At America’s top universities, MOOCs are fueling a heated debate between faculty and administrators. Many professors fear that intimate classroom settings will be replaced by online courses where superstar professors teach on the web and everyone else becomes a glorified teaching assistant. Administrators, in contrast, see MOOCs as a way to reduce costs, gain efficiencies in non-core offerings and ‘export’ courses that reflect their university’s strengths.
Meanwhile, startups like 2u and nonprofits like edX are ready to capitalize on new business models evolving around MOOCs. These arguments for and against MOOCs make sense if you believe that the leading higher education institutions are in the business of selling and delivering education. Given this business model, the focus naturally falls on who teaches courses today, who will teach tomorrow and who will make money producing, delivering and distributing the courses.