How about some facts in this discussion? :-)
MIT started one of the first (if not the first) MOOC (online classes) in 2006 or so. They wanted to stay at that forefront of the digital revolution, so they uploaded all of their classes. Course material, notes, exams, audio, video, etc. Whatever they had. They did this for all faculties. MIT has courses in engineering, economics, languages, theater, urban planning, and yes, women's studies. Some 20-30 areas. All of it is at MIT OpenCourseware.
To promote this, they got a Google Foundation Grant (one million US dollars) to be spent in Google Adwords. I've managed that grant since the beginning.
I set up a global campaign in 14 languages, which are all of the main European languages, along with Chinese, Russian, and Japanese. I also included Korean and Arabic. Ads appear in 130 countries. There are around 5,000 keywords in 1,100 adgroups with 2,000 ads.
This campaign has up to now 530 million ad impressions, 11.7 million clicks (visits) at an average of US$0.12 per click (that's the lifetime average; the average for the last few years is around US$0.07 per click). So far, I've spent about US$1.5m.
At first, my target audience was anyone who wanted to learn about engineering, economics, etc. But in meetings with teachers, I discovered that it's more useful to target teachers. If I reach a student, she can take a few courses for a year or two. But if I reach a teacher, the teacher will use the material for her class syllabus (her class outline and materials), which means she'll reach 50-100 students. Teachers tend to use the same syllabus for ten years, so if I reach one teacher, I've reached perhaps 1,000 students. So I created 72 adgroups with 550 keywords for teachers.
The results: MIT estimates more than four million people have used Opencourseware course materials.
Furthermore, MIT used their experience and leadership to create a consortium of universities around the world (Japan, France, Germany, US, etc.) which offer their courses online. I doubt that one could overestimate the impact: this means tens of millions of people are using online courses for free.
So... will MOOCs replace universities? That question was valid perhaps 15 years ago, but it's irrelevant now.
- MOOCs are widespread and have a tremendous impact on education. Much of it is invisible (very likely, some of you took classes where your course material came from a teacher who got it from MIT which she found via my Google ad campaign).
- For-profit colleges such as University of Phoenix (and Trump U :-) are trivial. They aren't at the level of MIT with its global reach and a consortium of hundreds of universities.
- MOOCs are not replacing universities. They have become part of universities. Just as large corporations defend themselves from startups by acquiring the startups, universities are offering online courses.
- This opens opportunities. Students who can afford to study and live at MIT can do so; students in Azerbaijan, Nicaragua, central India, western China, and Louisiana can also learn from MIT courses in engineering, economics, and so on. People will find and choose the access that works for them.