if Harvard is offering online courses with world famous professors, what exactly is the justification for offering an inferior product at a much higher cost? It is not at all clear why the “research university” model, with its extremely high costs and inflexible structure, should be the delivery system of choice for postsecondary education across the whole country. Many students might be much better served with a system in which a “rock star” professor delivers lectures online, while specially trained and qualified (but quite likely non-PhD) instructors lead discussions, work one-on-one with students, and grade papers.
A school set up like this would likely offer a much better quality of undergraduate education than lower-tier research universities offer today, with more individual attention and a much, much lower cost.
This kind of change would have to come almost literally over the dead bodies of the current faculties in many schools. . . .
These changes will ultimately be beneficial, though the costs will be real. Society simply needs more education than the classical research university can provide at an acceptable cost. Cheaper, better, more convenient and more democratic: it is hard to win a fight against an alternative that offers so much to so many.
In an ideal world, university professors and other intellectuals would have been thinking about these problems for many years. They would be the pioneers in innovation and experiment. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. The intellectual establishment is fully on the defensive. It is circling the wagons. It instinctively identifies attacks on the existing model with the worst kind of populist ignorance and bigotry. Nobody is angrier, nastier or more self-righteous than an intellectual whose livelihood is under threat.
Walter Russell Mead via http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/06/26/university-of-virginia-only-the-beginning