The Houston Chronicle is carrying a story by syndicated columnist Froma Harrop about the transformation of colleges toward "whenever learning" and virtual education. The article discusses the fact that many professors now offer their lectures online as an MP3 file that can be downloaded to an iPod and listened to anywhere and anytime.
The article also talks about The Teaching Company and its college level lecture series that anyone can buy. I am a big fan of The Teaching Company. Driving to and from work, I have taken their courses on, among others, Einstein’s Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition, Ancient Greek Civilization, History of the English Language, Terror of History: Mystics, Heretics, and Witches in the Western Tradition, History of Ancient Rome, and Plato, Socrates, and the Dialogues. What's great about these audio courses is that they can be listened to wherever you want, and the lectures are done by true experts in each topic area.
Peter Drucker predicted the disappearance of the modern university in a matter of decades. While I am not sure that will happen, it is clear that the direction for education is toward the concept of "whenever learning."
Interestingly, during Spring Branch's Visioning process this Fall, we have discussed this very topic and its impending impact on K-12 education. As with The Teaching Company, it is conceivable that one day, a virtual classroom will be taught by the best teacher available, simultaneously engaging students in many locations. For example, let's say the students are learning about molecular biology and the most highly regarded expert in the field is a professor at Tulane University. The visioning sessions we have held have included significant conversation that the future will include virtual teaching by this type of expert rather than requiring all of our teachers to be educational generalists.