“Colleges invest in technology because they have to,” said Hartle. “[Colleges] rarely invest in technology unless they think it’s going to help their bottom line.”

Hartle recounted his recent experience taking a massive open online course (MOOC) provided by Princeton University through the Coursera platform. He suggested that everyone take a Coursera or edX course to get a better sense of how MOOCs could potentially benefit colleges and alleviate costs for students.

“How does it change the experience? Does it expand or diminish the brand?” he asked. He said his own experience “reinforced what a privilege it would be to study at Princeton, but it’s very different.”

Lee Pelton, president of Emerson College, echoed Hartle’s MOOC endorsement.

“In the past, colleges have not thought of using technology to reduce costs—that has changed,” said Pelton. “Some of the concerns are [for] a small, private, highly competitive college—will technology degrade the brand? I think the future will show that it won’t. I think it’ll become normative. Digital learning communities will cohabitate with residential learning communities, and that’s the game changer.”

Pelton also addressed the current debate regarding the free cost of MOOCs.

“How will they monetize MOOCs? MOOCs create these very large learning communities, [and] these learning communities are something else,” he said. “[Students] become customers, and when you create a [5 to 6 billion person customer base], you’ll attract business that you wouldn’t have otherwise.”


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