Brad DeLong writes:
I will not dare make predictions about the potential Christensenian disruption of higher education until I understand why and how the university as we know it survived the Christensenian disruption that was the coming of the printed book. I don’t understand that….
[H]ere’s the short answer (per [Suzanne] Lohmann): all three information revolutions (printed books [turn of the 16th century], electrical [turn of the 20th century] and electronic [turn of the 21st Century]) hugely expanded the demand for highly-educated labor, and universities are the primary suppliers of such labor. The production process is as much social as it is cognitive, and therefore cannot (to date) be reproduced without physical concentrations of learners and teachers. Thus Alex Tabarrok’s argument that some teaching tasks can be done better on-line than they can face-to-face – which is undoubtedly true, and will become truer over time – does not prove what he thinks it proves. Yes, a 15-minute TED talk generating 700,000 views is a lot of student-hours. But that’s an extraordinary TED talk. A much less extraordinary book that takes 20 hours to read and finds 10,000 readers generates even more. But the TED talk will no more replace the course than the book did.
In my view, the current information revolution will save higher education as a mass high-quality activity, by bringing Moore’s Law to the rescue of the Baumol Cost Disease.