An extract from a letter sent today to Lord Krebs:
It would now seem theoretically technically feasible to offer some courses to students in other parts of the country and the world, by electronic means. Potentially, the work of the College could reach larger numbers and also those who might not, for one reason or another (perhaps financial), be able to come to Oxford in person.
Lectures could be transmitted live or recorded for re-broadcast, as the National Theatre now does for dramatic performances (see http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/). The communication could be two-way, with questions and comments submitted by Internet, email and Twitter (like the BBC’s Question Time, for example). Similarly, presentations by teachers at other universities could be made available to Oxford colleagues and students.
Students could be authorized to remotely access the University’s subscriptions to online publications (Times archive, JSTOR etc). (Certain subjects might lend themselves more easily to this approach in the first instance – mathematics, perhaps – as in some other fields access to texts may be more difficult, until such time as everything has been scanned online.)
Reading lists, assignments and much reading and source material could be stored in the Cloud; coursework submitted by Web; teachers and graduate students could offer teaching, comment and support by email, Skype etc.
The potential inherent in the technology could be a Gutenberg revolution in higher education – an “Invisible College” for millions of advanced learners. It would be a far more radical step than the extramural studies currently available; it would be the virtual, interactive presence of far larger numbers of students and researchers than could be physically accommodated in any University, yet learning and being nurtured intellectually in the way that Oxford has fostered for centuries.
Perhaps a start might be made by raising funds for a few e-scholarships for poor but talented individuals in developing countries, such as India and China?
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