If we take these steps, increased learning and retention are bound to follow.

With more than half the world population under the age of 25, innovations such as the MOOC hold great promise in providing access to the knowledge required for participation in a global economy.

The numbers are simply too great for this to be achieved through traditional means.  India alone estimates that it will need 1,000 new universities within the next ten years if it is to just maintain current participation levels.

However, if MOOCs are to live up to the hype, the provider community will need to partner with entrepreneurs like Thrun to clearly articulate—and measure—the many different uses of this evolving phenomenon.

John F. Ebersole, LPD, is president of Excelsior College in Albany, N.Y., one of the oldest accredited, private, nonprofit distance education institutions in the country. In his 25 year career in higher education, Dr. Ebersole’s personal experience as a post-traditional student has informed his approach to adult education. He has held teaching and management positions at John F. Kennedy University and Boston University as well as management positions at the University of California – Berkeley and Colorado State University. He developed the “Berkeley Worldwide” international education program; the Colorado State University “CSUN” Network for Learning; and Boston University’s “BU Global.”