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From recession’s wake, education innovation blooms

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Public officials, desperate to cut costs and measure results, are open to change in education.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On a warm spring evening, hundreds of investment bankers, venture capitalists and geeky tech entrepreneurs gathered near the pool at the Phoenician, a luxury resort outside Phoenix, for a high-profile gathering of education innovators.

As guests sipped cocktails and nibbled hors d’oeuvres, the mood was upbeat.

And why not? Major innovations – forged by the struggles of the Great Recession and fostered by technology – are coming to higher education.

Investment dollars are flooding in – a record-smashing 168 venture capital deals in the United States alone last year, according to conference host GSV Advisors. The computing power of “the cloud” and “big data” are unleashing new software. Public officials, desperate to cut costs and measure results, are open to change.

And everyone, it seems, is talking about MOOCs, the massive open online courses offered by elite universities and attracting millions of enrollees worldwide.

As with so many innovations, the technology is bubbling up mostly from the United States, fueled by American capital chasing profitable solutions to American problems. But as with those past innovations, the impact will be worldwide – in this case, perhaps even more powerfully in developing countries where mass higher education is new.

Global demand is surging. And college tuition dollars – including, in the United States, $200 billion annually in federal student financial aid – follow the students where they choose to enroll, making the market more competitive and open to innovation.

See Page 2 for details on how education is becoming “unbundled.”

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One Response to From recession’s wake, education innovation blooms

  1. michaeldufresne

    August 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

    As a professor at a brick and mortar institution that has been a leader in applying educational technology, particularly in the transition toward blended and online education, I have been very interested in MOOCs and the quality of other online ed providers.

    While Khan provides amazing quality, it is appropriately recognized and used as an unbundled resource for addressing a particular, momentary need rather than a replacement for full coursework. As many unaccredited for-profit outliers chase the money, we will inevitably see some great innovation and quality resources, but there will be as many scams.

    My hope is that traditional colleges will adapt in order to remain competitive without losing the real teaching and learning a computer program cannot (yet) provide. I see the concurrent push toward “flipped learning” to be a good sign. Universities will be able to provide more quality, individualized learning opportunities during precious face-to-face time while relying on technology to provide the basic content that is best suited to self-paced online tools.

    My crystal ball shows traditional universities outsourcing the online content (which will carry the universities’ brand endorsement and accreditations) while still providing the wealth of experience and interaction best provided by professional faculty and on-site facilities and staff.

    Michael Dufresne
    Addison, IL

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