They promise equality of access to higher learning, but online courses will only succeed with better general education in place first, say two educationalists. Proponents have made bold claims for a fundamental change in higher education – drastically decreasing price and increasing access. Thomas Friedman, in an article in The New York Times, argued that nothing has greater potential to “lift more people out of poverty” and to “unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems“. Anant Agarwal, founder of MOOC-provider edX, believes they are making education “borderless, gender-blind, race-blind, class-blind, and bank account-blind“. However, sceptics counter that they may make colleges more exclusive and exacerbate educational inequalities: affluent students will use the online courses to augment teaching on campus, while the less fortunate will be stuck with automated online instruction with little personal guidance. Others worry about the quality of course content, the ability of students to learn outside the classroom, and the creation of a few “super professors” who reach millions of students while others reach none.
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