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What Massive Online Courses Do Well, and Where They Falter

The Beatles (from left), Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon, perform for the CBS "Ed Sullivan Show" in New York on Feb. 9, 1964
The Beatles (from left), Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, and John Lennon, perform for the CBS "Ed Sullivan Show" in New York on Feb. 9, 1964Photograph by Dan Grossi/AP Photo

For many consumers, shopping online has become a substitute for visiting a brick-and-mortar store. Will the same soon be true for college? Do Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) pose a similar threat?

Over the past year at the University of Rochester, we have taught this type of online course in partnership with Coursera. What we discovered suggests—at least for now—that these virtual courses complement, not replace, the traditional campus experience.