In the post John Robb claims that as “there is reason to believe that costs of higher education (direct costs and lost income) are now nearly equal (in net present value) to the additional lifetime income derived from having a degree…this situation has all the earmarks of a bubble. A bubble that will soon burst as median incomes are adjusted downwards to global norms over the next decade."
According to John, the higher education bubble that is building will burst due to economic factors and the pragmatic educational and economic reality that a high education will not net the desired return in income over a lifetime.
With any problem there lies opportunities to be exploited and built upon. The changes that will result in the education bubble bursting could be a source of disruptive innovation and education change.
John then explains...
- Lectures. Videos of lecture series, plus associated materials, are available for many courses at some of the best Universities in the world (i.e. see MIT's open courseware). Online videos are not only better than in-person lectures in many respects, they also allow you to get the best. There is no need to recreate the lecture with tens of thousands of less qualified/exceptional teachers.
- Application. As MIT is finding out, JIT (just-in-time information) in combination with simulated application of the concept to real scenarios is the best method for success. The advent of computer simulated virtual worlds for in the computer gaming industry have proven this combination (JIT info and immediate application) can train kids to adults in complicated and complex tasks in a fraction of the time other methods require.
- Collaboration. The business world is already shifting on online collaboration as a replacement for most in-person work (the economic crisis will only accelerate it). In my personal experience developing exceeding complex products, its possible to conduct the entire process from ideation to delivery online without any face to face contact (at great savings in time to direct expense). Unfortunately, this ability/skill/mindset isn't central to the educational world, despite the fact that students are currently doing much of this already in their private lives with social software."
Technology will create some change in the space left after the education bubble bursts. Forced by economic realities to innovate and experiment with delivery of teaching, creating space to collaborate, and new means of learning.
None of these ideas are new to education. Proponents of like myself of educational uses of technology to reach learners at a time and place of their choosing are legion in education. The difference here is that John is explaining the need through an economic reality that our society is going to be forced to wrestle with in the coming years.
I have advocated here my belief in the Open Model of Education. John focuses specifically on online learning. He believe that as education comes to terms with the economic realities of our society and the lack of net value in higher education over a lifetime, he sees online education as taking a key place in the future of teaching delivery.
- Local governments cut costs. Nearly or officially bankrupt local governments, out of desperation, opt to reduce costs through online education (the single biggest line item in most local budgets). Drawing from online home schooling systems, the market for these systems explodes (growing at several thousand percent a year).
- Entrepreneurial innovation. As student populations at the collegiate level dwindle due to cost pressures, a major University (with a brand as good as MITs or Harvard), opts to offer full credentials to online student (at a tiny fraction of the cost of being in attendance). Ten million students enroll in the first year to attend Harvard's virtual world.
- Open source alternatives. Unable to afford in-person education, the lack of a major brand in the marketplace, and a job market in free fall stunts the growth of online education. As a result, a massive open source effort develops to develop virtual worlds and other online courseware that rivals the best Universities. The government is forced, over the objections of established institutions, to confer credentials to graduates that pass standardized tests (in fact, comparisons quickly show that these graduates are the equal and/or better than traditionally educated competitors). The business world embraces them."
Online education will improve as a model of teaching and learning because the demand for it will simple force it to improve and innovate, what Clayton Christensen calls a "disruptive technology."
Who could argue that the difficult economic times are forcing learners to make difficult decisions about where they want to learn and how much they are willing to pay for their education. Many will see the online learning option as the best means and value for their educational goals.
John sums it up this way...
"The result of these innovations creates a highly productive educational
system that produces high quality graduates at a small fraction (an
order of magnitude less) of the current costs. Decentralization via
online education also results in massive STEMI compression for a given
unit of instruction and the educational platform created enables a
level of flexibility and renewal needed to meet the challenges of a
rapidly mutating global economy. Resilient communities, as early
adopters, will become the first beneficiaries of these benefits (which
will allow them to accelerate beyond competitors) as subscription
access to world-class online educational (virtual worlds, lectures,
courseware) drop to less than $20 a month."
Education as a system will be only the better and stronger through these innovation, and learners will benefit as opportunities increase through these new avenues of learning. Our entire society will benefit as more people have access to the best teaching in world, online, anytime, anyplace, and inexpensive.
As John asks, "An Ivy League Education for less than $20 a month. Why not?"
That's Education Innovation.