Looking at the coursera list of courses, a few ideas in the Irish and UK contexts come to mind. Below is a summary of thoughts after having run a thread on this on the irisheconomy website.
1. Should we think about students being able to take these type of courses eventually for credit? How should these options be aligned with the Bologna process in Irish/UK universities?
2. Which Irish/UK university courses should be made available on the platform? Already, universities outside of the US such as Toronto and Edinburgh have made courses available.
3. If more centralisation is going to occur on graduate programmes (e.g. national disciplinary PhD programmes), how could the development of these platforms and active use of them facilitate this, in particular getting over logistical issues in provision of national graduate programmes at PhD level?
4. A key question is whether we will reach a stage where certain, in particular generic modules, might be better delivered fully online rather than actually developed by each institution. For example, could we reach a stage where undergraduate calculus courses might simply be outsourced from the web? This is frequently represented as being a potential crisis for universities but it could be a good opportunity to rellocate staff time to a variety of other activities. A model where practically all lectures are provided online and student/staff interaction is structured around problem solving and mentoring is something that could be great. See e.g. Eric Mazur. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching
5. These courses will shift supply of education but might also have a very big effect on demand for education. Someone who takes an online module may then be more likely to want full programmes. In general, both supply and potential demand shifts open a potential for a lot more activity across the life-span.
6. If we believe that higher education is genuinely a way of building human capital rather than screen or create a status good then this is a very exciting development. It would be good to debate a lot more how this could be exploited by countries outside the US. Effectively, the US is producing a potentially massive externality by providing all of this information.