"There's the old saying that for any organization when the outside world is changing faster than the inside world, you're moving backwards," Duncan says.
Add in the financial pressure on universities and their need to find new ways of doing business, and it's not hard to see how anxiousness could turn into panic. Especially with each new venture launched, such as Coursera — with Stanford, Princeton and others — and edX, a partnership between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.
"Certainly it got everyone's attention, and I think schools that don't try and find their place in that will be left behind," Duncan says.
While it used to be just a relative few who paid MIT tens of thousands in tuition to take Electronics 6002, today anyone in the world can take Electronics 6002X online — free.
Last semester, about 160,000 people took the course and about 7,000 of them passed.
Recently reinstated University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan came under fire for failing to move fast enough into online education.
"I like to call it flipping the funnel," says edX President Anant Agarwal.
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