Be sure to read Chapter 8:
"Online Education: From Novelty to Necessity"
(co-written by Knewton's Founder, Jose Ferreira, and our own Christina Yu)
Revolution in Distribution
Today, digital innovation is driving unprecedented change across the education sector. In doing so, it has the potential both to improve student learning outcomes and expand access to high- quality education opportunities in ways that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago. Because this revolution is taking place online, it is globally accessible and able to leverage the lower distribution costs afforded by the Internet. These digital innovations will transform both what happens in the classroom as well as broader educational policy in the years to come.
There is no shortage of alarming statistics that reflect the wasted potential of human capital owing to lack of access to quality education: in the United States alone, 30% of students fail out of high school; 33% of college students require remediation; and 46% of college students fail to graduate. (All this is to say nothing of education in the global economy and the social ills that have pervaded the world as a result.) Because of escalating tuition rates, unemployment and a massive student debt burden in the United States – which has now reached more than US$ 1 trillion – there is tremendous momentum to disrupt education as we know it and provide an alternative, or at least a complement, to the traditional and largely one-size-fits-all bricks-and-mortar school system.
On the business side, the potential is enormous. Education is a US$ 7 trillion industry. In other words, the total amount of money (both public and private) spent annually on education exceeds all spending, both online and offline, of every other information industry combined – i.e. all media, entertainment, games, news, software, Internet and mobile media and e-tailing.
Technological innovation has finally caught up to the potential at hand. Digital open content, cloud computing, mobile and tablet technology, game-based learning, machine learning and big data technology are sweeping through education and its associated industries. As a result, education is undergoing a monumental shift, from a factory model to a digital, personalized model.
The shifting of education from analogue to digital is a one-time event in the history of the human race. At scale, it may have as big an effect on the world as indoor plumbing or electricity. The consequence of nearly every human being receiving as much education as she wants and her ability permits will likely transform the quality of life and global GDP within one generation. Massive pools of human talent will be unlocked. Better-educated people will raise better-educated kids. How many more great minds – future Einsteins, Curies, Da Vincis, Pasteurs, Martin Luther Kings and McCartneys – will the world produce when we can quadruple the number of high school graduates?
This chapter will cover the revolution in online education, as played out in two main areas: distribution and data-mining. It will also assess the disruptive innovation occurring in higher education today and describe its ramifications for the future of universities. So how quickly will this revolution occur and which institutions and nations will reap the benefits of getting these first? The authors believe the answer lies in the ability to surmount two hurdles: (a) expanding credit acceptance policies for online courses; and (b) overcoming the digital divide, a result of insufficient adequate infrastructure and too little digital literacy.