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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Shift in Education from Vertical to Horizontal Specialization

Unschooling Rules 55. The only sustainable answer to the global education challenge is a diversity of approaches.

Here is a chart to show how easy (or hard) it is for a home or unschooling family to meet these various horizontal needs outside of industrial schools.
Industrial schools today represent vertically aligned packages of services. I have suggested in Unschooling Rules that they can be organized into The Seven C’s of Education:
Today's article - Inside Higher Ed's Free Courses, Elite Colleges - marks the continuation of a trend that will reshape education - the unbundling of school services.

Over the last few years we have seen the evolution of organizations specializing in the individual horizontal areas, and that are better and cheaper than have been delivered in the vertical sectors of high school or middle school.

Here's an example. Consider one sliver of the horizontal need of "content." You can go to one great college and hear a dozen great lecturers. Or you can get CDs from The Teaching Company and have access to hundreds of professors' great lectures. And you can do that in high school. Or with no school.  Alternatively, you can look up content yourself.

Another example: the demand for tutors/coaches is growing. And the same individuals work inside of and outside the industrial school system.

Still other examples include: iTunes University (content), open curricula (curricula), Facebook (community), educational simulations and serious games (content), work for school credit programs (credit), and distance learning programs (everything but day care). How long until Blackboard offers a tracking mechanism for homeschoolers?

The health of a nation's education system, including cost containment (See CBS Evening News story on President Obama discussing skyrocketing costs of higher ed, Chronicle of Higher Education story), may ultimately be measured by the strong true alternatives of approaches in all of these categories, and even more so by the distribution of people taking advantage of them.

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