I am preparing to write the Open College idea down over the Christmas holidays and hence, doing some reading and review of ideas. There could not have been a better place to start the journey than Clayton Christensen's DISRUPTING CLASS [with Michael Horn and Curtis Johnson], where the effect of disruptive innovation on how education is delivered has been examined.
The book is full of concepts about disruptive innovation and how they are brought to market, and a connecting fable which lets us understand the possibilities and challenges of technology introduction to the market. There are some rather disconnected, but useful stand-alone sections, on Pre-school education and Educational Research for example, but overall the book is a good read and stimulating for anyone interested in the business of education.
The point of this post, of course, is not the book, but an idea contained therein, which requires closer examination in the context of the open college project. This is the idea about three types of generic business models and how the business model for education, particularly schools, may change with the disruptive introduction of technology in the classroom.
The three types of business models following the framework developed by Professors Oystein Fjeldstad and Charles Stabell are the following: Solution Shops, Value Chains and Facilitated User Networks.
The Solution Shops are professional teams put together to solve problems, like high end consulting, legal and advertising firms, which employ highly trained people to identify problems and recommend solution. The value, in this business model, reside largely IN the people who work for these organizations. The organization operates with little or no standardized processes, as each client problem can be unique and may need a special solution. Corporate Training firms mostly function as solution shops, though the tendencies are to gravitate towards another business model [we will come to that in a moment].
The Value Chain business, such as manufacturing, retailing and food service businesses, is about taking an input and add value through the processes that they have, and finally engaging with the end consumer with the value-added product. This is the most common business model in existence, and one can see this in the way schools and colleges are run. The value in this type of business model resides in the processes. People here are not as important to these businesses as in Solution Shops and strong, standardized processes are the hallmark of a successful Value Chain business. It is not difficult to see schools and colleges in this mould: students come at the beginning of the year, value is added to them through standardized teaching and assessment, and finally they go out to a higher class with the added-value capabilities at their disposal.
The Facilitated User Network is where customers exchange with each other, through direct or indirect processes. Telecom businesses are great example of this type of business model: customers talk and share information with each other using the network. So is Insurance, where premiums are paid to and drawn from a pool. Banking too is a sort of network, where saving is converted to investment. Participation in the network may not by itself a profit-making activity, but facilitating the network is. The value, in this kind of business model, reside in the network rather than the product or the participants.
Now, education as a value chain business is working fine, but this is inherently limited in its capacity to educate people. Three reasons:
(A) The business model tends to be biased towards high value, high volume courses and do not sufficiently attend to the individual preferences and requirements. This become crucial in higher education, because the society can gain much more by training individuals with the right skills and making them do what they are really interested in.
(B) Research shows that individuals may have learning preferences, the way they learn best. In a value chain business, one can allow little variation - expressed in Henry Ford's maxim 'you can have a car in any colour as long as it is black' - and though we have made significant progress in logistics management and production technology, it has proved significantly more difficult to accommodate a number of learning styles in education. The popular solution, so far, was to combine different methods together, hoping that one of the parallel learning methods will work. But, this means more work for the learners, fatter textbooks and a more daunting classroom for all.
(C) Various educational thinkers objected to the Prescriptive nature of traditional school or college education. The key problem was that standard value chain education is process driven and the focus, during the delivery of education, remains on the integrity of the processes rather than inventiveness of individual pupils. By design, inventiveness is disruptive in the context of a value chain and is strongly discouraged.
These three reasons make the standard education processes quite out of sync with the emerging demands of the students. The students who will enter college now would have all used a mobile phone, a digital camera and a computer for a number of years already. A large number of them, across the world, will have a facebook [or on some other similar network] profile, friends who are geographically distant and experiences of digital music and movies. In short, many of them are exposed to the Internet-facilitated world of long tail, of ideas, identities and aspirations. The one-size-fits-all college will increasingly be an anomaly to them, and value-chain education will become counter-productive. They will want to have learning, specific and specially useful, to fit their own curiosities. A standard education system with its tutoring and processes will make more and more students disconnect with education, and increasingly, from life.
I keep hearing complaints from tutors about bad behaviour by the students. The milder offences are about using mobile phones, texting most commonly but increasingly email, while the class is on. With computer-aided classes, there is always the case of facebook and chat while the tutor was explaining how to do a standard car maintenance check. The more troubling ones are about showing disrespect, physically threatening or even abusing the teachers and general misconduct with peers and tutors. The system of education is plagued by such problems, but forcing a student out of class or using the standard disciplinary methods are solving very few problems. While I do not see a magic solution to the bad behaviour, I do think a renewed effort must be made to connect the students back in education, which can only be done by connecting education back to the realities of life.
This is where we see the possibility of education morphing into, admittedly over a period of time, into the Facilitated User Network model from its current value chain form. This is increasingly because the standard processes and assessments are becoming out of sync with a more individualized world.
One can almost say that we are at a point of liberation from the tyranny of statistics, and a return to personal, experience-based education, which was the preserve of the few in years past, seems imminent. However, because democratic societies will not tolerate education as a special privilege [but that's what it is increasingly becoming, and bad education is indeed worse than no education], one must find a way to connect education to life for everyone, and this could be done today with the help of technology.
I think the big leap in education in the Western societies came through its excellent network of public libraries, a sort of facilitated user network of sorts [where the potential of library is fully leveraged and various interest groups organized]. These provide an excellent model of public education. This is no utopia as the benefits of such a network are already in evidence in many societies, though admittedly, one needs a different, technology-mediated framework which nudges people to the right direction and keep the network going. This is possibly the only solution to create an individualized, close to life experiences education system, which can reach a great number of people, and can offer access with fairness.
Of course, this is almost saying that the universities will become extinct and libraries will take their place. I would argue that such a shift is already happening. There is a shift in the priorities of knowledge acquisition, which is increasingly about the ability to put knowledge in context rather than finding and memorizing information, and hence, libraries, of various kinds, are becoming at least as important as the classroom. However, libraries do lack engagement protocols [to borrow a term from telecom] and this needs to be created in order to achieve the educational output that the society will require. So, we are almost talking about a vast repository of material, electronic or otherwise, which is accessed by people who connect with each other, and are guided by each other to distinct pieces of materials, case examples and previous work by peers. They are nudged by few mentors in the right direction when they need it, and increasingly educated by their peers and others who are able to give them suggestions on what and how to study. This format of education will not only connect to life, it will happen within life itself.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.