Professor of English at UVa argues that online courses aren't--and never will be--good substitutes for in-person courses.
A truly memorable college class, even a large one, is a collaboration between teacher and students. It’s a one-time-only event. Learning at its best is a collective enterprise, something we’ve known since Socrates. You can get knowledge from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning. A real course creates intellectual joy, at least in some. I don’t think an Internet course ever will. Internet learning promises to make intellectual life more sterile and abstract than it already is — and also, for teachers and for students alike, far more lonely.
I disagree in part. I think online courses can be a very good substitute for classes enrolling 300 or 400 students in a big auditorium with a professor flipping through PowerPoints. More cost- and time-efficient with little or no loss of quality. But if the professor is asking the students to think and not just memorize, online courses will probably not be as good. But I suspect fewer and fewer such courses are being offered.
There is hope for effective education, though. This sounds like one promising start: "Schools That Work, Literally".