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Virtually every human activity is being explored or pursued for its on-line possibilities. As every former MIT (or any university) student knows, there are excellent and boring lecturers, recitation leaders, and Lab instructors. It is certainly feasible to imagine some level of on-line instruction for large core courses where questions are rare and the benefit of being there "live" is minimal. A reasonable analogy is the use of VTC for group communication- it is almost never as good as "in-person" but it's close enough so that the other pluses far outweigh the downsides (but in that example it is almost a requirement that most of the participants already know each other reasonably well).
However, it is hard for me to imagine that non-residency could ever become a dominant mode at MIT. What about Labs- which even today are still a crucial part of most technical courses? What about team projects, with science and engineering more and more involving interdisciplinary problem solving as a group activity? And even discussion in more advanced courses with small enrollments teaches the students about each other and about how to interact in small groups. Very few graduates will sit by themselves in an office to do their work in a lonely fashion - the school has failed them if it teaches in that mode.

As a personal comment from my own experiences 50 years ago, the non-academic part of life was an invaluable part of my MIT education. I was active in all the music groups and intramural athletics and none of those happen unless you're in residence, not to mention the excursions to what used to be girls' colleges. By all means incorporate on-line features as an aide, but don't pretend you can produce the MIT experience without being there.

Education & Facilities, Educational experiences


Non-resident? No way!

I work at Google; we're a company that's spread across many sites, and we interact strongly with other offices. (We send them data; we share source code; we need data from them...) We also make heavy use of video conferencing systems. But, despite the best video conferencing that we can build or buy, there is no substitute for meeting the people you work with.
Video conferencing is OK if (a) you already know someone, and (b) there are external incentives that make you want to collaborate. But, it's not nearly the same as walking over to someone's desk, or running into them on the way to lunch.

Also, it's hard to make and keep real friendships going over video links. Since making friends and connections (not to mention spouses and lovers) is a very important part of the college experience, video will be a tatty, tawdry simulation of the residential experience.