For more than a decade, reformers and technophiles have been waiting for online offers to “disrupt” higher education. In today’s Pope Center article, Jesse Saffron examines the evidence to determine how much new technologies have really changed higher education—and where we’ll go from here.

He writes,

The Internet has been in full force for two decades now, and we’ve seen much of what it can offer: mostly, an unparalleled way to deliver information. But information appears to be not enough for those seeking advanced education. In terms of higher order thinking, complex problem solving, scientific research, written analysis, etc., brick-and-mortar institutions’ comparative advantage in developing those skills is clear.

My own experiences have, so far, confirmed his thesis. To put it colloquially, online courses just aren’t the same. The technology (at least to this Gen-Xer) isn’t as familiar as a classroom setting. The navigation is unwieldy. And the interactions between faculty and students aren’t as personal.

But I’m an optimist. As technology improves, I think online courses will outperform the 400-person lecture. Amazing efficiencies in assessment have already been introduced through the use of online learning platforms like Blackboard and Moodle. Where once students turned in paper essays, they’re now uploaded to the web, where they can be instantly examined for plagiarism, grammar errors, and argument clarity.

Saffron concludes that “online learning offers much, but it is not everything.” While I agree with that statement, I’m still excited for the future.

Read the article, and weigh in, here. What do you think about online education?