Nearly half a century ago, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore famously predicted that chip performance would double every other year. This breathtaking pace of change, unheard of in old-school industries, has characterized not only computer chips but high tech more generally. Such has been the case with MOOCs, the massive open online courses that have become topic number one in higher education.
While online courses have been around for years [see Jon Wiener, in this issue], until recently they’ve been the exclusive province of universities: such courses carry credit, charge tuition and are small enough to enable students to connect with their professors. MOOCs were promoted as the disruptive innovation that would make higher education better, cheaper and more widely available. Not only would they be free and disconnected from a university, but instead of enrolling 100 students, like a typical lecture course, they would enroll hundreds of thousands of students.