November 20th, 2014
09:09 AM ET

Are MOOCs the future of education?

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Stuart Butler, a Brookings scholar, who's written extensively on massive open online courses, or so-called MOOCs, and Anant Agarwal, who runs edX, a MOOC outfit founded by two bricks and mortar institutions.

Stuart, explain first the kind of crisis in what you've called the business model for higher education.

Well, it certainly is a crisis that they’re facing. First of all, the costs of traditional education have been going up and the indebtedness associated with it. Now student tuition debt in the United States exceeds credit card debt. Secondly...

And it's $1 trillion, right?

Butler: Yes, exactly. Secondly, you're seeing different kinds of information coming forward so that people can actually evaluate the success of going to one college or another, whether it actually pays off.

And then the third thing, which you referred to, is that you're seeing new kinds of technologies that, first of all, appeal to students who are not part of the regular market, but now that technology is being developed, such as through edX and through others, such that it is really beginning to break open the existing traditional market. So there's an existential threat to the very business model that, quite honestly, has been lasting for almost 2,000 years.

You point out the numbers are pretty staggering. You now have, among private, non-profit college graduates, 65 percent in debt. The average indebtedness is $20,000. Cost is obviously now at two, three hundred thousand dollars to go to college, at least. And it's not clear that they get that much out of it.

Butler: That's right. And that's the driving force. Once you combine information about whether you're getting good value for money, and then you combine that with new technologies, that gives you different ways of actually getting to the same result. That's what breaks open a market.

But of course, a lot of people say, that's fine, but you can't just sit in front of a computer and watch some professor – that's not education. What do you say to that, as somebody running an outfit that does sort of that?

Agarwal: Today's online education is not our grandfather's online education. Its completely transformed. We are doing short videos, interactive gaming technology where professors are using game-like technologies, discussions, segments such as yours, where various people get together, experts in the field get together to discuss a topic. So it's not just a video of a professor standing at the end of a classroom. So the technology has advanced tremendously. We bring discussion forums and the social into the classroom, into the online experience. And so this can be a very rich and very high quality experience.

Watch the video for the full segment

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Topics: Education

soundoff (224 Responses)
  1. chri§§y

    It musta broke your heart when mini blinds came out and everyone in your neighborhood bought some eh @ philip?lol

    November 21, 2014 at 10:40 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      Chrissy, your 10:40 am comment has won the the internet today.

      November 21, 2014 at 11:13 am | Reply
  2. chri§§y

    Poor philip...the sun aint gonna shine anymore...the moon aint gonna rise in the morn....lmao buh bye now!

    November 21, 2014 at 11:00 am | Reply
  3. chri§§y

    Sky i meant.

    November 21, 2014 at 11:03 am | Reply
  4. chri§§y

    Lol ty @ banasy...we need to get him a freakin dress so he can "look" like a proper biatch eh!

    November 21, 2014 at 11:56 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      He takes "Neighborhood Watch" to a whole new level.

      November 21, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Reply
  5. chri§§y

    Hmm @ banasy...speaking of...i wonder how many neighborhood watch lists hes on? The predator ones i mean.

    November 21, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Reply
  6. chri§§y

    And @ philip...remember this "Pursue peace and you shall find it?" You told me that the ONLY time you ever really apologised to me. And it was in regards to...your barbs about my truck brakes!! Go figure huh! And THAT was Oct 16th 2011 and the insults had been going on for awhile at that time. I havent lost all my faculties just yet dude so you need to back up off me!!!!

    November 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  7. Crockett

    Hey you guys are jobless? Sitting in some cave in India doing opium? What a waste. Oh well. I am outta here. Comments are so babyish

    November 21, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      Wait, wait,'re going to complain about the "babyish" comments after writing something as babyish as "Hey you guys are jobless? Sitting in some cave in India doing opium? What a waste. Oh well. I am outta here. Comments are so babyish" to people you know live and work in America?



      November 21, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  8. Holy See

    You disparaged men, Banazi. You ACCUSSED young Philip of wanting another man. You despise gay priests do you? 500 Hail Marys or burn in catholic dogma hellfire!

    November 21, 2014 at 9:20 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      Knock it off, Philip. I did nothing of the sort.
      What I said is that you WANT a man, and the is 98% percent of your problems.
      Stop denying your orientation. There is no shame in being gay.

      Lol. Your ignorant attempts at trying to guilt me for suggesting you embrace your sexuality is futile.
      You only out yourself more.

      November 21, 2014 at 9:50 pm | Reply
  9. Latino Gay Society

    Wut up essay banazi? Making funs of Philipe for wanting a man insteads of as for wantings big fat house hags? U just not politically correct, essay.

    November 21, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      He likes hags, being he is one.
      Give him your phone number. Perhaps he will fit you in between his busy schedule of peeping into windows to see what position his neighbors are currently in.

      November 21, 2014 at 9:53 pm | Reply
      • Cap'n

        You accused me of wanting a man. As if it were bad. You lose.

        November 21, 2014 at 10:04 pm |
      • banasy©

        It's not bad that you want a man. It is bad that you bash gays on a daily basis while denying you want a man.

        I don't expect you to understand that subtle difference, being the monumental hypocrite you are.

        November 21, 2014 at 10:16 pm |
  10. The Hague v Banazi


    November 21, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      Banasy would win. She isn't the genetic aberration the person who posted this is.

      November 21, 2014 at 9:57 pm | Reply
      • Cap'n

        Lol. How could banasy possibly win when the case is clearly vs Banazi.

        November 21, 2014 at 10:11 pm |
      • banasy©

        How could anyone possibly miss that you call me banazi all the time because you enjoy bastardizing my name whilst bringing up my family's history at the hands of the Third Reich?

        It is well known you don't have boundaries. Nothing new.

        November 21, 2014 at 10:20 pm |
    • Cap'n

      Get a clue. Nobody wins vs The Hague. Not even the 8 (out of all the hundreds of) ardent NAZI MDs were able to escape The Hague. The 8 went to prison. The hundreds went to America. (Declassified US gov op Paperclip)

      November 21, 2014 at 10:09 pm | Reply
      • banasy©


        I am not a Nazi, but you will always be an ignorant ass.

        November 21, 2014 at 10:13 pm |
  11. chri§§y

    So i take it today is NOUN day eh? Lmao you are consistant ill give you that philip!

    November 21, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      It's a simple concept, Chrissy. If he doesn't bring me up in his posts, I won't bother him unless he posts wrong information like he did yesterday when he stated unequivocally that Ritalin was (in fact) a SSRI when, (in fact) it is not.

      November 21, 2014 at 10:38 pm | Reply
  12. chri§§y

    After watching the morning news i am astonished that the people that are governing this country, particularly my STATE govt are so incredibly STUPID!!! Michigans Representative, Candice Miller (R) has announced her concern on the POTUSs immigration reform. She is going to tighten the borders in our state. She mustve forgotten we are nearly surrounded by water! But to all you people of Ohio, Indianna and Illinois Beware, it wont be an easy feat to enter our state illegally from here on out! She isnt too concerned about the Canadian Border though because Homeland Security monitors that border!! Go back to school Candice!!!

    November 22, 2014 at 10:26 am | Reply
  13. chri§§y

    Of all the problems this state has im relatively certain....illegal immigrants does NOT make the top 50!!!! But obviously education DOES!

    November 22, 2014 at 10:52 am | Reply
  14. Tori

    Hi Chrissy, it's so true. Louisiana is always at the bottom when it comes to education. Arizona was no better. That's why I'm headed to the northeast to finish what I started. My family for the most part is all there. That counts for so much.

    November 22, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  15. chri§§y

    Lol @ Tori hello! And yea i know its a challenge these days. But im glad youre gonna be close to your mom. And tell your dad i said hi next time you talk to him. I was being sarcastic earlier you know right? I just couldnt believe when she was spouting all that stupidness! Theyve been doing some real dumb stuff in our state...they cut a million bucks out of the education budget and closed up WHOLE school districts, and then give their staff 82 to 90% pay increases. Meanwhile no road repairs have been done...but hey! We're gettin another bridge to Canada, that we dont need nor want, named after the governor! Its ridiculous!

    November 22, 2014 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  16. chri§§y

    And have you been having servor problems today? This is the first ive been able to get online, well that post just before this one since this morning.

    November 22, 2014 at 10:02 pm | Reply
  17. chri§§y

    And correction, that shouldve read cut a "Billion" out of the education budget not a million.

    November 22, 2014 at 10:07 pm | Reply
  18. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    The finest quality of the MOOC concept is the increased potential for Equality in education.
    A college degree, to which every citizen has a right guaranteed by the...uh, by law, in the USA, is not the same thing for each person. Let's take a doctorate, for example.
    A doctorate for Sally may not reflect the same interests, attention span, or reading comprehension that a doctorate reflects for Joe. Each, if he goes through the course, will give different answers. If Joe gives a less desirable answer, the computer can offer an easier question, repeatedly, until Joe has correctly answered enough questions to earn his doctorate.
    There should be no way for Sally to know what questions Joe answered correctly to earn his Equal doctorate.

    November 24, 2014 at 4:06 am | Reply
  19. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    Take @ TORI, for example. She is studying to be a medical doctor. She is not doing that in a MOOC. When she has been graduated, she will have a doctorate.
    Now, as for the Reverend Billy Graham, he also has a doctorate.
    They are both doctors, aren't they?
    Just don't ask Dr. Graham to write a prescription. For that, you'll have to go to an NP.

    November 24, 2014 at 4:16 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      I am posting this early in the morning because I am back into a work schedule that infuriates my doctors -the real doctors.
      I cannot stand being retired. We all know of my greed.

      November 24, 2014 at 4:27 am | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Four years ago, a bunch of doctors stood around my hospital bed and said, "it' time to slow down."
        A lady doctor explained the Serenity Prayer to me, and reminded her that she was a scientist.
        A male doctor said, "we're talking about death here."
        Next week I'll be 76 years old.

        November 24, 2014 at 4:50 am |
  20. whatifdave

    Rake leaves for the disabled, visit the elderly, mentor at risk kids, build ramps for aging seniors, paint
    old buildings, help run a preschool, plant trees in neighborhoods, just to name a few for college students to pay their way through school or pay down their college debt. As time is the one limited resources we all possess, creating new volunteer opportunities would be time better spent.
    College graduates have record high student loans, this harms our long term economy. Graduates do not have that extra cash to buy homes, furniture and appliances, this causes our economy to run slower, and keeps unemployment high.
    The more hours of volunteering means communities are improved, and we help fine tune the economy with lower student loans debt.

    November 24, 2014 at 9:02 am | Reply
  21. chri§§y

    Lmao @ Joey....i highly doubt your dislike of retirement has anything to do with money, or greed!!! More than likely its the mundane days of nothing to keep you active. At least not as active as you like! I find retirement rather boring. Lets just say its nothing like what i was led to believe! So in spite of your "real doctors" i say "good for you and keep on keepin on" ;)!

    November 24, 2014 at 10:55 am | Reply
  22. worldlypatriotusaveteran

    The revolutions in information technology and mass communications demand revolutionary approaches to modern education.

    MOOC is one alternative that must be given a chance to succeed.

    Traditional brick and mortar colleges remain viable as a teaching alternative. But, the rising costs and lack of rigor in many traditional colleges cannot continue.

    We need a national-level project on education with goals as substantive and challenging as the Moon landings in the 1960's.

    November 24, 2014 at 11:20 am | Reply
  23. george

    I have been taking edx courses for more than a year now, followed roughly 80 courses and gained a certificate in close to 30 (all withoyt having to pay a cent). I have a full time job. All I did was to swap the hours I watch TV with edxing... Instead of commercials between videos I answer questions about usually fun and exciting stuff.

    I wish this remains free for the future, because it is the future.

    December 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Reply
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    January 19, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  25. Bayu Angora

    Agree about this.

    July 15, 2019 at 11:04 am | Reply
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