How the University of Phoenix will survive the education tech boom

Recently a friend of mine, Claudiu, posted an article “How the University of Phoenix will survive the education tech boom” by and published in the Silicon Valley Business Journal. The article is an interview with Rob Wrubel, the Chief of Innovation for the Apollo Group.

Rob’s insight is very interesting. I especially agree with his final statement at the end of the article that touches on the nature of education in the future and the increased focus on corporate training. He says “What happens to the degree-based learning? I think what we’ll see is… we’ll unbundle the degree. Much like music, the album is priced at X, the song is here and then they give stuff away for free.” Not that Rob needs my validation, but I think he’s spot on.

The underlying concern in education today is the market is beginning to reject the traditional models. More and more potential consumers are beginning to feel that the return on investment isn’t there as costs go up. Many traditional universities are reporting lower enrollment rates which in turn lead to stressed budgets.

This is all happening while companies like IBM and Microsoft have thousands of jobs open that can’t be filled. Why? A lack of skills sets in the available US hiring pool prevents these companies from finding the right candidates.

So two forces are at work. Fewer students, fewer workers with the needed skills.

So this takes me back to Rob’s insight. A new model of education is needed. In this model there’s room for both for profit and traditional Universities. Both are needed to ensure that the available worker pool stays relevant to perspective employers. The new model will lead to lower costs for the students, more relative degrees, that ability to work at the pace you want to work at, the ability to choose the courses you want to take – when you want to take them and who you want to teach you, and corporate training solutions that maintains employees relevancy to their employer and the market.

The new model should also include other important tools. Universities need to do a better job of screening students upfront to ensure they have enrolled the right students who will complete their coursework to graduation. This will become especially important as students gain more control over the pace of study, courses they take and fees potentially drop. For universities decreasing drop out rates and keeping revenue streams consistent will allow for more predictable revenue streams and smarter long-term budgeting decisions.

Cloud solutions like Salesforce.com through the Salesforce Foundation are beginning to hone in on the higher education space. Salesforce.com and it’s partners are showing a greater understanding of what the required processes are to ensure universities can transition to the new model of education in a way that ensures they’re ready to benefit from that model and are comfortable with it.

The Silicon Business Journal has actually written a series of Articles on trends in higher education. As I read them I’ll bring them to you. In the mean time I hope you enjoy this article and I look forward to your feedback.

Ian Bellais
360 Vantage
623-396-6570
ian.bellais@360vantage.com
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