Online ed means low-cost, high-quality college

Online technology “promises historic improvements in the quality of and access to higher education,” predict John Chubb and Terry Moe in the Wall Street Journal. Elite universities are putting classes — if not degrees — online.

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.

College won’t be 100 percent online, Chubb and Moe predict. Students will “go to school and have face-to-face interactions within a community of scholars, but also do a portion of their work online.”

The “college experience” is very expensive.

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