I’ve written about what are likely to be the biggest developments of 2010 here, but a philanthropic service asked a really hard question, “What will be the 5 big breakthroughs in education during the decade to come?”  Here’s a first pass:

1. Adaptive content & assessment and data systems to support it: next gen platforms will emerge next year, will reach moderately wide adoption by 2015, and several with powerful ecosystems of aligned services will achieve dominance by 2020.

2. Delivery models: as access devices become cheaper and more sophisticated most secondary schools will blend online and onsite learning, a handful of blended models will demonstrate breakthroughs in learning, staffing, and facilities productivity.

3. The new employment bargain and employment landscape: teachers will receive more attractive starting salaries with the potential for rapid performance-based advancement; a variety of employment options will be available for learning professionals.

4. Parents and choice: versions of the ‘parent trigger‘ will empower families and democratize education; money will follow kids to multiple providers (e.g., high school, online providers, community college) with choice to the course level (and premium content options to the unit level).

5. Market and innovation: the combination of a robust direct-to-consumer learning market, a doubling of the text/tutoring/testing/tech sector from $25b to $50b, and maturing learning markets in India and China will result in an order of magnitude increase in private sector investment in the learning sector.

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