The simple truth is that nobody has figured out how to build a cheap, high-quality online university. Not even close. So far, the biggest investments in Internet education have come from the for-profit sector, and their results have been, to put it lightly, lacking.
As you might recall from your undergraduate years -- hazy as they may be -- colleges do more than just teach. Most obviously: They stamp their graduates a with a giant seal of approval for employers. In econ speak, this is called signaling. And signaling, while easy to disparage, is crucial.
What's more likely to happen is that colleges will learn how to adapt online technology to cut costs as they come under increasing budget pressure. They'll do it slowly, but eventually. The process might lead to fewer lecturers on campus, as schools begin sharing more big survey courses. The Harvards of the world might experiment with more remote, international campuses catering to foreign students. But a wholesale, top to bottom revolution in how we educate students? Not likely, no matter how many times you hear it repeated.
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