So what role do MITx, Udacity, and Udemy play? Two that I can see: first, they will provide exactly what they say they provide, open access to courses for autodidacts, with support for each course ranging from nothing beyond a video to complex algorithmic assessment and suggestions. For liberal arts, such as Margaret Soltan’s Poetry course, this provides an entry for people wanting to dive into a subject. For technically-related subjects, such as Udacity’s likely slate, this will provide concrete skills for thousands of people each year. In other words, don’t knock it for those who find value in specific areas.
Second, the massively-online courses are more likely to erode the marketability of online/for-profit “higher education” than to harm your local community college or tuition-dependent small non-profit college. I cannot imagine that someone who would otherwise go to Southern Nazarene University or Wisconsin Lutheran College would be heading over to Udacity or MITx as the alternative. Someone interested in Argosy, the University of Phoenix, or Full Sail heading over instead to Udacity? You bet. Yet Carey is making his argument based on the theoretical interchangeability of a degree from Aurora University or Chowan College with MITx. I don’t buy that.
What will disrupt the “enduring college business model” (which isn’t that enduring in any case)? For community colleges and low-status public colleges and universities, it’s declining public funding. Go ask students and faculty in California if you doubt me.