Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen — author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovative University, sage of “disruptive innovation” — has been back in the education news this week. In his September 30 keynote address at Educause, Prof. Christensen shared his latest view of how disruptive forces in education may play out.
EducationDive.org posted a good summary of the address:
To paraphrase the best-selling author of eight critically acclaimed books, a disruptive innovation is, in the simplest terms, one that transforms a complicated, expensive product into one that is easier to use and more affordable than the one most readily available. This decentralization, he says, looks to the outliers of the core product’s audience — those who may not have previously had the skills or capital — and opens the doors. Meanwhile, the major player doesn’t pay attention to this new product because it is effectively offering “worse products with bad margins.”
This concept should sound familiar to anyone in higher ed, as it echoes exactly the scenario MOOCs were predicted to bring about. Through that lens, let’s take a look at Christensen’s three key takeaways…
Here’s a summary of those three key takeaways.
- Disruption competes with non-consumption: it begins with potential learners who aren’t otherwise served by conventional education
- Disruption doesn’t target the core business: it begins with skill-based certifications and “nano-degrees,” not with traditional 4-year degrees tied to institutions.
- Disruption demands modularity: look for more short-duration courses that can be flexibly repackaged toward varied and evolving educational goals.