Peterson: The first problem we ran into was that – because the original idea was to build an online university – but as soon as we started thinking about that deeply, we thought, "Well, that’s like building a horseless carriage." Because when cars first came out, that’s how people conceptualized them, but they weren’t horseless carriages. They were something else. Right?
And whatever you do online to educate people isn’t going to be a university because you don’t know what a university is. And it isn’t obvious that it can be duplicated in the virtual world. One of the things we immediately ran into was the problem of, "Okay, well, what does the university do?" And the answer to that was, "Well, we don’t know."
You might say, "University educates people and accredits people." It’s not that obvious that it educates people. It is obvious that it accredits and that the accreditation has some value, and it might be that the primary goal of university is, in fact, accreditation.
But universities give young people a four-year, socially sanctioned identity that they can adopt while they’re experimenting and trying to mature. That’s a big function. Universities give students, young people something to do when they leave home first while they grow up. Right? Universities give people a chance to reconstitute their peer network and emerge as different people.
Universities give people a chance to contend with the great thought of the past – that would be the educational element. To find mentors, to become disciplined, to work towards a single goal. And almost none of that has to do with content provision. Because you might think, how do you duplicate a university online? Well, you take lectures and you put them online, and you deliver multiple-choice questions. It’s like, yeah, but that’s one-fiftieth of what a university is doing.