Monday, May 21, 2012

Will education be next?

So Houghton Mifflin Harcourt filed for bankruptcy today. For a while now I’ve watched the sea change in the publishing industry with great delight. To summarize, the entrance of e-books and better print-on-demand technology has made the cost of entry into the publishing business much lower and the internet has made it much more likely that readers will discover and buy niche books. Big publisher are loosing their ability to command market share by simply investing in getting a lot of shelf space at the major book stores. The market has fragmented and people are buying a greater variety of books that they have heard about in a greater variety of ways. This has been bad of most of the publishing houses and for bestselling authors. This has been liberating for mid-list and beginning writers, giving them more freedom to write what they want and more control over whether or not they make money. As a reader it exciting to get the chance to read books I enjoy that might not otherwise have been published. It’s also exciting to see the cost of many books coming down and thus the getting to read more books for the same amount of money.
I’m now seeing speculation that education may be next. I’ve been thinking for awhile that this out to be possible and fantasizing about how I would set-up this up. I do think the information giving part of education can be mass produced to be very low cost. It is individualized supervision and feed-back that will be more expert intensive but even in that there are areas where automation will actually make the product better. I foresee a future where schools offer the lectures free as a loss leader for their testing and certification, offered at a fraction of what college costs today, with tutoring an optional service that can obtained on an as needed basis from whatever vendor you choose. I see it starting already. I can’t wait to watch the revolution happen.


  1. If education were merely a process of communicating information and being tested on it, your vision might satisfy the process of educating an individual. However, I feel that interaction with professors and fellow students that helps the student develop critical thinking skills and tools for working with other people is an important part of education. True education should not aim to impart information, but should guide the person to find out who they are and what skills will help them become that individual person.

    1. Exactly, education should be about that but right now it’s not. And that’s why education is ripe for a paradigm change. When I was in community college 95% of my time in the instructors presence was receiving information and being tested. And I was one of the really involved one who made a habit of sneaking up in class and approaching teachers after class of in office hours. Even so their were plenty of classes were I the teacher never talked to me as an individual rather than addressing the class generally, but I still got an A. If the information giving and testing can be can be made more efficient by automating the repetitive part of it, then there is a lot more room for the actual teaching to take place.

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