If I have my internet history correct, 28.8k modems were standard in 1995. That was also the year that Eli Noam, a communications scholar at Columbia University, wrote a provocative paper on the impact of the Internet on higher education. 14 years is a long time; it’s time to review some of his key points. Below, Noam considers how web-based courses will address duplication and inefficiencies in higher ed::

“It is hard to image that the present low-tech lecture system will survive. Student-teacher interaction is already under stress as a result of the widening gulf between basic teaching and specialized research. And the interaction also comes with a big price tag. If alternative instructional technologies and credentialing systems can be devised, there will be a migration away from classic campus-based higher education. The tools for alternatives could be video servers with stored lectures by outstanding scholars, electronic access to interactive reading materials and study exercises, electronic interactivity with faculty and teaching assistants, hypertextbooks and new forms of experiencing knowledge, video- and computer-conferencing, and language translation programs. While it is true that the advantages of electronic forms of instruction have sometimes been absurdly exaggerated, the point is not that they are superior to face-to-face teaching (though the latter is often romanticized), but that they can be provided at dramatically lower cost. A curriculum, once created, could be offered electronically not just to hundreds of students nearby but to tens of thousands around the world. It would be provided by universities seeking additional revenues in a period of declining cohorts, through probably not at first by elite colleges, which guard their scarcity value”

Eli M. Noam, Electronics and the Dim Future of the University
Science, Vol. 270, pp 247-249, October 13, 1995. Copyright 1995, American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Part 2 (coming soon)

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