Education, let’s blow it to bits or put it back? 2

A short update on Education, let’s blow it to bits or put it back? 

In February I discussed a tendency I predicted, based on the theoretical unbundling of education in educational resources (open or not), Moocs as resources and educational services which could be offered. I wrote:

Mulder goes one step further, in dividing the educational process in different stages and services. He concentrates on the division between content, which should be offered as open educational resources, and services as tutoring and grading, which should form the base of organizational income.

The economic theory of this is already older. The idea that the internet will reduce firms to their core-competences and products and services will be produced by networks of specialist, each working at the lowest prices and offering the highest quality has been presented in the 1999-book Blown to Bits of Philip Evans and Thomas S. Wurster. (not 2008 book Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness After the Digital Explosion by Harry Lewis, Ken Ledeen and Hal Abelson).

Between firms and the customers will be place for intermediaries, firms giving information on the availability, the price/quality of the products and other information. Between firms, there is room for intermediaries, which only role is to bring components together, matching the demand in the market.

I ignored the last players in my blog, wrongly I must admit.

In a nice blog, Micheal Horn, did write about Unbundling and Re-bundling in Higher Education (Forbes, 7/10/2014).

He argues that online learning is a disruptive innovation and sees unbundling as a ‘likely’ tendency: “we are seeing the beginning of unbundling in courses, content, credentialing, campus life and personal growth, and more”.

However, he points out that because of the unbundling, there will also be a new trend for bundling: “there will exist a need for subcomponents that bundle things together like coaching, mentoring, communities, personal learning plans, and employer connections, as these areas are critical for student success”.

In the same line that Evans and Wurster used Dell as example for the firms responsible for putting the final product together, Horn takes Dell as the example of integrating different parts of education together.

This will result in the creation of intermediate firms offering support by selecting the best courses, the best communities or a consistency within the different parts of education someone has had.

However, in recent years we observe that the movement of firms towards their specialized core-competences is countered by the idea that firms have outsourced too much. Human resource management or account and control may initially not be seen as core competences, but when the distance between the core activities and the outsourced  HRM-department or accounting-department become too large, they lose their use as strategic instruments.

Unbundling of education can result in the loss of consistency between components of a chosen program; of frictional costs (for example a accumulation of registration fees), overlap of content and problems with the acceptance of degrees by employers.

As in the strategic paradoxes, bundling and unbundling will be a trade-off between efficiency and effectiveness; a paradox not easily solved!


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