Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) are the next step of the evolution of education. Knowledge, to this day, has always been been a top-down phenomenon. But with each step down the ladder, it is becoming more and more democratized. Information is becoming increasingly available to those who seek it, instead of those who are born into the right families.
In the Greek and Roman republics, to obtain an education you would have to be a part of the nobility. Otherwise, your days would be spent with a mixture of swords and plowshares. In the middle ages, you would have to permanently become a member (or donate very great financial contributions to) the Church. You would have to pay good money to access it from some of the world's most prestigious institutions. In the recent past, public education became available to all children to the age of 18. Many developing nations still only have public education for the elementary level, while some rich nations provide it up to the college level free-of-charge.
MOOCs are the next logical step. It is a way for any individual, irrespective of age, wealth, nationality, and prior education, to learn information that they seek out. If you are motivated, then you can learn it free of charge. For the first time, any person can have an Ivy League quality education - and perhaps soon, a degree as well.