Clayton Christensen is well-known for documenting the impact of disruptive technologies and companies into the existing ecosystem. Nearly always, the story consists of an upstart in a massive market which everyone is convinced will never upset the business models of the titans of the day. Examples include E-commerce (e.g. Amazon) for the whole retail sector or internet companies for the physical media companies, and others.
The titans of the day can see the change coming but still cannot change. Why? Often change involves deep structural modifications within the organization and typically, the fundamental business model. One must manage this change while transitioning from the old business model. This is almost an impossible task because it is akin to changing the engine while the car is running. Thus, the process of change is externally-driven by creative destruction; the new model comes from the outside and the old model declines.
As we have discussed in previous articles (HERE) or the TED Talk (HERE), the current educational system largely views students as commodities into which knowledge is poured, similar to an industrial manufacturing process. The fundamental structure of the current model is driven by an economic imperative from the last century based on the scarcity of the instructor and classroom --which is actually no longer true. Also, the actual process of teaching occurs in a craftsman-like model which has not changed for hundreds of years.
Disruptive alternatives focused on self-paced competency-based education have been making steady progress (Univ. of Arizona, FLVS). The key components of these alternatives are:
There is a great deal of reason to believe that it will be very difficult for them to change and compete. Consider the delivery differences between the two models:
|Conventional Model||Disruptive Model|
|Staff||Must be local||Available Worldwide|
|Working Model||Teacher as craftsman, typically regulated under union contracts.||Professional Teams, Separation of development and delivery.|
|Access||School Hours, Weather dependent||24/7|
|Scalability||Limited by Physical Resources||Limited by worldwide teacher bandwidth|
There are deep differences between the delivery structures of the two models. It is difficult to envision existing K-12 school systems being able to adapt to this new model. For universities, there is an additional constraint around the resource conflicts of the faculty research and teaching models.
Thus, it is very likely that disruption will come from start-ups (public and private) and non-traditional education players. For them, the strategic drivers are significant but they do not have the dead weight of supporting the previous model. Also, they can easily reach across physical boundaries (nations, states, etc.) to provide services at scale with high quality and low cost.
Finally, two changes in governance would significantly accelerate this whole process.