Flipped Classroom = Flipped Business Model for Education

I can’t seem to get this thought out of my head at the moment. It’s in the heading above, but to restate the case.

  • Flipped classrooms need flipped business models for education and ed-tech.

There’s lots of talk on the internet these days, at least in education circles, around the idea of the flipped classroom. There’s a wikipedia article on it. It’s not anything particularly new, but in a nutshell, flipped is…

a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of Internet technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing. This is most commonly being done using teacher created videos that students view outside of class time.

And the most famous proponent of this is Salman Khan and the Kahn Academy which you should immediately go and check out if you haven’t already. With 3000+ videos online there’s probably something there you can use.

However, the thing that interests me is the idea that a flipped classroom needs a flipped business model. With the costs of specialised knowledge plummeting towards zero in most subject areas and government subsidies continually being eroded, education remains a time consuming, labour intensive business with seemingly fewer incentives for businesses to remain in the game.

How are education providers going to stay in business let alone make a respectable profit under these and other conditions?

To be honest, I have no idea. However, here are some possibilities to consider for flipping your business model while you flip your classroom.

  1. Don’t sell education and training. Sell something else. Educational resources for example. Or something else. Anything really. People pay for that other product or service and get education and training thrown in.
  2. Run your current business model into the ground while you figure out the next thing. Still got some government funding? Think you’ve got another year or two under your existing business model? Then work like crazy to use your existing revenue streams to fund the next thing.
  3. Charge for credentials but not for training. This is one possible future for providers who have special accreditation. The information that your trainees need is probably available for free on the internet already. If not, then it will be soon. However, the official quality assured qualification and credential that you offer still has some currency. So charge for the credential and the credentialing process. Give the training away.
  4. Seek funding from other sources. This probably means that you then give the training away for free as well. It might be more trouble than it’s worth but some organisations may be interested in investing in your education business. There may be philanthropic reasons for this, particularly if you are a not-for-profit. Or you might be a good purchase. Macmillan Publishing, for example, seems to have set aside $100 million to buy up new ed-tech startups as they transition out of the traditional publishing industry.
  5. Consider how to leverage online business models for education. What if students subscribed to their training for a low monthly fee (like a phone plan)? What if you sold chunks of training content via an online shopping site? What if you made all your expensive print-based resources available for cheap download online? What if your course became an iPad app? Or a game? Or a series of iBooks or eBooks?

Or you could just get out of the education business altogether… By the way, Macmillan if you’re reading? I’d settle for a cool 1% of your slush fund. Just DM me on twitter. That’s @smith_graeme in case you haven’t got it already.

Any other thoughts on how to flip your business model for education? Let me know in the comments below.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

5 thoughts

  1. I always enjoy your take on the changing nature of education Graeme. Education has a problem in that it is so subsidised that no one really appreciates what it is worth anymore and even fewer recognise it when they see it. An education is the second most valuable thing on the planet, it enables the creation of reality out of possibility. Very different from what is currently on offer in the mainstream.
    Information, such as Khan provides, is useless unless it is structured into a bigger educational plan. I’m a Salman Khan fan, but I understand how to take what he is offering and integrate it into my existing developmental plan. I ‘use’ khan. But where did I learn to ‘use’ it?

    What guides my decision to invest time into completing a Khan algebra course? Because whatever it is, that is education.

    I think the next evolution for specialist educators is to act as this guide for learners while they develop an education that allows them to self-regulate. Teachers are unequiped to do this as they are trained to deliver curriculuum content to learners within a specific skill band (year one, two etc), not identify an individuals long term global learning needs and source the best products.

    The ‘new educators’ (high priests?) are valuable to real stakeholders (parents, not teachers) because they have the specialist knowledge to source appropriate, effective and timely educational material. These plans will run over five to ten, perhaps more, years in the future.

    Imagine providing a plan to parents of a ten year old that suits the child’s personality, interests, goals, and dreams. Then sources the people, resources, specific domains of learning, and materials all at the correct develpmental time for the child over a period of years. Plus remaining flexible and adaptive to the child’s skills and learning curve. If the child masters material quickly, then the individual nature of the product allows the child to move forward at their own pace or slow down to master difficult material. Social and collaborative skills are developed in the plan as well by including (and monitoring) activities that specifically develop these skills.

    This is the future of education. Specialist educators designing plans for individuals and then sourcing and selecting appropriate programmes. This is a flip to the current practice in which a community plan exists (school curriculum, PTE programme) and the individual joins the plan.

    I’m excited actually. It’s just unfortunate that the dinosaur of mass education is slowing down the change required.

  2. Nice one…! I think your comments are longer than my blog post… What about a “Guest Post”? What you’ve written here deserves its own treatment and discussion. Cheers, Graeme

  3. Yes, i got a bit carried away. What i like about comments is that can think as you write ( hence they can be slightly incoherent). A post requires thought before writing.
    I notice all your posts are perfect.
    A guest post sounds like fun but its a tough act to follow. Remember that this blog is going to be a global phenomena at some stage soon and you have a reputation to keep.

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