Popular "disruptions" have the buzz but might put higher education out of reach for those students who need traditional instruction the most. (Wow - the conversation is heating up about MOOCs and "disruption" in higher education.
The importance of personal interactions to support learning for college students is emphasized--as a luxury for those who can afford it--and as a necessity for those less well prepared, less well-off who are seeking the promise of upward mobility historically associated with a college education:
"....The punditry around reinvention (including some in these pages) has trumpeted the arrival of MOOC's, badges, "UnCollege," and so on as the beginning of a historic transformation. "College Is Dead. Long Live College!," declared a headline in Time's "Reinventing College" issue, in October, which pondered whether massive open online courses would "finally pop the tuition bubble." With the advent of MOOC's, "we're witnessing the end of higher education as we know it," pronounced Joseph E. Aoun, president of Northeastern University, in The Boston Globe last month.
Read beneath the headlines a bit. The pundits and disrupters, many of whom enjoyed liberal-arts educations at elite colleges, herald a revolution in higher education that is not for people like them or their children, but for others: less-wealthy, less-prepared students who are increasingly cut off from the dream of a traditional college education.
"Those who can afford a degree from an elite institution are still in an enviable position," wrote the libertarian blogger Megan McArdle in a recent Newsweek article, "Is College a Lousy Investment?" For the rest, she suggested, perhaps apprenticeships and on-the-job training might be more realistic, more affordable options. Mr. Aoun, in his Globe essay, admitted that the coming reinvention could promote a two-tiered system: "one tier consisting of a campus-based education for those who can afford it, and the other consisting of low- and no-cost MOOC's." And in an article about MOOC's, Time quotes David Stavens, a founder of the MOOC provider Udacity, as conceding that "there's a magic that goes on inside a university campus that, if you can afford to live inside that bubble, is wonderful...."