Coursera, edX, and MOOCs Are Changing the Online Education Business
If you were asked to name the most important innovation in transportation over the last 200 years, you might say the combustion engine, air travel, Henry Ford’s Model-T production line, or even the bicycle. The list goes on. Now answer this one: what’s been the single biggest innovation in education? Don’t worry if you come up blank. You’re supposed to. The question is a gambit used by Anant Agarwal, the computer scientist named this year to head edX, a $60 million MIT-Harvard effort to stream a college education over the Web, free, to anyone who wants one. Agarwal believes that education is about to change dramatically. Online education isn’t new—in the United States more than 700,000 students now study in full-time “distance learning” programs. These ideas affect markets so large that their value is difficult to quantify. In Christensen’s view, disruptive technologies find success initially in markets “where the alternative is nothing.” Digital instruction faces limits.
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