Two days a week, I grab my notebook, hop on my bike and head off to my global history class at the University of Virginia; the rest of the week, I’m at Yale studying the Old Testament. And later this month, I’m registered to sit in on Michael Sandel’s famous lectures on justice—which he has presented for the past two decades at Harvard and are attended by more students than any other class the college offers.
I know what you’re thinking: That’s an awful lot of pedaling. Maybe so; but I should probably mention that the bike is stationary, and the lectures and weekly quizzes are all delivered at my leisure via the Internet.
Welcome to the future of higher education.
At least that’s the future we can expect according to a resounding chorus of commentators, one of the loudest being the columnist Thomas Friedman, who wrote in yesterday’s New York Times that widespread access to information is turning higher learning on its head, and replacing the traditional “sage on a stage” model of professorial omnipotence with a less rigid class structure designed to give students more of a say in how they learn.