If I were a kid in around grade 9 I would presently be MOOCing until I turned blue. My goal would be to basically bypass High School. At this point what are the various certificates good for? I don't think that anyone yet really knows. But I suspect that they will be worth more and more and definitely will be worth more than most half assed high schools. I can certainly say without hesitation that I have seen some online courses MOOC, the great courses, plus others that blow my old HS teachers clean out of the water and certainly blow most of my daughters' teachers clean out of the water. (and yes many online things suck too)
But if a grade 9 student has 10 or 20 MIT / Stanford courses under their belt and does well on the SATs then what university can honestly reject that student?
Right now it is all a little hazy but I suspect that a point will be crossed where quite simply the high schools will begin to lose the best and the brightest. Not the majority just the cream. This will leave the high schools with the mediocre and the crap students. Then the pressure will be on the better of the mediocre students to follow online as well leaving a pretty poor lineup of students. This will then start to whittle away at the better teachers who just can't keep going without at least the occasional success in their class.
The percentage of students who will no longer attend highschool still won't amount to a huge number but what will remain of the high school system will be pretty depressingly bad. Plus I just know that the officials will dumb down the standards to keep up with the ever lowering bar. I foresee the first sign of my prediction coming true when the school systems try to put pressure on the universities to not accept students on MOOCs alone or to try to make it so that you can't write the SATs without being registered with a bricks and mortar high school.
But in the very long term when the various online educational systems have been somewhat perfected I do see a day when many people are faced with the choice (or option) to go to their local po-dunk collage or take course from something with a kickass name. I don't doubt that a major part of higher education happens outside of the classroom but the simple reality is that many people are questing for that piece of paper to further their job opportunities and have various obsicals in their way such as money. Online education won't wipe out the universities or anything so silly but it could see some of the lesser universities lose a serious chunk of their students.
Also I see a demographic who will simply say, "OK I will do year one online and then the other three getting the campus experience, OK I will do the last two years getting the campus experience, OK the last year will definitely be the campus year. Look I have a degree, I wish I had done at least one year on campus." But I also see another demographic much like the one that avoided high school not able to go to the kick ass named universities and not willing to slum it in their local school, and thus doing the online thing even more.
But that all said, I think that where it will be most interesting is that right now it is very very very hard to get into a top tier school. But what if you have been taking MOOCs from a top tier school and have been kicking ass and taking names. Does that qualify you for a top tier school more than someone with a top tier SAT?
Then employers are going to be a whole other thing. Which would they rather see, a top tier certificate or a local podunk degree?