12 Steps You Can Take to Disrupt Education

93-10-31-disrupt-logoI know, I know… you’d rather not. Nor would any of us really, but I’m working on a manifesto for disrupting education. This is not because I think I know how to do it, but rather because I think it’s inevitable and I want to set myself something to work towards.

These are some of the underpinning actions and ideas that I think underpin positive disruptive education models:

  1. Adopt a new business model. Despite their inertia, our old 20th century business models will not survive. This is especially true for any business model that relies on customers (or learners) just showing up. If you’re sitting around waiting for your customers or learners to show up you may as well shut the doors now and save yourself the pain later. By the way, this new business model probably involves the internet (which is the mother of all business models).
  2. Figure out who your customer really it. Who are you providing value for? In education this is complex. Are your learners paying you to create value for them? If not, who is paying you to do this work? It’s a problematic relationship in education. We at least need to ask the question. If you’re like me you have funders as well as learners and multiple layers of bureaucracy to appease.
  3. Develop amazing niche content. If our content is generic and boring it’s going to be dull to deliver and mind numbing for our learners. The hardest thing is to make it accessible to the target audience given our tendency to bludgeon our learners with our much larger vocabularies and subject area knowledge. That’s not even the problem… we usually don’t know we’re doing it.
  4. Work with a great (and small) team. Who can afford a large team these days? Small teams are great. Working with contractors rocks. The tools for working and collaborating over distance and independent of geography are available and mostly free.
  5. Crush it with killer design. This should go without saying. But it doesn’t. In education we are guilty of some of the worst design sins ever committed. It doesn’t have to be that way. I think it’s worth setting our sights a whole lot higher than we have in education. I’ll spend money on a graphic designer or a professional photographer before I spent money on a website company these days.
  6. Help people get better at something. If we’re not doing this then what are we in education, let alone in business for.
  7. Get savvy. And by savvy I mean internet and technologically savvy. The new education tools are mainly digital. Actually, the new work tools for anything are digital. This is unavoidable. But I guess if you’re reading this I’m preaching to the choir. So tell your colleagues if you can stand the arguments that will inevitably start.
  8. Create social objects. Social objects are things that people can’t stop talking about. We want people to care about our stuff. And then share it with a bunch of other people. This means some of what you do has to be shareable.
  9. Iterate quickly. This is the difference between an innovative education provider and… one that’s going to struggle and die. The innovation cycle is well documented in industry and it works for education too. Change it.
  10. Deliver great experiences. Again, this should go without saying. But so much of education is not a great experience either for the learners or even for those doing the delivery of the content or assessment. Learning is not always easy and effortless. Sometimes it’s damn hard, but that doesn’t mean we can’t deliver a great experience.
  11. Start with the big picture. As educators we know this and teach it as a principle of adult teaching and learning. But we’re typically hypocrites. While we understand this academically, we don’t actually do it. Or we do it badly. We need to start with the big picture, then break it down, and then put it back together again.
  12. Get mean and get lean. Perhaps this should be at the top of the list. Education is hard work. Getting paid to do education is even harder. None of us will survive if we don’t pull out all the stops to reduce our large fixed costs and tighten up on everything else. The implications of this are uncomfortable to put it mildly.

What else can we do to disrupt education? What do you do? Let me know in the comments.




Author: Graeme Smith

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

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