March 26, 2014


Dr. Robert Goddard at Clark University. Credit: NASA / Flickr Creative Commons

Over the past few years, online education has attracted tons of media attention.

Khan Academy - which has been praised and supported by Bill Gates - offers bite-sized lessons for kids and adults. Coursera, Udacity, and edX gear courses towards the college set, serving up everything from calculus to applied cryptography to Shakespeare.

But is online learning really going to replace traditional education?

Bob Shiller doesn't think so.

Shiller, a professor at Yale who won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Economics, says he's skeptical that massive online courses will catch on. He's currently teaching a course on financial markets through Coursera, which has attracted a lot of interest. 

"135,000 signed up," Shiller says, "but only 43,000 actually showed up for my first lecture… This is what they say: a lot of people sign up and then they just don't actually come."

Does he think that these massive courses are the wave of the future?

Shiller believes that - like correspondence courses nearly a century ago - they may fade with time. "I have a suspicion that it's not going to be as important as people think. We'll see, but I think there's something fundamentally important about direct human interaction."

Education, higher ed, college, MOOCs

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