But some barriers are falling. California is considering a law to require state schools to accept credit for approved MOOCs, in response to more than a half million public college students shut out of oversubscribed basic classes. More broadly, the American Council on Education has recommended five MOOCs as worthy of college credit, which could make it easier to get and transfer courses. The move may lead to putting standardized introductory classes online. Might Lander's course one day be accepted for basic science credit at hundreds of colleges?
Schools are wrestling with more fundamental questions as well. Why would students pay $50,000 a year to trudge through slush for Lander's class when they can get it on their computer screen free of charge? What really is the value of learning on campus? Will the ivy-framed quad even exist tomorrow?
"Disruption is happening," says Anant Agarwal, president of edX, which provides a platform for schools to deliver online courses. "The university, the college, the school as we know it will never be the same again."
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The MOOC is the catalyst behind all the change. It brought the sleepy world of online learning, once perceived as a second-rate alternative, smack into the center of campus.
New online learning models are now surfacing, such as hybrid courses, which combine Internet lectures with in-class teaching. Universities are also forming "closed" networks to offer online courses for credit exclusively to students on participating campuses. The most notable of these, Semester Online, will be launched this fall by a consortium of seven universities on 2U, an educational platform.