Is the college of the future online? With the popularity of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and the availability of online degree programs at a fraction of their on-campus price, we are experiencing an exciting experiment in higher education. Does the traditional classroom stand a chance? Will online education be the great equalizer, or is a campus-based college experience still necessary?
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Anant Agarwal is the CEO of edX, an online learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT. Anant taught the first edX course on circuits and electronics from MIT, which drew 155,000 students from 162 countries. He has served as the director of CSAIL, MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. He is a successful serial entrepreneur, having co-founded several companies including Tilera Corporation, which created the Tile multicore processor, and Virtual Machine Works.
Jonathan R. Cole is John Mitchell Mason Professor at Columbia University, where he served as provost and dean of faculties (1989-2003) and vice president of arts and sciences (1987-1989). In recent years, his scholarly work and publications have addressed issues in higher education, particularly problems facing American research universities. His most recent book, The Great American University: Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected (2011), has been translated into Chinese and Arabic. He recently co-edited the book, Who’s Afraid of Academic Freedom? (forthcoming). Cole is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the American Philosophical Society; the Council on Foreign Relations; and a Commendatore in the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy. He lectures throughout the world on topics related to higher education and continues to teach a variety of courses at Columbia.
John Donvan is the moderator for "Intelligence Squared U.S." He is an author and correspondent for ABC News. He has hosted "Nightline," "World News," "Good Morning America," and NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” in addition to producing “My Generation” for PBS. He has also served as ABC’s Chief White House correspondent and held postings in London, Jerusalem, Moscow and Amman. Recognized by the National Magazine Awards for his 2011 Atlantic profile piece “Autism’s First Child,” he is currently writing a book on the history of autism to be published by Crown in 2013.
Ben Nelson is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Minerva Project, a reinvented university experience for the brightest and most motivated students. Prior to Minerva, he spent more than 10 years at Snapfish, where he served as CEO from 2005 to June 2010. He began his tenure as CEO by leading Snapfish’s sale to Hewlett Packard for $300M. Previously, Nelson was president and CEO of Community Ventures, a network of locally branded portals for America’s communities. He holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with honors. It was at Penn that Nelson first realized his passion for reforming undergraduate education.
Rebecca Schuman, Ph.D. is a writer, speaker, adjunct professor, and activist on behalf of adjunct and contingent faculty in the United States. She is a columnist for Slate and the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the author of the book Kafka and Wittgenstein: The Case for an Analytic Modernism, forthcoming from Northwestern University Press. She holds a doctorate in German literature from the University of California-Irvine, is the author of several scholarly articles, and has received numerous academic grants and awards, including an American Council of Learned Societies/Mellon fellowship, and a Fulbright grant. She has been teaching literature, composition and German at the postsecondary level since 2002.
Anant Agarwal and Ben Nelson advocate for the accessibility of college courses online. Jonathan Cole and Rebecca Schuman counter that MOOC participants tend not to be college-age students seeking a degree.