MIT is launching a new educational initiative, MITx, which will offer courses with MIT credentialing. It's an extension of their Opencourseware offerings.
The game-changing aspect is: no admission process and no prerequisites required. You want to take it, you can. If you show mastery, you get the credential, for a small charge.
How they implement this will be crucial. In this New York Times article reviewing eight books on higher education, Anthony Graft makes the astute comment:
"Online courses, the other popular suggestion, can work well—so long as one also provides competent human supervision online, twenty-four hours a day, which makes such courses just as expensive as the traditional sort."
Online courses without "competent human supervision" can work well if:
1. You want to acquire knowledge or mastery of a specific set of facts, ideas, and/or skills.
2. You already know how to reason fairly well about the domain of knowledge you're studying.
3. You're good at working on your own.
4. You're good at coming up with questions on your own AND good at finding the answers.
Just some of the reasons why I think young people need in-person instruction.
Hattip Pat Peterson