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Wired profiles Steve Job’s point of view that technology has limited capacity to change education in the US. While there is some truth to his point of view in early education, technology is transforming college and grad school. Quote from Wired:

I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent.

It’s a political problem. The problems are sociopolitical. The problems are unions. You plot the growth of the NEA [National Education Association] and the dropping of SAT scores, and they’re inversely proportional. The problems are unions in the schools. The problem is bureaucracy.

To some extent, I agree with this point of view. Tenure, a core value held by the NEA, is anathema to innovation in education. Privatizing schools or instilling more performance oriented management in schools is ideal. But measurement is a challenge. Measure the teacher? The student? When and how? Plus the feedback cycles are quite long. New education experiments take decades to evaluate and have high stakes – the results are the career paths of students. Grade school is the most challenging place to innovate.

Rather, I believe most of the innovation in education will occur in college and grad school where capitalism is driving change faster than most realize.  Students are evaluating their return on investment as tuition increases at 8% annually at public schools. As a result, colleges must compete with better services: more effective, more convenient education. Technology is a differentiator for colleges – new labs, new research facilities, new online programs. This is why we invested in 2Tor, a company that allows colleges to offer full degree programs over the internet. Already, 2Tor has brought USC, UNC and Georgetown degree programs online. Students seeking more convenience and no relocation costs attend classes virtually.

Education will be revolutionized by technology driven by competition among colleges.

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One thought on “Technology in Education

  1. Tom , good post on tech role in education.

    I agree with you FRIST innovation in education will occur in college and grad schools. I think one of the reason it is not happening fast enough is that ‘Universities are investing in online infrastructure plumbing’ rather on ‘Quality course content ‘ and ‘ Student learning experience enhancement’.

    Here is the analogy of ‘Online university courses’ with ‘ creating online web store’ .
    In order to create ‘online web Store’ you need 2 major components
    a) product catalog management system
    b) web based payment system to charge credit cards

    If you build those systems , it will take 3 months and two programmers costing $50,000 upfront cost. Today you can buy/Lease both of those systems for $10 – $100 /month . So no ‘ web store’ owner build them today instead they buy/lease those systems.

    Let me put some $$ figures for university Online Course System development ( real good system , not just web pages ).
    – Technology platform development : 2 programmers : $100 k x 2 = $200,000
    – System maint. DBA/Sys Admin : 1 person = $100,000
    – Recruitment ( of students ) : 1 person = $100,000
    – Student support ( all year long) : 1 person = $100,000

    There goes $500,000 /year which is very conservative estimate , Real estimate may run as high as $1 million/year . This is excluding Curriculum development .

    So Instead of speding $1 MM /year , 2Tor.com kind of platforms may provide these at $100,000/year to begin with ( I am taking a guess here )

    so Universities offering online courses are like ‘Web Stores’ , their CORE strength is NOT in building Infrastructure but providing ‘Quality educational experience’
    – Quality course content
    – Student learning experience enhancement
    – supporting their customers ( supporting students from enrollment to completion of the course all the way )

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