It seems that Harvard have discovered what all higher education institutions who have been doing e-learning and online education offers have known for years; online education is not for everyone. Before anyone signs up for any e-learning course, they should consider whether they are good at working independently, do they manage to work steadily on assignments and not put them off to the last moment, are they good at reading messages and information in a thorough manner and are they able to read texts carefully to catch the academic content, and last but not the least; are they able to function without being part of a physical student environment.
The Old Dominion University created some years ago a web page they called Distance Student Orientation, and where it is possible to take a quiz to help students assess whether online learning is right for them. In my experience online education, even with smaller numbers of students and more individual coaching from professionals than what the MOOC idea entails, is definitely not for everyone.
This is quite frankly old news within the e-learning sphere and I am astonished that this knowledge seems to be something new for Harvard. I have to admit I find it slightly disturbing that this MOOC amateurism from elite institutions (including the Norwegian NTNU) seems to have “legitimized” online learning.