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Tom P. Abeles
Deconstructing the Oracle ─ A e!iew o" Disrupting #lass$
The principle thesis of “Disrupting Class” is that the rise of e-learning changes education in much the same manner as the Apple computer did for mini/main frames in the business and home pc market we ha e toda!. Actuall!" the model being used in the book is supposed to follow Christensen#s earl! writings on inno ation and disruption in the business sector $. %ut" while his earlier writing" maps post secondar! education into his model&" this book focuses on the '-($ educational arena. Christensen defines two methods for the entrance of a disrupti e technolog!. T!pe ( enters the market b! meeting the needs of an under or non-ser ed population. T!pe $ enters the market place b! pro iding a lower cost alternati e which" initiall!" might pro e to be an inferior but acceptable product or ser ice. %ecause '-($ is compulsor!" the marketplace is distorted. The '($ market has a host of political pressures" such as teachers# unions and a ariet! of pri ate pressure groups" and thus the s!stem is highl! constrained. ) en so" there are currentl! a ariet! of options to the traditional public school s!stem ranging from home-schools and charters to irtual courses within schools or packaged as entire programs. Post secondar! institutions are feeling fiscal pressure" while" the primar!/secondar! institutions ha e multiple problems ranging from finances to a high percentage of students failing to meet academic e*pectations. Additionall!" there are e*ternal pressures as pri ate/for-profit institutions are starting to compete b! opening both brick-based and “click”" or irtual campuses. Thus there seems to be other moti ations" not reall! stated clearl!" as to wh! Christensen felt compelled to tr! to fit the '-($ s!stem into his inno ation/disruption model" e en if the focus is on the rise of e-courses and e- schools. )ducation has alwa!s had competition between the public and pri ate sectors" both non- and forprofit institutions. The e*pansion of all sectors into e-learning" different from traditional distance education" represents the e+ui alent of competiti e enterprises entering new or e*panding old markets. ,ome ha e seen the current e-learning technologies as being disrupti e" causing a change b! allowing the entrance of new competition" such as the emerging irtual uni ersities. %ut careful e*amination shows that all parties are aware of" and ha e e+ual access to" the same technologies and like other enterprises" ha e chosen to selecti el! de elop different markets
Christensen" Cla!ton -." et. al." Disrupting Class" -c.raw-/ill" 0ew 1ork" $223. C.-. Christensen" The Innovator’s Dilemma" /ar ard %usiness ,chool Press" %oston (445.6 C.-. Christensen" -. 7a!nor" The 8nno ator#s ,olution" /ar ard %usiness ,chool Press" %oston $22&.6 C.-. Christensen" ).A. 7oth" ,.D. Anthon!" Seeing What’s Next" /ar ard %usiness ,chool Press" %oston $229 . & C.-. Christensen" et. al." Disrupting Education" in -. De ilin. et. al." The Forum on The Internet & the Universit " )ducause" %oulder Colorado $22(.
Christensen and colleagues identif! the introduction of computers into education as the inno ati e change" a technolog! which is belie ed to be one which will follow his disrupti e model and establish a dominant or dominating presence in education#s future. Thus the idea that the introduction of e-learning as being disrupti e to education seems to be a mis-direction as the technolog! competes more with the construction industr! for a share of the education marketplace.using the same ehicles and methodologies. . 8t is also his first effort to be undertaken with co-authors who are in ol ed in both speculating about and ad ocating for change in the education s!stem. or the irtual en ironment :hardware and software. Cla!ton Christensen has written e*tensi el! about disrupti e enterprises within the pri ate sector and has de eloped his model which maps how these inno ations ha e entered established markets" often becoming contributing factors in the demise of ma>or" established" pla!ers." the! can choose how the! wish to compete. Bhile the authors carefull! make the argument as to wh! irtual con ersion is compelling in order to reform the educational s!stem" the! fail to con ince that this transformation will occur within that time frame" that it is disrupti e and/or transformati e. This does not sa! that indi iduals are not con inced of the merit of on-line learning" or that there will be growth in the education marketplace. ?nlike man! disrupti e technologies which lead to new competition" e-learning in its current embodiment of mapping bricks into clicks represents transformation within the e*isting educational s!stem regardless of pro ider. Competiti e ad antages include price" curriculum" schedules and similar traditional ehicles for institutional differentiation. 7ather the arguments put forth in Christensen#s earlier works which look at the business sector do not seem to map into the educational arena as the book attempts to present the scenario. The balance between campus t!pes becomes one of choice" such as whether to add apartments instead of dormitories" or to rebuild the sports comple* on campus. Disrupting Class is an effort to map the primar!/secondar! education s!stem in the ?nited .tates into his model. Part of this concern rests on the definition of “disrupti e” which has within its definition a timesensiti e sensibilit!. The core of the book#s argument rests on the standard sigmoid adoption cur e which the authors re-plot on a log of the ratio of con erted courses/standard courses ersus time to determine that in about a decade about @2A of all courses will be taught irtuall! in the '-($ school s!stems. To a -a!fl! a decade ma! be an infinitel! long time whereas to a . Can the institution le erage facult! costs b! hiring remotel! or sharing facult! with institutions around the world< Can the campus reduce capital and concomitant o erhead b! offering irtual classes rather than building a new facilit!< =r" can an institution compete internationall! without ha ing to open ph!sical campuses in other communities or countries< ) en at the primar! and secondar! institutions" the issue seems to be similar but has been reframed as an educational issue much as the airline pilot unions e*hibited concerns about safet! with the remo al of a flight engineer from the cockpit of modern aircraft" or the railroad unions ob>ected to the remo al of the caboose and brakeman from freight trains as roller bearings and other safet! features rendered the >ob obsolete.ince educational institutions at the post secondar! le el" e+uall!" ha e access to similar facilities" be the! a ph!sical en ironment :the traditional campus.
. This seems to impl! that as more people become internet users" more will become part of the application defined as irtual worlds" probabl! the specific “disrupti e” e-technolog!. The book" while suggesting some of the benefits for con ersion" sta!ed at the meta-le el" choosing to define how such con ersions would cause transformational changes" and dri e the change. As suggested" abo e" '-($ has not been a erse to adopting technolog! pro ided it offered a pedagogical ad antage.te e Prentice" fellow of the .ince education is a lagging indicator" it will follow close behind.. such as Borld of Barcraft with its millions of global pla!ers.b! the end of $2((9.alapagos tortoise" such a period is but an e!e blink. As suggested abo e" this seems to impl! that the competiti e disruption lies more with the pro iders of space and place" the construction industr! which has pro ided" from the beginning" the e ol ing “little red school house”.g. Dike the Apple computer that Christensen has pointed out in man! of his writings" the earl! e*ample of these worlds has been in the game and entertainment arena as we ha e seen in the -assi e -ultipla!er =n-line ... The modern internet is onl! about (@ !ears old and irtual worlds onl! about 5 !ears in age.econd Dife" “eFtraining”" . . 9 A.arner .econd Dife :. 8n education" with its great concern for cost" there is a reach for an! cost cutting opportunit!" including e-learning" where e-deli er!" toda!" is basicall! a mapping of bricks into clicks and thus competes with current infrastructure rather than with the concept of a competiti e educational model. Thus e-learning competes with alternati e deli er! s!stems from te*tbooks to classrooms and faces barriers couched in educational terms onl! when it affects the current economic structure such as teacher >ob securit!.ronstedt" %e Eirst in . . Erom this genre has arisen the user created en ironments such as 'ids/Tweens :'T. 8f Christensen and colleagues had gotten down to the ground le el to better define the disrupti e computer-based technolog!" the! might ha e skipped o er the dominant brick-to-click s!stems such as %lackboard or Adobe Connect and similar s!stems and gone straight to the emerging domain of irtual worlds. . There is no clear and compelling model which would back the nai e prediction based on a linear" continuous change from brick to click based education.ames :--=7P. Bh! ille" Club Penguin and /abbo /otel or both the adult and teen worlds e*emplified b! .roup" estimates that 32A of acti e 8nternet users will be in non-gaming irtual worlds. Christensen" in this and earlier works" suggests that these disrupti e technologies address a market with unmet needs at a price/performance point that comes under the current" dominant market in price. The! do see that it has ad antages and problems.D.eptember $223" page $4 . . Current estimates are that registered users of irtual worlds" internationall!" are about &22 million with about (2A as acti e users. -an! in the education field see e-learning as another tool which complements current models6 and the technolog! itself is seen as an alternati e to computer deli ered s!stems such as power point" word processing and didactic material deli er! much as o erheads" e-books" white boards" ideo cameras and two wa! audio/ ideo deli er! such as closed circuit TC. worlds" e.
Alread! these irtual worlds ha e created cultures so that tra el between all worlds" including this “outer world” and multiple irtual worlds is more like tra eling between countries with their own customs. Castrono a" S nthetic Worlds" ?ni ersit! of Chicago Press" Chicago $22I. “Cirtual . %oellstorff" Coming o! "ge in Second #i!e" Princeton ?ni ersit! Press" Princeton $223.chools” are not seen as the emergent “Cirtual Borlds” but rather as packaged “click space” courses or courses deli ered electronicall! instead of presented s!nchronousl! in a traditional classroom. DiGG!wood" a 'T social networking world of about @22"222 registered users" recentl! teamed with a public school as a demonstration that c!ber-space acti ities" including simple e-mails" ha e conse+uences in the “outer world”. The rise of true irtual worlds with their emergent cultures that impact the traditional schools b! their er! presence and the fact that students do not lea e their a atars when the! tra el back to the ph!sical world represents the disrupti e technolog! which awaits the second edition and rewrite of this olume.6 .ronstedt" ibidem6 ). This is a ma>or shift that breaks the barrier between education and the enterprise/cultural worlds outside of the protected boundaries of the education s!stem" ' to $2. %ut then Christensen" coming from a business school" need also include the impact of these worlds on the larger econom! and culture" globall! including the e*panding arena of corporate education and" in particular" corporate uni ersities. @ T. ?nfortunatel! the current models for e-learning whether s!nchronous or as!nchronous are still treated b! Christensen as class-based. Bhat happens to education when lifest!les and habits learned in c!ber space" including collaborati e learning and sharing start to appear as disrupti e in traditional classroom settings< Cirtual worlds" unlike the “disruption” postulated in Christensen#s model" where bricks map to clicks" become the true disruption as cultures come in conflict much like the models described in Christensen#s earlier work. Alread! se eral social scientists ha e issued ma>or studies of the cultures emerging in these worlds. And" as suggested" the irtual worlds ha e caused what is labeled in comple*it! theor! as a bifurcation" or what Christensen labels a disruption. As was pointed out abo e" the transition postulated b! Christensen is based on a pseudo-trend. This is clearl! seen when one recogniGes that the pro>ected rate of adoption is measured using the ratio of classes con erted to con entional classes. This includes economists and anthropologists of arious specialties@. This implies that the authors need to take a second look at the entire domain of e-education in light of irtual worlds designed e*clusi el! for education but founded on the earl! game-based irtual worlds. The entire “disruption” idea is modeled in a non-disrupti e manner either through technolog! con ersion or introduction of competitors into the current education s!stem. Disrupting Class selecti el! sets forth the standard litan! of problems in the '-($ s!stem but recasts them in a manner to show that e-learning" particularl! when as!nchronous" could accommodate students" as indi iduals rather than age-defined cohorts" allowing more opportunit! for personaliGed learning.The disruption is the irtual world" not >ust the internet and not >ust in education. . Elorida Cirtual" '($.com" Ad anced Academics and others pro ide packaged courses or" e en $9H5 on-line tutoring which fit within the traditional academic pattern.home schooling on steroids.
A.chool Press" %oston $229 .chool Press" %oston $22&. C." The Forum on The Internet & the Universit " )ducause" %oulder Colorado $22(. Christensen" et.A.-." Disrupting Education" in -. Anthon!" Seeing What’s Next" /ar ard %usiness . Christensen" The Innovator’s Dilemma" /ar ard %usiness .econd Dife" “eFtraining”" . 7oth" .eptember $223" page $4 &he article was pu'lished also in the A(A Newsletter on (hilosoph) and #omputers ($/2009). Christensen" ).-. De ilin.. al. C. C.ronstedt" %e Eirst in .-. C.e"erences% T. . al. Christensen" -. . ).chool Press" %oston (445. 7a!nor" The Innovator’s Solution" /ar ard %usiness . Castrono a" S nthetic Worlds" ?ni ersit! of Chicago Press" Chicago $22I. %oellstorff" Coming o! "ge in Second #i!e" Princeton ?ni ersit! Press" Princeton $223. et.-.D.
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