is likely to be filled by the concept of the college without walls and buildings. It is easy to imagine a complete college education being made available via this communication method. The cost of a college education at (price) a year averages out to (price) per class hour per student. This is already more expensive than the (current) system on a nationwide basis, and double the costs on a local basis, not counting the costs of commuting or the inconvenience of having to be physically present for classes at certain hours each week. One could afford to have the most talented teachers prepare the modules and other educational materials that would be made available on a mass basis over such systems. A rich variety of courses could be made available in specialized areas not offered on any one campus, drawing from a prospectively national or international student body.” (emphasis mine)
Source: The Network Nation: Human Communication via Computer. (1978) Starr Roxanne Hiltz, Murray Turoff.
My takeaway: With the recent talk about MOOCs, the increase in online degree programs and other emerging types of credentials, it’s important to remember that these have been issues for a long time. A lot longer than even the World Wide Web itself. Synchronous online classrooms and complete online programs have been offered since the mid-1980s, just a few years after this quote was written.
So the disruption we keep hearing about probably won’t make brick-and-mortar universities obsolete tomorrow. It probably won’t revolutionize the way most of us teach and learn in a few short years. Instead, it will be a more gradual process, with breakthroughs and setbacks, and new obstacles we might not have even seen coming. Keep this larger perspective in mind when reading the next “MOOCs Will Change Everything” piece.