Teaching, consulting and blogging about strategy and competition in higher education means that there is an endless supply of reading material, themes to explore, people with strong opinions . . . and innovative ideas.
Earlier this evening I had the opportunity to find out what is happening in my own Boston backyard with respect to higher education start-ups at an event hosted by EdTechup, an organization that brings together educators and entrepreneurs. The theme for this event was “Innovation in Higher Ed: How Technology is Shaping the Way Students Learn,” and was moderated by Mike Petroff from Harvard. Panelists included Pano Anthos, Founder of GatherEducation, Jill Frankfort, Co-Founder of Persistence Plus, Stephen Marcus, Founder of Matchbox, and Adam Miller, Co-Founder of Abroad 101.
The discussion ranged from how these start-ups broke into the higher education space and how technology has changed the way students approach education, to how technology will change higher ed within the next two years or so.
This last topic was what sparked the most interesting discussion, which included (summarized):
- There is a lot of thrashing going on in the market now as technology enables both personalization (e.g., Knewton, eAdvisor) and mass access (e.g., edX, Coursera), and quite a bit of experimentation – but it’s really too early to tell how this will all play out
- Start-ups that will have the most success in higher education are those that can help colleges and universities raise revenue while keeping costs under control - but cost control is not the driving force, it’s raising revenue
- It’s the schools that are “stuck in the middle” (neither catering to the mass market at low cost nor to the high end/highly selective market at higher cost) that are most in need of revenue raising opportunities – and big questions about whether a critical mass of them can overcome entrenched ideas and business models to transform themselves fast enough to stay afloat
- The credentialing point will change – perhaps slowly at first (i.e., not within the two year time horizon), as individual schools lose their hold over students and the students will be able to take courses (MOOCs and otherwise) from various institutions and combine them to get their degree
The conversation then turned to the question of whether it’s the teacher that makes the difference or the university that makes the difference . . . and most of the audience and panelists believed it was the teacher. Hence the idea of “let the best teacher/course win” and let students pick and choose how to put together an educational portfolio tailored to their needs, independent of a home university.
What do you think about the how the higher education market will change over the next few years and the companies/organizations/universities that will lead the change?