Tag Archives: business model

MOOCs and business models in higher education

A great post from @audreywatters here on the education technology start-up ecosystem. This includes asking what the impact of Venture Cap maybe which is something that makes academics (at least in the UK feel uncomfortable about. Indeed, one argument for the development of the OU’s Futurelearn platform – however, this is still operated as a separate company majority owned by the OU.

Also, worth noting the following quote:

Can we (please!) foster a resurgence of open source in education? This isn’t simply about schools running their own Linux servers either (although I wouldn’t mind that). It’s about supporting open source development — community development, capacity building, technology tinkering, bug fixing, and most importantly perhaps, transparency. Can education startups be leaders in developing and supporting openly licensed materials (code and content), helping wrest education free from the control of proprietary businesses?

Which was shortly followed by the announcement that edX was releasing its MOOC software as open source.

While these developments are taking in place in a context, at least in the UK, of longer-term declining funding for higher education and the response of the sector in reducing its major cost component, people:

made good efficiency savings during the year. The most significant of these savings related to staff costs, which fell in real terms for a second consecutive year in 2011-12

So, one key question on the future of higher education is whether the prominence of MOOCs is leading to the university as an aggregator, mediating the content and technologies of an ecology of academic and technology and content firms – the university as commissioning agency?

Weekend LinkPool [13082012]

The following are a series of links on education and technology that caught my eye:

The Future of Online Education (1) discuses three competing perspectives on higher education and the potential impact of online education on these: (1) an employability perspective where higher education is all about imparting market-desired skills. E-Learning can provide the same at a much cheaper rate disrupting or destroying existing education business models; (2) social benefit model where attending higher education confers a certain capital. This is where the ‘traditional’ university market continues and (3) “signaling model” where e-learning is still seen as ‘suspicious’, less valued by both employers, students and parents. 2 & 3 is not far from some of my previous comments and 1 is possibly closer to the rhetoric of some politicians and newspapers. While the post discusses the three perspectives as “polar extremes” and reality will fall somewhere in between,  I think the argument is better framed in terms of different strategic groups of education providers, operating across different (competing and noncompeting) market segments using different channels.  So any fragmentation of the higher education sector will be more fragmented than some of the (technological determinist) commentators are suggesting. This fragmentation is illustrated by New Charter University featured in The Future of Online Education (2) which appears to be extending the models such as Open Learn or MIT’s open courseware. Edinburgh University is experimenting with Coursera. The MSc in E-Learning is specifically seeking to explore the possibilities of alternative pedagogical models through the MOOC format – there’s also a nice article on MOOCs and higher education here.

But … as this post on the Future of Technology in Education emphasises, universities can have a long way to go on getting the basics right:

Time and time again we heard examples of poor communication (between university and students, teaching staff and students, IT and staff/students…etc)

We don’t know enough about what students want and how students live – it was agreed we should try *asking them*more often.

The importance of digital literacy – plenty of staff and students just don’t have it. Thankfully, there seemed to be general agreement that the ‘digital native’ is simply a myth. @suebecks gave a great presentation with many fascinating examples of the importance of digital skills to employability.

So existing institutions may simply lack the capabilities to deliver outside their existing strategic groups but lack anything that differentiates them in that group as wella s lacking the capabilities to change into the emerging strategic groups. So the shake out of higher education *could* be extensive and terminal for many but …. are we *yet* seeing the demand for the alternative models to drive that sort of disruption?