Education is a Service
What can $36,000 purchase in today’s economy? Trade that money in for a mid-tier car, a year of rent in the average New York City apartment…or a year of education at a private 4-year college. Between the start of the 21st century and the following decade, prices at public universities rose 42 percent, while prices at private not-for-profit universities rose 31 percent.
By 2016, the average cost of a 4-year education at a private university will total nearly $300,000.
Universities and other companies are beginning to clue in to the unsustainable growth of education costs. As a result, new solutions are being explored to make higher education more available – and cheaper - for all people. MIT, Stanford, Harvard, NYU, and other prestigious institutions have explored the provision of free online courses through platforms such as iTunes Univerisity.
The success of these online courses, either through popularity or buzz, has influenced the creation of a new class of mobile apps and mobile services dedicated to one thing - education-as-a-service.
The Changing Winds of Education
Education has remained a relatively stagnant industry in terms of fundamental changes in the model. The advent of mobile apps and other Web 2.0 platforms has begun exerting changes on how teaching is delivered, how learning resources can be accessed, and where educational assistance can be found.
Classes are now off campus, quite literally. According to data by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, nearly 23-percent of college graduates reported taking a class online. For graduates in the past decade the number is even higher; 46-percent report having taken an online class. But more importantly, nearly 39% state that the quality of education delivered over the Internet is equivalent to taking a course in the classroom.
Physical textbooks are a dying legacy of college education. 62-percent of college presidents predicted that within the next decade 50-percent of textbooks used by undergraduates will be digital. Reading and studying on the go has never been easier; smartphones, tablets, and notebook computers all enable students to access and annotate their readings on the fly.
Education-as-a-service platforms have exploded in the past year. Platforms like Coursera, Codeacademy, EdX, and Treehouse have created unique education offerings over the web. They allow users to opt into free or subscription based courses to supplement or build upon current learning. But as these services grow, they are already being outmoded by newer platforms that highlight the flexibility and places where learning can occur.
As more students access educational resources on mobile devices, the more flexible these resources must become. Several education-as-a-service companies are already responding to the need of education resources on the move. BenchPrep, 2U, Voxy, and Goalbook all offer the same web-based education tools, but with the added benefit of mobile apps.
The development of mobile apps in the education space allows students to seamlessly shift their work from platform to platform, and device to device. The ability to access educational lessons and resources from nearly any location unlocks the potential for high-level learning that is not tied to location; an educational experience that is decentralized and less bureaucratic.
From Here to There
Education as a service is not a temporary trend in the educational industry. The growth in companies providing education as a service is a response to changing perspectives of education and market forces. As companies move to provide a seamless education environment across multiple platforms, from web to mobile apps, the way education is approached will be shifted as well.
BenchPrep and Voxy are already experimenting with the effectiveness of interactivity in their education platforms. Creating education content that is interactive encourages greater personal engagement and involvement from the user. Interactivity can also make feel users more comfortable by simulating the discussion-based atmosphere of a traditional education environment.
Interactivity also encourages education as a one-to-one service. Users don’t compete with other users for the attention of the “professor.” While many users may share the educational content, their active use of the content does not diminish the abilities of other users to access the learning content. By eliminating the negative aspects associated with having to compete for education, users can focus more deeply on learning the concepts.
Finally companies such as 2U, Goalbook, BenchPress, or Voxy gain enormous amounts of information about how their users learn. They can track the access of educational content from mobile apps as opposed to the web environment. Subjects of interest, how long the user accesses the content, the location where the user accesses the content are all data available to education-as-a-service companies. With this data, these companies can better tailor their educational offerings to what their users need; they can offer educational solutions that help the user learn better.
The future of education is already here; it just needs to be embraced.