According to The New York Times, 2012 was the year of the MOOC (massive open online course), the free and open online university. Compared to earlier incarnations of e-learning, MOOCs have elevated their range of educational offerings by recruiting some of best professors at traditional universities and improving the online format by incorporating applications similar to social media that allow direct contact between teachers and students.
The history of distance learning, as The Technology Reviews's Nicholas Carr observes, goes back nearly a hundred years. It began in 1920, made possible by the efficiency of the new postal system. Today, Carr notes, major promotional efforts and significant investments in MOOCs such as Udacity, Cousera, and edX are forcing university administrators to rethink the form and meaning of teaching itself. “For better or worse, the Net’s disruptive forces have arrived at the gates of academia.”