Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Innovative University

In their book "The Innovative University" authors Henry Eyring and Clayton Christensen apply the theories of disruptive innovation in their study of a major shift in education. Here are some excerpts from this excellent book relative to teaching CG online and the learners that we work with in our courses:

The theory of disruptive innovation asserts that in industries from computers to cars to steel those entrants that start at the bottom of their markets, selling simple products to less demanding customers, and then improving from that foothold, drive the prior leaders into a disruptive demise.

We concluded that universities are an anomaly that my original framing of disruption could not explain. True, most entrants have indeed entered into the "low end" or " new market" of higher education often as community colleges. And they have almost uniformly driven up-market to offer bachelors and advanced degrees in more and more fields - just as theory would predict. But the demise of the incumbents that characterizes most industries in the late stages of disruption has rarely occurred among colleges and universities. 

We identified three factors that resolve this anomaly. First, teaching. In the past, teaching was difficult to disrupt because it's human qualities couldn't be replicated. In the future, though, teaching will be disruptable as online technology improves and shifts the competitive focus from teacher's credentials or an institutions prestige to what a student actually learns.

Second, we observed two distinct groups of college students who have different "jobs-to-be-done." in one group the campus experience is central to the college experience...
...students in the other group don't want to spend time on campus to earn a degree. They want to learn when they have time to learn...New entrants to higher education that focus on these potential students are indeed classic disruptors. 

And the third reason why higher education has seen many new entrants but few exits is alumni and state legislators who are " customers" of their institutions. Their support is typically driven...by public spiritedness...by deep personal relationships with faculty members and coaches who profoundly molded their lives.

These observations supported the finding...that learning occurs best when it involves a blend of online and face to face learning, with the latter providing essential intangibles best obtained on a traditional college campus.

The physical campuses and full-time faculty members of traditional universities and colleges can embrace online learning as a sustaining innovation - technology could make them stronger than ever
The technologies that now threaten to disrupt traditional universities and colleges can also reinvigorate them to the benefit of so many people.