This is the first of three posts in which I look at some of the ways in which the new, "off the shelf" course-rich world created by the Open Courseware Consortium, MOOCs, commercial publishers such as Pearson, etc.( all of which I called the new college level courses, or NCLCs) might impact the business model of higher education.
In an earlier related post, How can we think about the wave of new innovations in higher education?, I suggested that the course-rich world would greatly change the Resources box of the higher eduction business model. In a subsequent post, Michael Raynor's analysis of disruption - and higher education, I reviewed Michael Raynor's extension of Clayton Christensen's theory of disruptive innovation, and promised to apply his results to a study of the NCLCs. This is that promised post, in which I look at some of the characteristics of the NCLCs that may determine whether they have the potential to drive a disruptive innovation.
Raynor's work indicates that the speed with which the NCLCs can improve in value will tell us something about the ways in which their use may impact higher education. Thus, we should first focus on the characteristics of the NCLCs and not on specifics of how they might be used. To think about that, we need to attempt a definiton of "value" for the NCLCs.
"Value" in education is a mixture of attributes that students may desire. Since we are talking about NCLCs, we are really concerned only with those attributes most connected to education itself, and not to related areas such as social growth or research. The value of education itself is certainly composed of several components, among which are: the effectiveness and depth of the learning that can be achieved; the ease and convenience of access; the academic brand of the provider; and recognizable certification. However, issues of such as specifics of how the NCLCs are used and whether certification follows are really part of the Procedures box in the higher education business model, and will be discussed in subsequent posts of this series. In this post, I will look at questions of the academic brand of the NCLCs and the effectiveness and depth of learning that can be achieved - and how fast they might be improved.