Deep Learning APIs

Barbarians at the Gate: orthodox business models and product designs meet the IoT on the learning battlefield

barbarians at the publisher gate

“As the Internet of Things (IoT) spreads, the implications for business model innovation are huge. Filling out well-known frameworks and streamlining established business models won’t be enough. To take advantage of new, cloud-based opportunities, today’s companies will need to fundamentally rethink their orthodoxies about value creation and value capture.”  – Harvard Business Review

What is your strategy when the battlefield, weapons and opponents are all new?

As an associate recently told me, “Education moves slowly but suddenly.” People like David Wiley of Lumen Learning are gathering research data showing that Open Educational Resources (OER) can be as effective as (and in some cases more effective than) curated, carefully crafted publisher content in the way that matters most: driving educational outcomes. Lumen Learning’s mission statement is to reduce annual educational publisher revenue by a
billion dollars and return it to students—within a year. The publishing industry can no longer rely on artificial scarcity of content to carry the day, and will have to compete against insurgent alternatives by proving that what they sell has superior learning efficacy. In other words, they will have to compete by utilizing data-driven designs. Metacognitive data generated by learners will reveal how the products perform and inform; this provides timely feedback into the product design process and ties learning design to learning outcomes.

Defensible demonstration of increasing product value allows companies to successfully fulfill the promise implied in online subscription products:

  • You (the customer) promise to pay on a recurring basis; we (the provider) promise to make it work better and better.

This is the ‘big gun’ that Software as a Service (SaaS) companies, from Amazon to Salesforce, use to generate fast adoption and long term lock-in (and enduring customer delight). We like to think that metacog is an inexhaustible supply of ammunition you can use to fend off invaders and expand your territory.

Why does the industry need to embrace this tectonic shift?

McGraw-Hill Education recently conducted a survey of parents titled “Old School” Textbooks Out, Personalized Digital Learning In. They discovered that 91% of parents support the idea of personalized learning for students. They also found that 85% of parents feel that the classroom experience should be personalized for their child. 78% of college students’ parents think there should be a focus on adaptive learning in the classroom. Digital natives, who have been born into a world of video games, social network collaboration, high performance computers, ubiquitous texting and commonplace tablets, expect similar tools and rich capabilities to be a large part of their educational experience. These expectations are dashed by students’ actual classroom experience. The technology offerings they receive are simply digitized textbooks and multiple-choice tests. Why is this still the status quo in our schools today? How can digital transplants of traditional, one-size-fits-all learning products possibly hold the attention of learners who have been raised on the most immersive, engaging, and personalized technologies and gadgets?

Digital learning technologies should enable learners to engage much more deeply than with standardized tests or multiple-choice quizzes—and go far beyond merely delivering a uniform content package. They should expose the right concepts when the learners are ready, and should empower learners to create and communicate (and evaluate) instead of remember and regurgitate. In the fast-changing and competitive world of twenty-first-century employers, it is far more important to understand what a prospective employee can do for an organization than it is to know what they remember.

metacog allows you to create products that meet these needs. It captures, in real time, the data exhaust generated as learners solve digital learning challenges so that product analytics can be based on individual learner actions. This capability enables much more authentic, cognitively challenging, and realistic performance tasks to replace the rote-memorization basis of multiple-choice assessment—while maintaining comparable costs and real-time feedback. When complex learner performance can be evaluated in real time, then you can offer adaptive and authentic learning. Now games, simulations, performance tasks, and technology-enhanced assessment items can be used to teach and assess and remediate or accelerate.

If you don’t use metacog, you diminish your product design (i.e., you devolve to boring electronic worksheets); or, you accumulate costs for creating scores and feedback; or, you shift costs to teachers and professors (who often reject the costs by ignoring the product features). With metacog, teachers and product companies avoid hours of hand-scoring without sacrificing insight into individual learner performance. Your product designs do not have to shy away from asking learners to prove that they can meet substantive and engaging challenges.

What happens to education companies that don’t plan for the IoT shift?

With the advent of OER and adaptive learning, it’s becoming clear that textbooks are increasingly being utilized as expensive support materials rather than as the primary source of content and learning in schools. Migrating from print to digital doesn’t change that equation. Without meaningful embedded interactives, these materials fail to shift from pushing content at learners to collecting rich data from learners. They fail to elicit how their products are really being used in order to find out what works and what doesn’t, and why. They fail to fend off the barbarians. They are overrun.

In 2015, nearly $3 billion of venture capital funding has been pumped into smart, scrappy, and fast-moving disrupters who will be at your gates. They are backed by the same Silicon Valley folks who disrupted transportation (Uber, Lyft), retail (Amazon), automotive (Tesla), technology (Google, Amazon) financial (Stripe, Snapcash), energy (SolarCity), payments (Square and Paypal), and educational data management (Clever claims one third of all U.S. schools as customers after only three years) industries. Are you stronger than these richer industries? Are your walls more impenetrable? Make no mistake: Silicon Valley intends to fundamentally transform the trillion-dollar education market. They are coming. What are you doing to prepare?

Bring in reinforcements: How can your company survive and execute strategy for this sea change?

Stop rehashing your legacy products into digital form (the stronger your legacy, the harder it is to do this). Experiment and iterate with tight feedback loops; metacog can help you make sense of the flood of data generated by the authentic learning experiences learners want.

You could decide to spend millions in capital and years of ramp time to build your own real-time, large-scale intelligent analytics team and platform. Instead, why not leverage our existing platform, incorporating decades of expertise from the world’s top educational data-mining and learning-analytics researchers? Which approach will let you move quickly? Which has a better risk profile? We have the real-time, scalable, big-data platform now, and it’s ready for you to start iterating your next products now.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. – Lao Tzu, The Art of War