Sophia Naide, a 13-year-old 8th grader in Northern Virginia, is studying Computer Science 101 with her mother. Is she taking a high school course? No. Is she enrolled in a community college? George Mason University? The Virginia Tech satellite campus? No, no, no. She signed up for a free, online course with Coursera, the online teaching enterprise that recently forged an agreement with the University of Virginia along with a dozen other prestigious universities. Sophia is one of several learners interviewed by Fast Company writer Anya Kamenetz in an article about Coursera.
The article is worth reading because it sheds light on the growing competitive advantage of online classes in the higher-ed setting. Traditionalists, reactionaries and others with a vested interest preserving in the status quo insist that nothing can replace the face-to-face interaction between teacher and student in a real-world, campus setting. But the Fast Company article makes it clear that online courses can do things that conventional classroom courses cannot.