Rick Hess makes a series of good arguments that the $500m ‘online skills laboratory’ isn’t a great investment. In the mixed provider post secondary space, quality content isn’t the top barrier.  It’s pricing that reflects the sunk costs of existing institutions.   A healthy market will make investment in content attractive; this seems to be doing the opposite.

Here’s a couple things the Department could do to spur innovation in the college prep and post secondary market:

  • invest in learning funds focused on adaptive content and new school formats (grants with profit recycle provisions for evergreen impact)
  • provide scholarships for online/blended providers targeting low income and minority populations
  • make grants for innovative platforms that blend open and proprietary content  with aligned student, teacher, and school supports (i3 should do this but won’t)
  • fund some R&D around the killer app: smart recommendation engines that queue a personalized learning playlist

The space badly needs public and private investment in innovation. USED should leverage private investment rather than dampening incentives.

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