Will MOOCs Make The ‘Ivory Tower’ Obsolete?

On a recent sunny afternoon at Northeastern University, President Joseph Aoun mingles with incoming freshmen. As a member of the American Council on Education, Aoun is urging higher-education institutions to embrace disruptive technologies such as MOOCs to expand their reach. He says Northeastern is already taking the lead.

“We are in Charlotte, we are in Seattle,” he said. “We are with some corporate partners in China and India and the Phillipines. Even in Vietnam, we are there. So the technology doesn’t drive you. You have to decide how you are going to master technology in order to further the mission of the school. Technology can be used to enhance the reach of the professor and the interaction between the professor and the student.”

As he walks Northeastern’s brick-covered pathways, Aoun pauses to reflect on the idea of a college campus defined by its boundaries in the 21st century.

“That’s obsolete,” he said. “The notion of ivory towers is obsolete. And from this perspective there’s an opportunity to embrace faculty worldwide, to embrace students worldwide and to embrace experiences worldwide.”

Experiences that offer a certain promise to find new and effective paths for higher education.