Charlotte Allen summarizes a lot of recent developments that I think are going to change higher education.
It's happening, almost overnight: what could be the collapse of the near-monopoly that traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and universities currently enjoy as respected credentialing institutions whose degrees and grades mean something to employers.
Read the whole thing. Here is what I see as four technologies coming together:
1. The use of YouTube for bite-sized lectures, as famously demonstrated by Khan Academy but widely used by others. (When I put up my statistics and economics lectures, what I quickly found was that each topic already had several competing lectures on YouTube.)
2. Video conferencing. Using this technology, it is easier to attend two seminars in different cities than it is to walk to two seminars on the same campus.
3. Artificial intelligence for assessment. It's about more than just grading multiple choice tests. Something like ALEKS.com can grade numerical answers. A software course can grade you on whether your program works. My guess is that with sophisticated statistical software one could grade short-answer questions.
4. Real-time natural-language interaction (like the i-phone's Siri). Now that I have "flipped the classroom" in statistics and I walk around giving students helpful hints, I think that my hint-giving could easily be automated. A student could talk into a phone, either to ask a question or describe a thought process, and the automated assistant could give the most appropriate prompt.
I see the potential for a dramatic reduction in the labor intensity of teaching. I think we are at a point in education that reminds of what the Web felt like in 1994. A lot of excitement is coming, and change will sweep through faster than most people expect. Traditional colleges seem poised to be the Borders Books of the next round of technological change.