Lots of people are talking about the accelerating penetration of virtual platforms in the higher education sector. It’s of course unknown whether the massive open online course (MOOC) will be the vector that transforms traditional higher ed the way that so many other industries are being transformed by interconnectivity. But it seems clear that there will be some vector. (I got my first ad for a law school MOOC this week.)
Virtuality poses two basic challenges to higher education. The first is about pedagogy: What might be gained, and what lost, from shifting from a bricks-and-mortar learning environment to a virtual one? The second is about money and institutions: What happens to the business model of colleges and universities as virtual platforms become cheaper, easier to access, and increasingly popular?
Less discussed but potentially just as important is the penetration of virtuality into K-12 ed. Cyber-charter schools are becoming ubiquitous, enrolling tens of thousands of children. Several states have created virtual school districts. In Florida, I’m told, you cannot graduate from high school without taking at least one virtual course.
… for lawyers. The laws and regulations for K-12 schooling envision brick and mortar, not Ethernet and WiFi. How does a cybercharter actually run and how does anyone – parents, students, teachers, state regulators – know if it is actually teaching the kids anything or is just a massive scam?
How about when private religious schools get into the action? They are required to teach secular topics. How does that requirement change when online approaches are common?
Who holds the responsibility for the material when the ‘class’ can be set from anywhere? Who has jurisdiction to control the criteria for an education and then determine that criteria is actually being met?
Online education might be good or not. That is what is disruptive and why I think that lawyers are the ones that will make out like bandits as we move forward.