New: Online Learning. Old: Correspondence Courses
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The media furor over how Online Learning will make college irrelevant because everybody will go to MIT or Stanford from their bedroom reminds me that when I was a kid, you heard a lot about "correspondence courses." Strivers took advanced courses by mail back then.

In Evelyn Waugh stories, a sure clue that a character is a lower middle class dweeb doomed to never rise in a society run by Oxbridge grads and Old Etonians is that he boasts of having signed up for some correspondence courses. 

How much has the effectiveness of distance learning improved due to technology? I'm sure it's a little better now, but it seemed like the most motivated correspondence course students could learn a fair amount, although most just gave up. Or, is the current hubbub reflective not of a revolutionary improvement in technique, but that Stanford and MIT are putting their glamorous bricks and mortar brand names on some distance learning products, with the implication that some of their elite institution magic pixie dust will somehow rub off on guys living in their moms' basement?

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