As universities purge headlong into the Age of Digitization, we are left to wonder about the value of what is quickly becoming a Open Source education where students the world over are able to get the same information and identical teaching via the internet and iTunes podcasts.
What will make Harvard’s virtual campus any different from an online community college?
The answer will have to be found in the preservation of the one-off: The First Edition of a book that has not, and never will be, digitized and in the prestigious faculty member who does not allow classroom lecture audio or video recording or the giving away of teaching materials on the web.
We must accept that higher education will never be egalitarian because the present massive monsters of the university elite must have a bright line to draw between them and the rest.
Why pay for an Ivy League education if the mall down the street is offering the same course material and diploma for a tenth of the price in half the time?
The Big Name universities will have to quickly realize there is nothing in their selfish best interest in giving away their most precious books for Google digitization and distribution across the world and that sometimes saying “no” to instant iTunes Podcast fame is actually in favor of the long term viability of a university that must, at all costs, preserve a valuable and special identity that continues to have power and prestige in the marketplace beyond the parchment of a virtual diploma.