The higher education world is on the cusp of massive upheaval spurred by competition from digital learning systems, according to a report by Pew Internet/Elon University. Some of the most prestigious schools in the United States are fighting encroachment from online class providers by joining the digital revolution.
In Pew's survey of 1,021 Internet experts, researchers, observers and users, 60 percent said that by 2020 "there will be mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning to leverage expert resources." Classes that meld online learning methods with occasional class meetings will be common, the survey predicted.
"It’s still hard to get a well-paying job without a college degree, and that probably won’t change by 2020," the Pew study said. "But there may be many more paths to that degree than there are today."
Increasing legitimization of online learning will reduce higher education's cost, but could force colleges and universities to re-define their missions — and profit models. An MSNBC.com report said that for many students, college will morph from a residential experience to a virtual one.