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.


  1. I just read a couple of days back about MIT going online –
    and I thought the same — what is the objective of making it public when these ivy-leagues are so picky about choosing their students? Then I realized it might have to do something with the processing of information which won’t be the same always.
    The level of understanding/ processing/ retention of information will differ and that’s where the exclusivity comes. I can buy/ avail HBS courses/ notes/ class lectures online but if I do not have a solid foundation to comprehend it in the first place, what’s the point of my having the course material online?

  2. It’s a little like diplomas by mail or correspondence university but much easier – I can’t imagine that saying you took the coursework of Harvard without an actual Harvard degree would get you the same places as having that beautiful printed certificate of achievement. 🙂

  3. Universities used to brag about how many millions of books were in their libraries for comparison against lesser schools. Now that all those books are being digitized and distributed by Google to enrich the world — what is the next, non-virtual measuring stick of excellence for these big schools? The faculty? If you decide your people are the difference makers in the virtual world, then you’ll likely see even more freelance professor superstars who will even more quickly jump from school to school to take the big payday… even at “Strip Mall Diploma Mill University” if the price is right.

  4. Well, you could say you “studied with” a certain professor and if you can get the same virtual knowledge as the kids in a traditional classroom at a tenth of the cost — will anyone care in the end that your Strip Mall diploma isn’t as pretty as an Ivy League schools?
    Learning is about acquiring knowledge, Gordon, and the smarter kids know that and use other minds to build theirs… even if they’re poor and have no way out of a hole they were born into… and you’ll see an even higher standard of student coming out of this egalitarian distribution of lecture media, and while that’s great for the world, it is inherently dangerous and bad for the high end university paying the professor superstar for the loyalty and dedication of tenure and then getting the best of that work cast free into a devouring world.

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