What if a college ditched lecture halls, sports and clubs?

Nichole Dobi:

An experiment in higher education uses computers to give every student a virtual front-row seat in the classroom.

Classes at Minerva Schools at KGI, a four-year undergraduate program, are conducted entirely through a software program created specifically for the school.

During class, there is real-time interaction through the computer between professor and students. They can see each other through the screen. Each class has fewer than 20 students. Professors do not lecture. The virtual experience is recorded each day so it can be reviewed for purposes such as assessment of students and faculty performance.

The first 28 students started their freshman year this fall in San Francisco, Calif. They are not required to attend class from any particular physical location, but they live together in buildings leased by the school. The founder of the school says he intends to compete with the nation’s most elite institutions — at a fraction of the cost to students. Tuition, housing and books are about $28,000 a year. Students must also pay travel costs.