Blog followers will know that there is little is more reliably guaranteed to get Beard reaching for her lap-top than some new development in on-line learning. This is not (simply) because I am a nasty old Luddite. In fact I have become something of a convert to putting public lectures on-line. The events we've been launching at the British Museum, for example, in connection with the Pompeii exhibition are reaching thousands more people by being put on-line, and also reaching those who live miles away from London and could never get there in person. And that's great.
Not that there isnt a downside for the lecturer, mind you. Time was when you could give a public lecture or seminar more than once, in different parts of the globe. Now you'll find it's instantly podcast and you can't ever use it again. I mean, however value-added your actual presence is, you can hardly deliver to a group of people, whether they are paying or not, a talk that they could have through their computer at the click of a button. The result is -- since it takes (me at least) a lot of time to construct a new lecture -- that you end up going to fewer fewer places and doing fewer gigs.
But all the same, the balance still seems to me to come down on the side of new technology in the case of public lectures and events. That isn't the case for a lot of what is called on-line learning, and for the replacement of face to face instruction with some form of web-delivery.
If you want a frightening glimpse of the future, take a look at this article in the New Yorker, which heralds -- not-uncritically, I must concede -- the dawn of MOOCs: that is "Massive Online Open Courses". One of its lead characters is Greg Nagy, Professor of Greek at Harvard.