Gonna try and make this twitter chat from @AshokaU on disruption in higher education. This chat will focus MITx : MITx, One Small Step for MIT; One Giant Leap for Higher Education — hope they go broader in the #socentchat. See you there.
At first, disruptions tend to be primitive, but two key elements allow them to take root and flourish. The first is a technology enabler, which allows the innovation to improve predictably and scale to serve more and more users over time. In the case of higher education, online learning—and its associated components—is the technology enabler.
The second key element is a new business model. A new business model is important because plugging a disruptive innovation into an existing business model never results in transformation of the model; instead, the existing model co-opts the innovation to sustain how it operates. Many online universities started with new business models in place such that they could prioritize the disruption and grow, and now at last we’re seeing MIT come of age and take the next step into this disruptive future as well.
This past December, MIT announced that it would be soon be launching MITx—a learning platform that will provide interactive, online courses that will not only be free for users around the world, but that will also allow users to receive credit for having taken these courses. For a small fee, users will be able to demonstrate mastery and receive credit from MITx, not the traditional MIT program.
This is a wise move. Although our studies have shown that historically it has been difficult for existing institutions to prioritize offerings disruptive to their own model, there have been exceptions. In every case, those exceptions have occurred when the institution created an autonomous business model—often with its own brand—such that the disruption could operate unburdened by the parent organization’s existing processes and priorities. MITx appears poised to do just that, as MIT will likely finally provide its online courses a home in a coherent business model, even as MIT protects its own traditional brand.