My guess is that they will secure a valuable niche and will ultimately be socialized by our institutions precisely because they do lower the cost of instruction. And as a graduate of 3 large public universities, I for one am prepared to believe that they will lower the cost of those courses that for me had 300, 400, 500 or more students.

I can imagine what Plato might have to say about some of the on-ground lectures that MOOCs hope to replace. And recall that Plato warned us of the educational erosion that would happen were we to allow the  insertion of writing into the learning experience!

Will MOOCs substitute for a seminar at Amherst or Williams? Not likely. Nor do a great many of our ‘traditional’ offerings — online or on-ground. Again, higher education is today solving a different problem.

Our state and national leaders know that our competitiveness depends on a highly educated work force. Today – and perhaps forever – we cannot afford to make a higher education the public good it was – or should be.

We as a community must really begin to put our shoulders to the wheel to drive the cost of education down so that this education can be available and accessible to anyone who can benefit from it. I think that this needs to become an obsession – one that permits or even encourages us to challenge things we have come to hold sacred.

This blog post originally appeared on WCET’s blog. Richard Katz consults on strategy, technology, and performance and compliance management with governments, corporations, and colleges and universities worldwide.

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