My recent post on online education specifies:

When I talk about “online education,” I don’t just mean students at
existing brick-and-mortar colleges taking some classes from their dorm
rooms.  I mean students enrolling in virtual colleges instead of physical colleges.

Tyler objects:

I would say he is defining away the most likely model, namely a hybrid model which has a significant on-line component.

I think my definition is much closer to standard usage than Tyler’s.  In any case, though, there’s a simple rationale for my usage: If online education in my sense takes off, education will become drastically cheaper, and most existing schools will crumble into bankruptcy.  In contrast, if online education in Tyler’s hybrid sense takes off, education will be at most marginally cheaper, and most existing schools will stay in business.

Think about it this way: Why do people keep talking about the effect of the Internet on the music industry?  Because Internet delivery made music vastly cheaper (often gratis) and destroyed the leading brick-and-mortar retailers like Tower Records.  Shocking.

By way of contrast, picture a “hybrid” scenario.  Tower Records opens an online store in addition to its brick-and-mortar stores.  Both kinds of stores continue to charge old-economy prices.  The end.  That would still be progress, but nothing to write home about.

At risk of sounding extremely narcissistic, the key question for Tyler and me is whether online education is going to put the two of us out of a job.  Our definitional conflict notwithstanding,  the two of us both answer this key question with a resounding “no.”  For the sake of the world, I hope we’re both wrong.