Sunday, December 6, 2015

Is this the Future of Higher Education?
(Ben Peters)

Online education is becoming all the rage these days, especially in the tech industry. From free offerings like MIT OpenCourseWare, to for-profit companies like Udacity and Make School, these initiatives provide people around the world (with access to the internet) a chance to receive a valuable set of technical skills at an affordable cost. Udacity has embraced Michael Porter’s concept of creating shared value by reconceiving products and markets. Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun (former CMU professor) has reconceived the product of “education” and expanded the market to anyone in the world with a computer and internet access. His idea of providing an affordable education to the world has the potential to generate economic value by creating societal value through education.

 Udacity’s value proposition is that it teaches students exactly what they need to know to succeed in the workforce. The company accomplishes this by working side-by-side with many of the big tech companies in Silicon Valley to structure the curriculum, and many of the courses are taught by current employees of companies like Google. Udacity’s Nanodegree program now has good brand recognition among tech companies with many of the graduates receiving full-time jobs as software developers or other tech roles, and some companies have even set aside a number of positions especially for people with a Nanodegree from Udacity. To earn one of these Nanodegrees it will only cost you between $1200-$3000, depending on how long it takes you to finish the program.

Another company called Make School has followed in the footsteps of Udacity, but it differs in the fact that it has a physical campus based in San Francisco as well as an online program. There is no tuition at Make School during the two years of the program; instead you make a commitment to pay 25% of your annual salary for the two years following program completion, contingent upon you finding relevant employment.

Both of these companies, among others, are reconceiving the product of education and expanding the market for education. There is potential here to create a lot of societal value for the world by producing a more educated workforce. If organizations like these turn out to be successful, it could disrupt and reshape the way higher education is viewed around the world.


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