Yesterday, I had the unique opportunity to speak to our alumni about my research on Disruptive Technologies during the New Alumni Reunion. I was delighted to see so many familiar faces, and to introduce myself to new ones (thanks for coming!).
I started by presenting my view on the strategic analysis of the impact of disruptive technologies on competitive advantage: best to first characterize the key features of a disruption (and we focused our conversation on six of them) and then use those features to construct a strategic plan custom made for the firm to hold an option. I sincerely enjoyed our conversation of the impact of several disruptive technologies (gene therapy, organic LEDs, pay-as-you-drive insurance).
But inevitably we saved the best part for last: the discussion of the disruption of Open Course Ware (OCW) in the education industry.
Although the initial emergence of online degrees was perceived as a significantly different competitive position to that of top degree programs like the ones LBS offers, OCW might be different. MIT OCW went live in 2002 and now averages 1 million visitors per month according to the information on its website. Last year two more initiatives went live: edX.org started by MIT and Harvard, now partnering with other four institutions; and Coursera, a larger partnership of international universities. LBS is not found in either of them. edX.org does not contain management courses yet but Coursera already does. Furthermore, although MIT OCW is mostly composed of teaching material (as opposed to video delivery), it does offer material from many of the most popular management courses at MIT, undergraduate and graduate level. edX.org intends to offer certificates to those online students who are willing to be evaluated at the end of a course. Furthermore, their website explains “the institutions will use edX to research how students learn and how technology can transform learning–both on-campus and worldwide.”
Is this an upcoming disruption to our industry? Should we be doing something different about it?
Our alumni quickly pointed out the first features to measure in this disruption. Examples included: what are the potential changes imposed on the strategic resources and capabilities of existing institutions? is new infrastructure necessary? will access to social networking on campus retain value as a sustained source of competitive advantage? is the disruption about to shift the dimensions of merit that deliver value in education, as a reflection of the different behavior of the new generation of “natives” in the digital era?
It is difficult to think of scenarios in the future of education without remembering the case of online newspapers: the organizations that are faring better, such as the New York Times and the Financial Times, managed to combine a clever use of the new technology with the most value-adding parts of their existing value chain and a plan for learning as the disruption unfolds.
It is fair to say that we will all keep an eye on the future of education as LBS sustains its leadership position. And we will be looking forward to the thoughts of everyone in our community as we do so. It was a pleasure to see you on campus!