Did you catch Khan Academy on 60 Minutes last Sunday? Watch it. Now. And make sure to watch the 2 minute web extra on School of the Future. Have you ever wondered about all those aspects of schools today that didn’t make sense. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way…
It’s exciting to see the growing number of entrepreneurs and investors taking on education in disruptive ways–both K-12 and higher ed. FWIW, there are some “serious” folks that think the time is right:
Already in August 2011, Marc Andreessen said in the seminal “Why Software is Eating the World“:
Health care and education, in my view, are next up for fundamental software-based transformation. My venture capital firm is backing aggressive start-ups in both of these gigantic and critical industries. We believe both of these industries, which historically have been highly resistant to entrepreneurial change, are primed for tipping by great new software-centric entrepreneurs.
In February 2012, Vinod Khosla included in his “Unhyped” New Areas in Internet and Mobile, Education 2.0:
“Education models that dramatically reduce the cost and increase the availability of quality learning.” The puzzling question is why education has not already changed. My guess is we have not experimented enough with non-linear, rapidly evolving, out-of-the-box approaches but have instead tried to force-fit ‘multi-media textbooks’ and other traditional (often broken) ideas into the “computerized” model. We have also had too much punditry from experts in education instead of just trying hundreds of new ways of doing things. This is starting to change; it makes me optimistic that what has not worked so far can now work
In March 2012, Paul Graham in Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas included “Replacing Universities.” (He mentions high school but thought that would be harder to start with.):
One of the more surprising things I’ve noticed while working on Y Combinator is how frightening the most ambitious startup ideas are. In this essay I’m going to demonstrate this phenomenon by describing some… The biggest startup ideas are terrifying…You’d expect big startup ideas to be attractive, but actually they tend to repel you. And that has a bunch of consequences. It means these ideas are invisible to most people who try to think of startup ideas, because their subconscious filters them out. Even the most ambitious people are probably best off approaching them obliquely…
3. Replace Universities
People are all over this idea lately, and I think they’re onto something. I’m reluctant to suggest that an institution that’s been around for a millennium is finished just because of some mistakes they made in the last few decades, but certainly in the last few decades US universities seem to have been headed down the wrong path. One could do a lot better for a lot less money.
I don’t think universities will disappear. They won’t be replaced wholesale. They’ll just lose the de facto monopoly on certain types of learning that they once had. There will be many different ways to learn different things, and some may look quite different from universities.