12:45 PM

Michael Horn: Disruptive Innovation is Misunderstood but Real

Michael Horn: Disruptive Innovation is Misunderstood but Real

By Bill Wax, Communications Director More than 100 educators and administrators had a chance to hear from one of the pre-eminent thinkers in higher education today during a special Innovation Luncheon presentation by Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a non-profit think tank. He complimented Bellevue University’s efforts at developing learning models that are a better fit for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.

IMG_0831“Disruptive Innovation often is misunderstood,” Horn told the group attending the University-hosted, boxed-lunch gathering in the Muller ASB Symposium Room October 30. It often begins with a new innovation among a small nucleus of people, then gradually edges out into the culture and economy to become main stream. Computing, for example, began with scientists using mechanical slide rules, then main-frame computers costing millions, mini-computers at $250,000, then a few who could afford the first desk-top PCs, to today’s still-evolving digital environment, which is one of the most disruptive forces challenging higher education.

Using PowerPoint slides to accentuate and illustrate his points, Horn spent an hour talking about a variety of topics affecting higher education today and likely to have a big impact going forward in the realm of education. He outlined his case by asking several rhetorical questions, beginning with the impact of technology:

Technology: Where is it headed? Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) have been somewhat disruptive in reaching non-consumers (of education) and increasing affordability. “Education has been based on a factory model, with a central location and assembly line approach,” Horn said, an approach the calls upon students to learn within a fixed time and space. The future is a more flexible, competency-based approach such as Bellevue University is pioneering, he said. Learners focus on what they want or need to learn and “get it” before moving on to the next concept or lesson—like a tutor would do. The last major disruption in education was the printing press and its ability to disseminate information and knowledge to a wider audience, according to Horn, who believes the future of education will look a lot different than the past.

“Technology enables education to be more individualized, addressing the needs of the learner,” he said. New technology tools and capabilities are impacting access and equity in education, cutting costs, and making an “anyone anywhere” scenario a reality for many from pre-kindergarten through the post-secondary level. All of these have impacted education and influenced new trends such as “disaggregated staffing” models that put the teacher in the supporting role of the education process as content curator, course designer, mentor/coach, and assessment expert.

How can we better align today’s graduates with the job market? Increasingly government, employers, and the educators themselves are asking what is being learned. There’s a “job mismatch paradox” going on. Despite large numbers of college graduates, employers fill an estimated 4.1 million skilled work force jobs. “There’s a huge disconnect between graduates vs. jobs and careers,” he said. “Sustaining innovation is costly...but examples are popping up, including education partnerships with business and education and designer MOOCS, which are pivoting to better serve industry (the job market)…creating courses to provide skills and knowledge that employers need.”

What about the cost of education? The traditional college business model is struggling to keep expenditures below revenue. Even elite private colleges are having budget issues due to escalating costs. “Colleges are questioning the best use of their brick-and-mortar spaces…New spaces are being built with flexibility, availability, and student interaction in mind. And continued reliance on the taxpayers to pass along costs is not an option. “Expenses and tuition continue to rise while wages have stagnated. Government dollars have been a way to escape that (in the past), but government funding is going to disappear and K12 education will be the first priority for the funds that are available,” he said.

Does competition have a role in meeting the challenges facing higher education? Examples such as Bellevue University and “new kids on the block in education include online colleges such as Southern New Hampshire University and Minerva” are making headway. Competency-based learning is on the rise. Online delivery is increasingly being adopted as a sustaining innovation, even for elite institutions.

IMG_0840Horn said there is reason for optimism as new approaches to education become available. Old measures of success such as seat time, student/faculty ratios, and the number libraries on the campus are giving way to better measures such as real learning outcomes. “High-end, elite institutions are not threatened and access (to college) is being greatly increased,” he said. “It’s an exciting future, but it will require navigation skills.”