Imagine a high school student in China. His or her family is sufficiently affluent to support an American college education in the United States. Question: Would he or she prefer to learn via MOOCs or in residence at an American institution?
More pointedly, let's say this student is given the option of taking MOOCs produced by the very top American institutions - MIT or Stanford - or attending a somewhat less prestigious institution such as Tufts University. Which would he or she choose?
To be in residence at Tufts. Why? Because that student understands that improving social and professional prospects involves more than mastering bodies of knowledge. It also involves developing social capital, which is best, or only, acquired in a residential environment.
It is worth remembering this hypothetical as the educational world becomes besotted with MOOCs. There will always be a place for residential colleges and universities that confer valuable social capital on their students. This cannot be…