We saw professor David Gelernter at the December 2009 Gilder Telecosm and he made some profound points about the structural dysfunction of the higher educational system. We summarize them here and I’m sure this topic will be a recurring theme over the next decade (or two.)
Education is a famously slow-to-evolve institution and most have resisted the onslaught of technology advancement thusfar. However the RealVR Cloud is putting more pressure than ever on the system and some believe we will soon see the end of the education “mainframe” was we call it where essentially all the elements of an education are combined into one institution. Here we focus on higher learning like college and university but ultimately the effects will filter down into K-12 education. A typical university takes in the students admitted and provides a set of teachers and classes along with some guidance and curriculum to reach a point where the school grants a degree. Thanks to a process called accreditation the degree the school grants is certified and accepted as bona fide. That being said a college degree still leaves lots of open questions since the school, choice of classes and student aptitude creates a rather broad quality range in graduating class even if all of them have the same degree.
Even students see the shortcomings of such a system. Schools have great teachers, good teachers and some so-so teachers. In addition different students absorb information differently. Being able to select the best curriculums and teachers to fulfill requirements would mean that many students would get a better education.
So how would it work? The essence of the plan would be to provide for a clear separation of teachers/course content, guides/deans and certification authorities. This would allow an open process by which students could select an advisor who would work with them on developing an educational plan that is comprised of different teachers and courses that will meet the needs put forth by the certification authority.
Why do we need this? Some of the reasons that jump to mind are:
- The limited supply of university “seats” compared to the demand.
- The incredibly high cost of full-time degree granting institutions.
- Incredibly slow change and innovation at some institutions which have become so paralyzed by tenured curmudgeons that their curriculum and learning process dates back to the 19th century.
- Students also need more options in fields that are growing and changing quickly. Some evolve so fast that over a typical four year period the needs have changed the bulk of the needed curriculum.
Education is a very large and slowly changing industry. But technology is having a greater impact every day. From an investment standpoint we note that new classroom technology companies are planning to come public next year. So our coverage universe in “Education 2.0” might yet expand.