Most professors are hired not for their ability to teach but rather their ability to do research. In fact, some of the "best" professors are horrible teachers -- they may be experts in their fields, but aren't necessarily the best teachers. As such, I would guess that the role of professors will remain unchanged. If anything, it will free up the professors from teaching responsibilities and they will merely provide "support".
Plus, I think that is the way it should be -- some of my best professors have been those who've encouraged my interest in the subject and with whom I've taken classes for research credit. They haven't been great at teaching me, but they've been great to collaborate with on research and just give me a broader perspective on their fields of expertise.
I have since sold my soul to the corporate world, but I am looking forward to going back to school one of these days.
What I would really like universities to do is provide opportunities for part-time PhD programs for those of us who are interested in research, but cannot leave our jobs and relinquish family commitments and responsibilities.
So, here is my question for Professor Anant:
I would absolutely love to do a PhD part-time, but why is it that universities deter this practice? I have found that I accomplish more when I love something and do it out of passion, my other commitments and responsibilities notwithstanding. In many subjects, hobbyists and amateurs have made significant contributions -- so why isn't there an increased focus on encouraging more "virtual research"?
From an academic perspective, you get sufficient education in most master's programs anyway, a lot of which can be completed part-time (and increasingly online). So, why not support research that can be done remotely?
As an erstwhile grad student who decided to not complete the PhD route, I met with my advisor perhaps once a week, and the only time he really cared was during conference deadlines. So, why can't PhD programs be made available part-time and online? With the exception of some subjects (e.g. chemistry, experimental physics, or biology), there are a lot more that can be pursued virtually (e.g. computer science, math, economics, theoretical physics etc).
Wouldn't there be increased enrollment of students in doctoral programs if there were the case? You do not even need to lower the standards -- you can still keep the same standard of admissions, qualifiers, and research criteria. You can provide residency requirements, but support doing the doctoral research at your own leisure. Why is this not the case?
It almost seems like an entrenchment of academic elites to keep the vicious cycle of "doctorate --> post doctorate --> professor --> tenure" going, and minimizing the number of doctoral candidates.