A key issue is that on-line courses are still being designed as if they were classroom courses. They involve videos of lectures. This is dumb. It fails to use the potential of the new media. The course of the future will not be a set of video lectures but will be a set of on-line resources and class discussions facilitated by academics and professional university teachers. For an example of the sort of thing that can be done, see here for a video on the production possibility frontier. My own (much more simplistic) effort on opportunity cost is here – simply keynote and iMovie.
There are a huge range of these resources available on the internet already (and suggestions of sites, etc, for first year microeconomics are very welcome). But at present these resources are being gathered and augmented on a lecturer-by-lecturer and course-by-course basis. The first university in Australia that systematically reinvents its teaching to use the available resources and builds a cache of its own will grab a considerable teaching advantage. While the Go8 universities may not need this reform (their research and ‘brand’ reputations will mean they continue to get the best students) there are 31 other universities that should be racing to reinvent their classroom and education experience.