November 26, 2020•946 words
Verdict ⚖️ and disruption possibilities 🚀
Disruption is inevitable and welcome 🎉. The question is, what form it will take. Let's start with what existing disruption we see, and where we think it'll end up. I've structured the disruptions below chronologically ⏳, where possible. Many disruptions also are combinations of the below.
Old-school education archetype: groups of students taught by teachers, sitting standardised tests 👨🎓👨🎓👨🎓 👨🏻🏫
The below three trends really all come down to improving student's performance in the education system. If traditional schooling is a road between birth and employment, then these interventions are wheels, so students can move faster and easier 🛹.
Existing trend #1: School-performance enhancing solutions
- The most obvious disruption has been old-school supplements. This has obviously come in the form of tutors 🎓, revision books and notes 📚, fuelled by parents who are willing and able to pay people for more.
Existing trend #2: Moving the above online 💻
- Obviously, though incredibly slowly, we have make marketplaces or online versions of all of the above.
- Standouts include VIPKID and Byju in the online tutorial space, as well as Quizlet in the educational study tools space
Existing trend #3: Personalisation and data/AI driven education 👩🏻💻👨🎓👨🎓👨🎓
- Increasingly, we are seeing new online tools to personalise, and thus make more effective, learning. For example, we see spaced repetition flashcards, or learning visualisation tools.
- Standouts include Anki.
The first paradigm shift is, moving outside the demands of of traditional school. Increasingly people see that extra-curricular activities as useful. If traditional schooling is a road between birth and employment, then these interventions may be seen as shortcuts or side roads branching off from the main road. 🛣
Existing trend #4: Extra-curricular learning (+ online) 🎹
- In more developed economies, especially in Asian cultures that prize education, we are increasingly seeing extra-curricular classes, e.g. music lessons. These usually teach a "hard skill" like being able to play music, often done due to a) traditional values, many English style boarding schools that still rank highly stress this b) transferrable skills, or c) university admissions boosting effects.
- Within this trend, we're now seeing a move and focus on "soft skills", e.g. critical thinking skills. People are now increasingly comfortable with skills that may not be immediately measured or shown, due to a) increased need in new economy, b) demands of international facing schooling, e.g. IB or AP style that lead to better university admission outcomes.
- Standouts include tuition centers, e.g. Capstone in HK.
*The second paradigm shift is, replacing the demands of of traditional school. If traditional schooling is the road most travelled between birth and employment, then these solutions offer an alternative path entirely. 🛤 *
Existing trend #5: Technology Bootcamp 🏕
- Already near and around Silicon Valley, coding bootcamps arise for people who want to pursue jobs in technology. These essentially acts as a replacement for traditional education.
- Standouts include Flatiron School.
Existing trend #6: Alternative schools 🚀
- Additionally, interestingly, new schools aim to replace traditional pre-college education, with their own curriculums/teaching formats.
- Standouts include Sora, which allows for student directed learning. Standardised curriculum content is broken down, and reassembled into projects and areas of reasoning the student cares about.
The third paradigm shift is towards a lifelong schooling. If traditional schooling is a road most travelled between birth and employment, then these solutions are similar to a discovery the road never ends. 🚦
Existing trend #7: Lifelong up-skilling 🧓🏻
- Increasingly, we are moving away from a one-company, rank-climbing career arc, to multiple life changes during this new stage of technological innovation and change.
- People in my/the new generation are expected to see automation/technology, creation of new industries, fluid working, globalisation and dramatic career switches. Traditional education is not preparing people for this.
- Standouts include Blinkist, or MOOCs.
The fourth paradigm shift is outside of a strict binary of "learning" vs "not". If traditional schooling is a road most travelled between birth and employment, then these solutions represent the realisation that learning is not just a road, but also the trees that line the path 🌴🛤🌴.
Existing trend #8: Unbundling the campus 🥳
- Increasingly interventions acknowledge how education is more than book/school/tuition learning. We see education comes from others - mentorship and alumni, our peers or on projects.
- Special mention to Handshake and Facebook Campus.
Being at the leading edge of a field doesn’t mean you have to be one of the people pushing it forward. You can also be at the leading edge as a user. It was not so much because he was a programmer that Facebook seemed a good idea to Mark Zuckerberg as because he used computers so much. - Paul Graham
The next big disruptions, are likely to be a combination of the above that is packaged in a way pleasing to the consumer. Otherwise, they may be ones that facilitate the move award from credentialism to the real world. Moreover, as we start to blend learning and other areas of life, new and successful disruptions will navigate this expanding boundary successfully to best serve users.
That really is the key - whichever startup best serves their users, i.e. parents, will really win. And they have a lot of subconscious, unmet needs.
A VC recently described to me how he sees EdTech progressing. Interestingly, it sort of coincides with the "shifts" I described above, only he suggests three waves instead of four shifts. The three waves are 1) dumping content online, e.g. Khan Academy and YouTube, 2) online marketplaces, e.g. VIPKID and 3) now the shift towards community based EdTech. Sweet. 🤘🏻