Tom Katsouleas, Dean of Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, provided a very upbeat view of online courses (particularly MOOCS) in a blog post Who says online courses will cause the death of universities?. He makes some assertions without evidence that I find a bit dubious:
The bottom line, though, is that while online education poses a challenge for universities, they will ultimately improve them.
And by moving lecturing online, MOOCs allow in-person time to be more interactive, dynamic, and valuable.
Despite the challenges to universities posed by MOOCs, there are great advantages to them as well. And the best universities will be able to capitalize on those advantages to provide the best value for their students – whether that value is online or in person. Despite what some see as a threat to higher education, MOOCs will only help it get better.
This is essential the administrative view of online courses: that they are new and cheap and must therefore be for the good of higher education.
I think that Dr. Katsouleas is right in asserting that the continuing education market for engineers is one of the places where universities will first see the effect of MOOCS, both because there are more MOOCs and more advanced MOOCs available in engineering than in other fields, and because many engineers seek continuing education even without certification. I don’t think that the MOOCs will reduce MS degree seekers much, because there is still a very large premium for the MS certification in engineering, and the engineering MOOCs available still only go up to junior-level courses. There are already many MS-level courses offered online, and I’m sure we’ll see an increase in them, but the market for them is too small for a MOOC, so there isn’t the advertising-for-the-provider benefit which drives most of the MOOCs currently, and we’re more likely to see the standard pay-per-course fee structure for them.
I think that we will see some colleges and universities starting to accept credits from MOOCs for undergrad courses, once the problems with cheating and low-quality assessment are fixed.