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Unbundling Higher Education, A Doubly Updated Framework

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People buy Knowledge Acquisition, Access to Opportunities, Cognitive and Employable Skills, and a Personal Transformation when they buy a degree.

This is what people buy when they’re buying a degree.

Over the past year, I’ve had to update my framework as I realize that the language I use just doesn’t click with the audience.  In particular, I kept describing the service from the service provider’s point of view, rather than they value proposition from the customer’s (student’s) point of view.  So, here’s how I’ve changed a few value propositions.

“The Content Loop” is now “Knowledge Acquisition.”  In the end, people are buying knowledge and the process of acquiring knowledge.  They are not buying the Content Loop.  The Content Loop is what content providers create to ensure they acquire the knowledge they need.  Within that quadrant, I’ve chosen to change Content Authoring to Expert Information.  Again, authoring content is what the service provider does; expert information is what people pay for.

Within Access to Opportunities, I’ve changed “Signals of Achievement Velocity” to “Signals of Aptitude.”  Largely because these are the same thing, people just get Aptitude because of the SAT.  Achievement Velocity, I think, communicates a long run bet on the economic productivity of the student.  That being said, people had to think a minute to understand what I was saying when I said achievement velocity.   When I say aptitude, they get it immediately.

“Metacontent and Skills” is now “Cognitive and Employable Skills.”  Metacontent aslo doesn’t click with people.  It means the subliminal things that are taught, largely by the instructor being an example: how to do a math problem, how to give a presentation, how to respond to complex and tough questions.  Often when you interview alumni 10 years out they remember their instructors because of the metacontent, and they don’t remember the content at all.  However, “metacontent” isn’t really a word.  When I’ve used the phrase “cognitive skills” it seems to resonate.  The education establishment seems to use “cognitive skills” to describe learnings that are picked up earlier in life: Grammar, grit, problem solving – things that get deeply embedded in the brain and character of individuals.  This being said, young adults pick up a lot of behavioral models and life-skills that help them work for economic organizations while they’re in college – and none of them are taught directly.

Within “Personal Transformation,” I’ve changed “A Personal Platform” into “A Secured Life Transition.”  What I always meant was that people need an intermediate step in between where they are now and where they want to be.  A Personal Platform makes sense, but it’s confusing to most people.  A Secured Life Transition has worked better in presentations, that’s for sure.

Sorry for the confusion.  Thanks for bearing with me.  In the end, you always have to test ideas, products and services with the market.  If the market doesn’t get what you’re saying, you have to adapt.





K12 just got (re)Imagined. Or, notes from Demo Day.

Imagine K12 Logo

Imagine K12 is an incubator for companies unafraid of taking on Education.

I just had the privilege of going to the Imagine K12 demo day. At the beginning, the founder of InstaGrock said something along the lines of “welcome to the revolution.” My eyes glazed over. 5 years ago, I gave up on the idea that anybody was going to “revolutionize” Education. By the end of the presentations, I wanted to give the companies a standing ovation. I don’t know if it’s a revolution, but there is a dramatic shift in Education that is just beginning. And it’s time to get really, really excited.

The take-away, by far, is that companies are getting traction.  Lots of it.  And quickly.  Edmodo and ClassDojo, it turns out, are just the start.

TeachBoost, LearnSprout, Hapara, Socrative, InstaGrok, LearningJar, EdShelf, BrainGenie, Tap to Learn.  All of them (are you ready for this?) know what they are doing.  Gone are the days where entrepreneurs were either completely naive to the Education world or hopelessly inept at building great products.  We’ve got both, baby.  In spades.

Best of all, every single company that had launched had significant growth and traction amongst teachers, students, and districts in the MONTH OF APRIL.  Yeah, you heard me.  They are almost all showing HOCKEY STICK level growth in the Education space.  Granted, they are all early, but there is reason to believe that this time change is gonna come.  And it’s been a long time coming.

Each of these companies deserves their own post, so I’m not going to leave a trail of one sentence descriptions.  Just go to their sites and get the scoop.

Tap to Learn probably won the day, thus their closer status.  In the spirit of Brian Wilson (closer for the SF Giants), they made me giddy.  2 million children are using dozens of their learning game apps on the iPad.  Their games are genuinely fun, AND parents can get learning analytics.  250,000 minutes of “study” aka “game play” got logged YESTERDAY.

So Kudos, IK12 companies. Kudos to Alan Louie, Geoff Ralston, and Tim Brady for collecting a great motley crew of emerging companies and budding entrepreneurs.  This time, the seeds of transformation that are sewn are looking like they’re going to sprout.

Leave your thoughts and your ideas, and give a round of applause for the new talent in EdTech.  And, shouts to my friends at @LearningJar, @LearnSprout, and @TapToLearn.  You nailed it.



Unbundling Education, A Simple Framework

Education provides ten services, listed here in the order of they will be disrupted.

Education provides ten services, listed here in the order they will be disrupted.

You can download a PDF version here.