This article asks whether online education will put Harvard and MIT out of business. The obvious answer is no. But having courses taught by great teachers freely available online will allow anyone with an internet connection to partake of some of the benefits currently restricted to the highest performing or wealthiest, and that’s a major advance for Democracy.
I’m so happy with the way education is moving in this country. I remember digesting everything I could from Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia (on a CD) before Wikipedia was available. Now I, and my kids, can find just about anything online from basic history to advanced mathematics. The availability of full courses from great teachers will make this situation even better.
I don’t put a lot of stock in formal degrees. I’ve worked with people holding BS, MS, and PhD degrees from the best ranked schools in the world, from non-elite schools, and even those without a formal college education. There is far less of a correlation between elite school attendance and brilliant work performance than I would have thought earlier in my career. “Self educated” used to be a valid option for getting a job in many fields and I think this will eventually become an option again for smart companies that want the absolute best employees.
Those who possess a good education are capable of living far better lives, and generally benefit themselves and their society far more, than the ignorant. A good education should be a basic human right, available to all. A just society demands this.