Friday, August 21, 2009

The Future of Education

Seth Godin has some really provacative thoughts on the future of education. In a brief post, Godin poses three critical questions that he thinks everyone in higher education is going to have to answer. Education at the crossroads
there are three choices that anyone offering higher education is going to have to make.
  1. Should this be scarce or abundant?
  2. Should this be free or expensive?
  3. Should this be about school or about learning?
According to Seth, there are some rocky times ahead:
The newly easy access to the education marketplace (you used to need a big campus and a spot in the guidance office) means that both the free and expensive options are going to be experimented with, because the number of people in the education business is going to explode (then implode).

If you think the fallout in the newspaper business was dramatic, wait until you see what happens to education.
That last bit comparing what will happen in education to what we're seeing with the newspaper business is particularly scary!

Given three questions with two choice each, Godin considers the possible combinations:
The combinations...

Imagine a school that's built around free, abundant learning. And compare it to one that's focused on scarce, expensive schooling. Or dream up your own combination. My recent MBA program, for example, was scarce (only 9 people got to do it) and it was free and focused on learning.

Just because something is free doesn't mean[sic] there isn't money to be made. Someone could charge, for example, for custom curricula, or focused tutoring, or for a certified (scarce) degree. When a million people are taking your course, you only need 1% to pay you to be happy indeed.

Eight combinations of the three choices are available and my guess is that all eight will be tried. If I were going to wager, I'd say that the free, abundant learning combination is the one that's going to change the world.
When around 50% of your operating budget comes from tuition how do you transition to a free model? Or do you? MIT's OpenWeb provides access to all of their classroom content for free, but you still have to pay to take an MIT course for credit. By freeing their content, MIT has generated more interest in MIT, which has resulted in an increase in applications.

Interesting times ahead...

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