Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.
In the previous two parts we looked at what universities have that is valuable. We also talked about how powerful a force they are. So those are the conditions. Universities are large, very expensive organizations that are balanced on a single pillar which is credentialing. Fortunately they have this ocean of money flowing in to them for now but what if that changes? What if one fall semester, 20% of students decide to not go to college? What if they have alternatives? (Ironically, the more student loan money is in the system, the more incentive there is for alternatives to arise.)
Many new players are emerging in the online education market but what if traditional universities go online too? Won’t they squash the competition? Nope. Once a university goes online, it gives up a lot of it’s advantages. It is just another website and brand to many online students.
The opportunity for disruptive innovation is here which is why a lot of people with Venture Capital are financing education startups.
In order to disrupt the university model you need to do all of the following:
- Learning has to be very low cost.
- Learning has to be proven to be effective.
- Learning has to result in a respected credential at various points. (see point 5)
- Learning has to be able to cater to any type of student and any age.
- Learning has to be open ended. It should be a process, not an end to itself. Give a credential at points, but always offer more. Schools should want student for life, not just 4 years.
- Learning has to be on many more topics than a traditional school offers.
- Learning should be guided by most effective teacher, not the most credentialed.
I think this will happen relatively soon. There are too many bright creative minds working on the problem for things to continue like they have. Just because a university has been around for a long time doesn’t mean it will still be here in 10 years. Remember, we rode horses for thousands of years, until we suddenly didn’t. There is nothing in the nature of universities that will protect them from the stormfront of change sweeping through society.
In trying to make something new, half the undertaking lies in discovering whether it can be done. Once it has been established that it can, duplication is inevitable.