MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are proliferating. MOOCs replace the on-campus lecture experience with an online course delivered by one of the leading professors in their subject. Thus no matter where in the world a student resides, they have access to the top professor in each field.
The doomsday scenario for higher education providers is the unprecedented decrease in demand for professors and educators. Rather than each college or university needing a full-stock of qualified professors and lecturers, the world really only needs a hanful of experts in each field as now lectures from these experts are accessible by anyone with an Internet connection.
More relaisticly MOOC developers talk of a "blended model" in which professors teaching on campus, in actual classrooms use MOOCs in their lesson planning to free up time for more one-on-one learning and in-class discussion. (The thinking is if the professor isn't spending all their time prepping and delivering lectures then they have more time for student interaction.)
Institutions have been adopting MOOCs as a strategy to cut costs already looking to maintain the on-campus student by lowering administrative costs (hiring less professors).
Our interest from an academic conference planning perspective is, will students that study and learn remotely be successful in an interactive, knowledge sharing conference environment?
Are those skills of listening to live lectures in a group environment developed during the classroom lecture process?
For more on MOOCs we suggest this article from the Wall Street Journal.