"Online study offers a hugely valuable adjunct to a rounded education, but they should not be confused with the real thing."
MIKE BOXALL, PA HIGHER EDUCATION EXPERT
Letter to the editor
Michael Barber's report restates the misguided assertion that the rise of moocs (massive online open courses) and other online education providers heralds the demise of conventional university education (Report, 11 March).
This is credible only if you believe higher education involves nothing more than acquiring and demonstrating familiarity with subject-related content. Barber rightly observes that in the Google-age, high-quality educational content is freely available. So you don't need to spend three years (and, according to some estimates, up to £100,000 for UK students) to master it. However, that focus on education as content will not meet the needs of employers. It will not give young people the intellectual and personal skills they need to lead successful lives. These skills can only be gained in a managed social setting, either face-to-face or in peer groups, for example (but not only) in universities. Moocs and online study offers a hugely valuable adjunct to a rounded education, but they should not be confused with the real thing.
Mike Boxall is a higher education expert at PA Consulting Group