Watch this video from start to finish from Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller as in right now:
I’m calling it- I think that we’ve passed Clayton Christensen’s inflection point where the disruptive technology (online learning) is better than the dominant technology (traditional universities). The required mastery element that Koller describes in the video seals the deal by itself. I’m willing to bet that it is simply a matter of performing high quality evaluations and getting the results for documentation.
Second while most of the commentary on these developments naturally focuses on higher education, which is in for a major disruption, we need to start thinking about the implications of these developments for K-12. Coursera courses are available for free to anyone. K-12 students can take these courses, and other courses suited to various educational levels will certainly be developed.
What will schools look like in the future? I’m not sure but this is suddenly looking less like science fiction:
For a variety of reasons, I think that home-schooling will ultimately level off, albeit at a higher level than where it is today but well short of a dominant educational paradigm. Maybe at a much, much higher level depending upon how fast schools respond. The ability to collect credentials (which Koller mentions some higher education institutions already accepting for credit btw) seems likely to heavily nudge high-schools into allowing students to take Coursera/Udacity type courses.
Otherwise they seem likely to lose many students completely. Taking a high-school course in American government may be good, but successfully completing an American Government course from a Princeton or Stanford professor employing the techniques described by Koller above is going to be perceived as better- much, much better. Schools that want to keep their students are going to adapt to allow students to earn these credentials.
Savvy parents will lead the charge, but disadvantaged children potentially have the most to gain from these practices. Remember the problem Steven Brill put his finger on in Class Warfare in trying to scale up charter schools with a limited pool of TFA kids? Well, here you go-blended learning schools successfully substituting technology for labor will step into the breach. Big breakthoughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary, indeed.