Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The end of education as we know it?

According to Rob Tucker, in a post on O'Reilly Radar, education as we know it is ripe for disruption through disintermediation. Tucker said, "How deep could this disintermediation go? Deeper than we would expect. If we take the primary function of school to be the dissemination of knowledge, the disintermediation could be near total."

In his post, Disintermediation: The disruption to come for Education 2.0, Tucker explained the concept of disintermediation:

An example of what disintermediation looks like is what happened to travel agencies. Before the Web, travel agents served as direct points of contact to facilitate travel arrangements between customers and service providers (airlines, hotels, rental car agencies, etc.)

Simply stated, disintermediation is the elimination of the middle man. Another historical example of the disruptive influence of disintermediation are newspaper classified ads. Newspapers saw their classified ad revenue business model disrupted when Craig's List allowed sellers to interact with buyers directly. In his post Tucker wrote more about the potential for education to be disintermediated:

Teachers, schools, and districts occupy ground not too different than the travel agents of 1998. Specifically, the value proposition of the current educational system is that it understands the landscape of human knowledge and that it can plan and enable the exploration of this landscape in a way that is cost and time effective. Learning is educational travel.

I think Tucker is right on target. The value proposition of brick and mortar schools, especially universities, is increasingly questionable in the long term given the disruption capabilities and cost effectiveness of increasingly powerful, ubiquitous and mobile technology.

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