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We had the honor of hosting an A-list panel of education entrepreneurs as part of our Strategy and Competition in Higher Education class last week (course description and syllabus here) to discuss new entrants to the higher education industry.

So far this semester we have covered the context for U.S. higher education (e.g., history, major trends and issues), buyers (e.g., students, parents, recruiters), suppliers (e.g., faculty and publishers), the threat of new entrants, and we have started to discuss internal rivalry and how institutions compete.

The topic of new entrants to higher education is an exciting one, because, as Jose Ferreira said in last month’s Chronicle article, A Boom Time for Education Start-Ups, “The investing community believes that the Internet is hitting education, that education is having its Internet moment.”

Our panelists:

We had a lively discussion, bookended by two questions, one present and one future: what have been the biggest industry changes? And what ought traditional institutions be wary of in the future?

Industry Changes:

  • Technology isn’t just about generating data anymore; it’s really starting to transform the education experience.
  • The proliferation of available data might necessitate a new organizing mechanism, specifically with regard to decision-making when it comes to the vast number of education opportunities.
  • There is new momentum for partnerships between the private sector and existing institutions.

Future Considerations for Traditional Institutions:

A few ideas were discussed - in addition to focusing on a strategic competitive advantage, in other words, what makes an institution different.

  • Participating in the industry’s innovation trends.
  • Taking steps to remain in touch with real student needs. 
  • Ensuring that escalating costs don’t make schools irrelevant as students might seek less expensive, and more relevant credentials. 
  • Incorporating some element of institutional introspection – in other words, encouraging schools to ask, “How can we provide better education to more people throughout the world?”

As education is perhaps having its “internet moment,” and more and more organizations are entering the education space, hopefully increasing access to high quality education throughout the world will be just one of many positive outcomes.

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