Friday, September 7, 2012

A Burning Platform: Education- Business or Social?

Its so good to see one of my predictions coming to pass. You know what they say - if you are building glass houses be prepared to chew glass? Well I have been chewing glass for a while. So I was thrilled to read the article "Cable TV's Discovery enters classrooms with digital textbooks" in San Jose Mercury, Aug 21, 2012, by B. Barnes and A.Chozick. If it is finally making a headline in print media, page 1 even, Business section, it must be true. "Educational content is core to our DNA, and we're unencumbered - unlike traditional book publishers, we're not defending a dying business" they quote David Zaslav, strategist, Discovery Communications.

I have been predicting for a while that it is the media businesses not print publishers that will enable the transformation. But the problem, why this transformation is slow to the point of not happening, is that the spending on books, while huge, is a fraction of an industry that is publicly funded.

Change is often inspired using the image of a burning platform: better risk jumping off (into the unknown) than stay standing (where death is certain) on a platform on fire. High cost and limited reach are burning platforms for educational institutions. Conventional K-12 textbooks are a $3 billion industry with additional $4 billion in teacher guides. Big $$s you say, but taxpayers, fund the enormous education industry not markets. Converting personal risk into economic risk can work in the private sector where markets are quick to react but in publicly funded endeavors, like Education, where market factors play a subordinate role, for established businesses, the burning platform doesn't work - the image is closer to that of a frog in a pot of water that is slowly heated: the frog does not or doesn't want to, see the danger till it is too late and you know what happens then. Digital technology addresses both issues - cost and reach and it has transformed television, film-making and even print media. Yet change has been lagging in education. Maybe that is about to change.
(Excerpted from: Digital Provide: Education Beyond Borders by Neerja Raman, in book Streaming Media Delivery in Higher Education: Methods and Outcomes by C. Wankel, J. Sibley Law, IGI lobal 2011) 

1 comment:

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