Online education: many academics are missing the point

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Many academics are complaining about online education and warning us about how it can lead to a lower quality product. For example, the New York Times recently published this op-ed piece wondering if “online education [will] ever be education of the very best sort?”. Although pretty much every controlled experiment comparing online and in-class education finds that students learn just about the same under both approaches, I do agree that in-person lectures are more enjoyable to both faculty and students. But who cares? My enjoyment and the enjoyment of the 30 privileged students that physically sit in my classes seems negligible compared to the potential of reaching and educating thousands of students all over the world.  Also, using recorded lectures will free up time that I can spend on one-on-one interactions with tuition paying students.  But what most excites me about online education is the possibility of being part of the movement that redefines existing disciplines as the number of people learning grows by orders of magnitude. How many Ramanujans are out there eager to learn Statistics? I would love it if they learned it from me.