What do we mean by “the caliber of professor at MIT”? Almost every prof at MIT will be deeply knowledgeable in his or her field, and will be a first-class researcher. But online as well as in the traditional classroom, we still have to ask whether and how those kinds of expertise translate into learning for the student. If the most knowledgable scholars in the world can be lousy teachers in a room full of people, they can be lousy teachers online too.
And then there’s the question of what kind of teaching excellence is needed for online learning. So far, universities that have sought an online presence have tended to put their best lecturers online — the people with the most dynamic personal presences. The Richard Feynman model, the funny, charismatic master explainer, seems to be the thing sought for — but what if people don’t actually learn all that much from such figures?
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