Andre Dua, a director in the New York office of the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, recently explored the ramifications of the growth of “Massive Open Online Courses,'” commonly known as MOOCs.

The online delivery of MOOC learning systems makes them cost-effective, and accessible to students from around the world. Some of these courses are already being offered as credentials towards degrees and professional designations, and Dua wonders what will happen to universities and colleges when such courses are developed into more comprehensive programs, partially or completely eliminating the need for students to attend educational institutions in person.

There is no doubt that the field of online education is exploding. Dua points out that “Coursera, a for-profit venture that taps professors and lecturers from 62 universities (including Princeton, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania) boasts many courses with 50,000 to 100,000 users who pay nothing for access to the best professors in the world; overall, the company has more than 2.7 million registered students (most of them overseas), who take at least one course.”

In a video embedded in the article, Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of Udacity – another on-line education company, which has already taught an introductory computer-programming course to more than 200,000 students worldwide – talks about how effective on-line teaching differs from classroom teaching: it makes use, for example, of techniques employed in computer games, and allows students to take as long as they need to master specific skills or areas of knowledge.

Indeed, in discussing the pros, cons and inevitable growth of online educational offerings, Dua mentions in particular the possibilities such courses offer to address widespread concerns among employers that today’s graduates do not enter the workforce with the knowledge and the skills they need. The capacity of MOOCs to offer customized learning experiences to thousands of students at a very low cost gives them an undeniable advantage over the large classes and distractions that are increasing hallmarks of bricks-and-mortar learning.

It seems inevitable that MOOCs will become at least a component of higher education, and it is interesting – perhaps even urgent – for us to consider how law schools will adapt to this new reality: and what will happen if they don’t. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject – or any other – either below in the comments section, or directly through my email.

Note: has compiled a list of 20 places where you can already get on-line educational offerings for free.