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June 8, 2009 / compassioninpolitics

How can educational institutions be disruptive?

How can educational companies or institutions of higher learning be disruptive? How can they change the delivery of educational services in such a way as to be creatively disruptive to the industry?

I believe there are a couple ways that educational organizations (be they non-profit or more business oriented) can be potentially disruptive:

• enhanced usability and design with important scientific metrics
• findability (search marketing)
• dramatically lowering the cost
• increasing portability (iphone and mobile device)
• testing for learning results
• learning focus on practical results
• increasing trust with new users + external “authorities”
• lowering the threshold for under served populations
• leverage technology
• customer service

and integrating that with a marketing strategy that has a naturally high viral coefficient (become a recommendation engine). I don’t think all of the above are intrinsically disruptive, however they can be part of a package which creates creative disruption in education.

Clayton Christensen suggests three key questions (which exclude some of the options above):

1. Does the innovation target customers who in the past haven’t been able to do something themselves for lack of money or skills?
2. Is the innovation aimed at customers who will be delighted to have a simple product?
3. Will the innovation help customers do more easily and effectively what they are already trying to do?

For instance corporate universities are one example:

Corporate universities and in-house training programs are disrupting the leading business schools: In the United States, the number of employees actively participating in in-house management development programs is increasing by 30 percent every year. The number of formally organized corporate universities increased from 400 in 1990 to 1,800 in 1999. Eight times as many people are now receiving management training in a corporate context than are enrolled in MBA programs. A significant portion of in-house management training consists of just-in-time, custom-assembled short courses that management
development staffs put together to help specific groups and teams work through specific problems.

Related Disruption and Innovation in Education Resources:
Clayton Christensen on Best Education Disruption for 2008 in which he highlights several education startups who are industry disruptors:

Players like Education2020,, Connections Academy, Insight Schools, KC Distance Learning, Michigan Virtual University, and the Idaho Digital Learning Academy all offer full “class” experiences online or virtually.

But the question of which disruption was the “Best of 2008” is a difficult one–and one that, realistically, we won’t know for many years. That said, we thought we should stir up some controversy and throw out three nominees–and then hear from you about which one you think is the best!

Our three nominees for the very best education disruptor of the year are Apex Learning; K12, Inc., and Florida Virtual School.

Or check out the Disrupting Class Blog or perhaps Disrupting Class at Educause.

How can educational institutions be disruptive?


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