I can imagine an online course built around Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose television series that could be better than the average high-school or college economics class. I can’t remember the name of the graduate student who taught my Econ 101, but he wasn’t Milton Friedman. He didn’t adapt his presentation to my learning style. Come to think of it, I don’t think he spoke English terribly well.
Quality teaching powerfully drives education outcomes. An online Friedman might very well best many flesh and blood instructors.
Education may always remain primarily a social enterprise, but mixed models of classroom and online instruction are already underway. A “guide on the side” instead of a “sage on the stage” might actually make sense when technology delivers the primary content.
NAEP scores show that 34 percent of American fourth graders can’t read. Somewhere close to that percentage of students drop out of high school, and many others graduate in need of remediation.
Can technology deliver learning better and cheaper than today’s schools? We don’t know yet, but I’m willing to experiment to find out. Politics will doubtlessly play an inhibiting role, but bet on the better mouse trap in the long run.