But does a university have any other functions besides teaching students a specific body of information?
- The university is an economic system as well as an educational and social system. If there aren't any large lecture classes, those being the province of the 12 or so online superteachers left in the system once this revolution occurs, what pays for the smaller classes, including practicum classes in things like nursing?
- The university funds innovation, or rather it provides a support system within which researchers can compete for grants and so on. What will support that kind of research once the professors and the university that supports them are gone?
- The university is also a place where diverse interpretations can be debated and creative thought can be encouraged. It's easy to say that this creativity and diversity of interpretation will be preserved, but simple economics says that if Harvard is promoting its brand via a course in 18th-century poetry for free, "free" will drive out "expensive" and there'll be pressure to adopt one course to the exclusion of others.
- What'll happen when this course drives others out of the marketplace? I'm sure it would be a fantastic course, but wouldn't everyone then be trained in the same way, without being able to talk to or question the professors in person?
- We all laugh at the "yellowing lecture notes" stereotype, but are the lectures that are produced and put in the can for these courses going to be updated every semester, as a professor's course would be?
- Will the badges and certificates (which--sorry-- I keep picturing as being on a shoulder-to-hip sash like the one I wore in Girl Scouts) be accepted by companies by Microsoft, Apple, and Google?
But those who are cheerleading for this movement aren't answering those hard questions with anything like the serious approach that they use for other topics. Do they put on Unicorn Dazzling Rainbow Goggles before they write those columns?
And for the record, I don't think that all universities will disappear. High-status universities will always remain for the Eloi. For us Morlocks? What's your guess?