Containing the costs of a higher education degree

By Meris Stansbury
June 23rd, 2015

Two researchers discuss how tech-enabled, and competency-based, models may improve overall affordability.

costs-degree-higherMany higher-ed institutions are turning to online models to more cheaply deliver certain kinds of courses and assess student learning. Is this, in fact, a good or sustainable strategy? What role does technology have to reduce the costs of delivering post-secondary education?

Two researchers join this month’s eCampus News Symposium to discuss how technology-enabled online learning and competency-based models have the potential to improve the overall affordability and sustainability of education.

The disruptive innovation that will skill-up America

Dr. Michelle Weise, at the time of this post a senior research fellow with the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, and now the executive director of the Innovation Lab at Southern New Hampshire University, discusses how scale and modularization through CBE will provide significant opportunities for learners:

Disruption is probably one of the most overused buzzwords in education, yet few seem to know what it means. In higher education especially, there’s a tendency to take an exciting technological advancement, call it a disruptive innovation, cram it into the classroom experience, and then hope that efficiencies will magically appear. But a disruptive innovation doesn’t necessarily entail a technological breakthrough. In fact, in our most recent work in higher education called Hire Education, Clayton Christensen and I underscore that there is true disruptive potential in online competency-based education (CBE) aligned to workforce needs even though the parts of this whole are not at all new.

We’ve all heard of workforce training, competencies, and online learning. They’re not new phenomena, but online competency-based education is revolutionary because it marks the critical convergence of multiple vectors: the right learning model, the right technologies, the right customers, and the right business model.

The theory of disruptive innovation helps illustrate how the inertia of academia inevitably makes way for upstart disruptors, such as online, competency-based educational programs, to seize a market of untapped connections between learning and work.

Most institutions get locked into the complex orchestration of resources, priorities, and processes of not just one but three very different, costly, and conflicting value propositions that center on teaching, research, and facilitating a social community of students. In this complex orchestration, it becomes impossible to parse the exact costs of producing these interdependent lines of business. And there’s no way that technology will somehow magically disentangle these locked business models to create a newly efficient model of higher education…Read the full essay here.

(Next page: Affordability and sustainability for institutions through ICT)

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