By Tom Katsouleas, Dean of Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. He serves as Chair of the National Academy of Engineering’s Advisory Committee on Engineering Grand Challenges for the 21st Century.
"I’d like to offer a couple of metaphors for higher education today. One is to celebrate the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) like the onset of the textbooks coupled with public libraries. In theory, this opened the totality of human knowledge to everyone. In reality though, a lot of knowledge is stored in the minds of scholars pushing the edges of their fields. Which means that at the PhD level, research universities play the roles of powering innovation and passing their knowledge on to the next generation. But those roles are subsidized by the undergraduate and Masters education that pays the salaries of the faculty.
"It is at the Masters level that traditional universities will first feel the effect of MOOCs. In our visits to corporate partners like Apple and Cisco, it was clear that most top engineers and executives are using MOOCs for their lifelong learning in a way that some used to use corporate sponsored masters programs. Although universities provide individual and team project-based learning that are still difficult to replicate online, a Masters education can be taken anywhere."