College is Dead. Long Live College!


For my new Time cover story, I went back to school—learning physics 4 different ways, including for free in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). I had 23,000 classmates and a lot to learn.

Lesson No. 1: What happens when a luxury product becomes…free?

Minute 1: Physics 100 began with a whirling video montage of Italy, slow-motion fountains and boys playing soccer on the beach. It felt a little odd, like Rick Steves’ Physics, but it was a huge improvement over many other online classes I sampled, which started with a poorly lit professor staring creepily into a camera.

When the Udacity professor appeared, he looked as if he were about 12; in fact, he was all of 25. “I’m Andy Brown, the instructor for this course, and here we are, on location in Siracusa, Italy!” He had a crew cut and an undergraduate degree from MIT; he did not have a Ph.D. or tenure, which would turn out to be to his advantage....

EducationAmanda Ripley