Free higher ed courses not great USED investment

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.

Tom - Speaking Engagements

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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