My class at UNC was the first to require all incoming students to own a laptop as part of the Carolina Computing Initiative. At the time, the value was debatable. Aside from some basic word processing most of us used our new laptops for downloading copyrighted music. You could find basic course materials online and by the end of my undergraduate studies there were a few meager conversations happening in class forums. That was 10 years ago.

Now it’s debatable whether the university or the laptop is the more essential educational tool. The trend toward open education is making it easy to learn online. Between MIT’s OpenCourseWare Initiative, Apple U, and other resources outlined quite succinctly at Open Culture, there is no shortage of high quality lessons for building your own degree program. Check out the aforementioned resources as well as The Personal MBA, The Keynote MBA, Academic Earth, and Connexions for other examples of online “classes.”

It will be interesting to see how this trend changes young adults’ perception of what it means to get an education and the value of a degree. There will always be a place for institutions of higher learning, but in the future they may be less defined by geography and more focused on creating a curriculum tailored to the individual.