Brian Caplan & LeBron have been discussing online higher ed vs. brick and mortar higher ed.
I believe that the future of higher ed is brick and mortar.
I don't think bad lectures are what is holding back students (self-serving perhaps). It's actually just LECTURES that hold them back, whether they are in a classroom on online.
Kids don't learn a ton, don't retain what they learn, and struggle to apply what they've learned.
I am becoming convinced that "peer instruction" or "the flipped classroom" is the way to go. This approach combines classroom work with online work, but the main thing it does is take the lecture out of the classroom.
Students do required reading or watch a required video before the class and then take a pre-class quiz on the material. Instructors use that feedback to generate discussion questions and instant feedback quizzes to help students work out their issues with the material. Instructors can pair up students who are getting it right with those getting it wrong for some peer to peer instruction.
Eric Mazur of Harvard is the guru of this approach. Mrs. A and I are hoping to transition onto his bandwagon. Here's a link to an article about Mazur. Here's a link to an excellent blogpost on how the method can work.