The New York Times recently carried an interesting item about a 15-year-old Mongolian who, among other things, attended a pretty difficult circuits course given by MIT which was offered via MOOC (massively open online course).
To quote the NYT, ".....Battushig, then 15, became one of 340 students out of 150,000 to earn a perfect score in Circuits and Electronics, a sophomore-level class at M.I.T. and the first Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC — a college course filmed and broadcast free or nearly free to anyone with an Internet connection.......How does a student from a country in which a third of the population is nomadic, living in round white felt tents called gers on the vast steppe, ace an M.I.T. course even though nothing like this is typically taught in Mongolian schools? The answer has to do with Battushig’s extraordinary abilities, of course, but also with the ambitions of his high-school principal...........Battushig was one of 20 students, ranging in age from 13 to 17, to enroll in the class. About half dropped out. The course is difficult in any setting — M.I.T. sophomores often pull all-nighters — and the Mongolian students were taking it in a second language. Battushig, however, thrived."
It is a pretty interesting piece. It also brings up an important question: If it becomes easy to take courses from elite schools via MOOCs, what happens to the rest of the educational establishment? One answer: Lot's of unemployed mediocre teachers.