The Information Age of the 21st century has unleashed vast new opportunities as well as challenges. Globalization of the world wide labor pool has fundamentally changed the competitive landscape for the modern worker. However, we believe that education is still mired in 19th century practices that fail, on many levels, to address the needs of this new world. Our education institutions are still wedded to passive, lecture-based curriculum, printed textbooks and worksheets, memorization of facts followed by mandated testing, and struggle with inadequate teacher and learning based assessments. We call this Education 1.0.
Early technology innovators have focused on accessibility or efficiency — online classes, software based learning aids, digital textbooks — and have created substantial value for their investors. We call this Education 2.0. Market values or acquisition prices have been significant for online innovators such as Apollo/University of Phoenix ($7b), Devry ($1b), Wireless Generation ($0.4b). A new wave of companies such as Coursera, Udacity, and Kahn Academy have attracted breathtaking audiences by offering lectures to a mass, underserved audience worldwide with virtually word-of-mouth advertising.
Today’s technology can move well beyond the first wave of innovators, ultimately transforming learning by re-envisioning and re-structuring the whole process. Disruptive technologies can change the way people learn — integrating curriculum into real-world pursuits that students care about; equipping teachers and mentors to tailor learning to individual strengths, interests, and needs; and better assessing an individual’s profile of talents and aptitudes. We are in the beginning stages of the journey from compulsory education to a new world in which students will be intrinsically motivated in an interest-based education model, what we call Education 3.0.
We believe that the most innovative disruption and highest value creation opportunities will come from outside the entrenched interests of the existing system. Like in so many other industries, change comes from the outside in. The re-invention of learning and education although just beginning has definite problem areas and bottleneck issues that when solved will reap substantial value creation for the ultimate providers. As we move from an assembly line of one size fits all to a more individual centered education, a multitude of markets and segments will require a much higher degree of personalization concerning learning outcomes, individual profiles based on those outcomes, and much more effectively tailored learning experiences that take into account the highly individualized needs of the specific learner. These represent three high impact areas to target for product and company formation and investment:
- Smarter Experiences- Meaningful Experiences vs. Arbitrary Activities: We believe the future will have a much broader perspective on what defines “learning experiences”. Instead of sitting at desks listening to lectures, doing worksheets, and taking quizzes, people are learning by doing. We are going to see people learning through more authentic experiences that resemble the cool stuff we adults get to do in the real world. Tomorrows liberal arts will not be the idealized seminar discussions on the bucolic campus but will be where learners are immersed in real world projects like coding a mobile App, building a robot or starting a business The learning needs to be “interest-based” and driven by real-world experiences. Curriculum and educational offerings of the future will need to peak interest and grant the learner more choice and power over their own learning so that they are more personally motivated to do the hard work of competence building.
- Smarter Pathways- Adaptive individualized learning: Future learning will be personalized and match recommended learning experiences with an individual’s profile of interests, skills and knowledge. We need web and mobile applications with adaptive recommendation engines, peer to peer social learning and scalable professional mentorship.
- Smarter Scorecards— New measurements for learning:. What makes an individual unique? There are numerous skills, character traits, and knowledge domains that comprise a learner. Most current educational practices such as report cards or standardized test scores capture only a narrow picture of who we are. We need a new framework for learning outcomes based on 21st century needs and state-of-the-art cognitive research. Electronic portfolios will enable the creation of an individual’s specific profile across the new measurements for learning. They will help learners better track, manage, and represent their learning and level of competence. They will be critical for representing what one has learned and what one can do.