Disruptive Education

Over the break, I was reading The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out and it fits very nicely into my current thinking about the evolution of School 2.0 in the next few decades.

It is co-written by Clayton Christensen, which is what initially caught my eye. He is considered "the father of the theory of disruptive innovation." His previous books include The Innovator's Dilemma, which examined business innovation, and The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators.

The Innovative University is at first an analysis of the traditional university that we know in order to get at its "DNA" which then leads to the how (and why) higher education needs to change to have any future success.

From the book jacket:

"The language of crisis is nothing new in higher education—for years critics have raised alarms about rising tuition, compromised access, out of control costs, and a host of other issues. Yet, though those issues are still part of the current crisis, it is not the same as past ones. For the first time, disruptive technologies are at work in higher education. For most of their histories, traditional universities and colleges have had no serious competition except from institutions with similar operating models. Now, though, there are disruptive competitors offering online degrees. Many of these institutions operate as for-profit entities, emphasizing marketable degrees for working adults. Traditional colleges and universities have valuable qualities and capacities that can offset those disruptors' advantages—but not for everyone who aspires to higher education, and not without real innovation. How can institutions of higher education think constructively and creatively about their response to impending disruption?

Throughout the book Christensen and Eyring show what it takes to apply Christensen's acclaimed model of disruptive innovation to a higher education environment. The Innovative University explores how universities can find innovative, less costly ways of performing their uniquely valuable functions and thereby save themselves from decline."

Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then moves "up market" to eventually displace the established form.

Examples of disruptive innovation include cellular phones disrupting fixed line telephony, and the traditional full-service department store being disrupted by online and discount retailers. Christensen also sees an earlier disruptor of the four-year college experience as being community colleges.

I agree with him that companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ lives change - newer phones but customers who don't want to upgrade yet - and so most organizations end up producing products or services that are actually too good and too expensive for many of their customers.

But I don't think that model works for education.

In education, customers/students innovate faster than the schools. They have the technology in their hands before we have it or a way to use it in our classrooms. And yet, schools continue to charge too much for an inferior product.

I wish I believed that education was consciously opening the door to “disruptive innovations,” but that is not what I see.

Christensen teaches at the Harvard Business School. Although he has had health issues the past few years, he continues to write and I discovered that he has a newer book, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, that I will need to order.

It seems that in education, Christensen and the other authors are pointing to "student-centric education" as the disruptor of our current "interdependent curricular architecture." Much of that is made possible through technology.

He has written about online learning for student-centered innovation and many educators and institutions will be pleased to hear that disruptive technology/innovation in education can help create a new market and value network.

They will be less pleased to know that it eventually goes on to disrupt the existing market and eventually displaces it.

Disruptive ideas improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect. Those services will be designed for a different set of consumers. It will probably lower the cost in the existing market. That might translate into the new, improved School 2.0 made for Student 2.0. And all at a lower cost. But who will be providing that education? Harvard, NJIT, Passaic County Community College, MITx, University of Phoenix, The Open University, Google, Facebook or some new entity that doesn't even exist today?

Books by Clayton M. Christensen

Android 4 Schools

Here's a pointer to a new site from Richard Byrne, author of Free Technology for Teachers. Android 4 Schools will look at resources and reviews of apps (mostly free) for educatots with a focus on K-12 schools.

Though that focus is K-12, I wouldn't dismiss the site if you are in higher education (particularly if you prepare K-12 teachers!) as it promises to include some pedagogy too, and includes apps for teachers, students, and administrators.

The Perils of SOPA

SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is the proposed intellectual property laws that are now in Congress. Both houses have bills that are aimed at combating copyright infringement of movies, music and other intellectual property. Supporting SOPA are some powerful players: content creators, led by Hollywood and the music industry, who want the most stringent measures. Currently opposing them are some tech and electronics players such as Google, PayPal and Twitter. A group of those companies took out newspaper ads this month saying that the bills would "give the U.S. government the power to censor the Web using techniques similar to those used by China."

Education has not played a large enough role in the battle, but there are some some potentially serious consequences if the content creators get their way. For educators, publishers who offer electronic products (which is just about all of them) are on board with strong SOPA legislation as content creators too. The act could have serious repercussions for the use of open educational resources too.

As described by the San Francisco Chronicle:
A bipartisan bill introduced last week in the House of Representatives would mark a fundamental change in Internet law, shifting liability for copyright piracy from the infringer to the host website.

It would chip away at critical safeguards that have shaped the Internet as we know it today, and many worry it would make it far more difficult for the next YouTube, Facebook or Craigslist to emerge and succeed.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is the counterpart to the Senate’s pending PROTECT IP Act, which already had rights groups, academics and many online businesses up in arms. But the House bill goes much further.
SOPA could take away the reasonable “safe harbor” protections for internet site operators and it is unclear what effect it would have on "fair use."

It is a bill worth taking note of in the next session of Congress.

Further Reading





15 Coming Attractions for Education 2012

Serendipity35 jumps once again into the year-end pool of predictions for the twelve months ahead. But no politics, no environmental disasters here - just technology and learning.

Innovation creates disruption. It may be short-term disruption, but there is no avoiding it. If you don't like disruption, get out of the way. Most of the innovation will come from outside education, so then we will have to adapt before we adopt - which isn't the best way to do it. Innovations that come from within the system will last longer, get better buy-in and be better tolerated. I don't think the biggest disruption will come the current generation of teachers. The innovators are not here yet. I expect big things from the college class of 2025.

eBooks will make a bigger impact in 2012 - They made an impact in 2011, but not to the degree that was predicted. This will be the year that they take hold in academia the way they have taken hold in the consumer market. It may not be a call that schools or faculty make - students will just do it on their own.

Assessment will not go away as a buzz term, but we need something significant to happen this year to make it more comprehensive and continuous. You can't believe the analysis if you can't believe the data. Everyone wants "metrics" on this difficult to quantify thing we call an education. The way we do it now is not working.

The for-profit sector of education will gain even greater numbers of students and its legitimacy will also increase. Trying to put tighter regulations on them in order to preserve higher education as we knew it will fail.

Despite the rise of alternative ways to learn using technology, online learning and social networking, a good number of young people (and their parents) will still want to learn in a real classroom and pay that tuition, room and board or their local property taxes to make that happen. They will be more demanding. They will expect results and ROI, but they will be there. Their numbers will decrease, but we still have at least a decade, so make the most of it.

Administrators will still take a superficial view of how technology and online/hybrid learning makes it possible to grow despite financial problems. It does allow for that. But, if that's the only reason you do it, and you do it without some long-term planning for quality in the design, training and implementation, you will lose money in the long-term.

Students using their own laptops, netbooks, cell phones, tablets and pads will require rethinking how we deliver content. Immediately, that means our delivery system and methods, but ultimately it means how we teach.

The decline in federal and state support of K-12 and higher education will continue. Rising tuition will make college once again not an option for everyone. (That may not be a bad thing.)

Facebook has to be addressed by educators. It is going to move into education in some real way. Ignoring it is as silly as telling your students that they can't use Wikipedia. Who do you think you are? Google may be a player in this arena too.

And with that comes less restrictions on Net use in classrooms (especially pre-college) despite SOPA and other acronymed efforts to control the Net.

There will be more adoptions of open educational resources. Open textbooks is a likely candidate for easy adoption. More use of OER would happen easier if the government helped make the best content available and encouraged its use. Yes, I know, there must be lobbyists for the billions of dollars spent each year on paper copies that come from companies offering a new edition with new pictures and more references to Twitter and Facebook, but if you want to move education forward in a time of economic squeezing, then...

OER will also drive global learning communities that will offer content, pedagogy, facilitators and maybe even certifications and degrees.

Students will increasingly learn outside of school buildings. That means everything from hybrid classes and programs, to real world learning, home learning and learning that does not lead to a degree.

Courses and majors that are designed primarily to get students ready only for graduate study will be the ones to disappear first. Even programs designed to prepare students for professional school or move them right into the workplace will need to trim away components which are seen as superfluous.

Though it will be difficult to get rid of tenure, schools (especially in higher ed) this year will hire fewer people on a tenure track. It may take time for the tenured faculty to fall away, but they will, and there will be no more to follow them.