Jun 19, 2012

A Proliferation of Choice

I have been continuing my thinking on the impact of the changing delivery platforms on our education industry. Consider the choices that students are increasingly going to possess. The future student may attend classes online, or hybrid, or low residence, or old school (in class or in residence) – or all of the above. What will this proliferation of choice have on the future of the education industry?

If we take a moment to learn from other industries, my guess is that there are a few key things that will occur as a result. Here is my guess for where the proliferation of choice in education will take us in the future.

Increased Access – More students than ever will have access to private education due to the increased flexibility that it provides and the various cost structures and price points provided to the market. This might be a very good thing for the overall education industry.

Increased Stratification – As it education were not already very segmented, I would expect to see an increasingly stratified set of offerings. I don’t see the vaunted, highly credentialed residential liberal arts college or highly selective and resourced independent school going by the wayside to the changing marketplace. Instead, I believe that those offerings will remain elite, expensive, and the perceived gold standard of education. But the real growth will come and is already coming in the diversified new offerings in hybrid and online education.

A Shifting Marketing Model – I really think we are seeing an inflection point at work here. While education has historically been a product-centric model of marketing (we build what we want and charge what we like for it), the greatest shift will be to a market-centric model of education. Entrepreneurial schools and colleges will continue to gain a competitive advantage by being disciplined by following the market demand on education.

What does this proliferation of choice really mean to education? More access. More stratification. And a changing marketing model. And, I think the train has already left the station.