An anonymous reader writes "Bill Gates attended the Techonomy conference earlier this week, and had quite a bold statement to make about the future of education. He believes the Web is where people will be learning within a few years, not colleges and university. During his chat, he said, 'Five years from now on the web for free you'll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.'" Of course, the efficacy of online learning is still in question; some studies have shown a measurable benefit to being physically present in a classroom. Still, online education can clearly reach a much wider range of students. Reader nbauman sent in a related story about MIT's OpenCourseWare, which is finding success in unexpected ways: "50% of visitors self-identified as independent learners unaffiliated with a university." The article also mentions a situation in which a pair of Haitian natives used OCW to get the electrical engineering knowledge they needed to build solar-powered lights that have been deployed in many remote towns and villages.