Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Online Education: A "Classic" Disruptive Innovation

Tomorrow the Joint Committee on the Public Schools will hold a hearing on online education.  John Mooney wrote a piece about the hearing, but barely mentioned the presenters.

The Joint Committee on the Public Schools will host the hearing on Wednesday morning, at 11 a.m., with presentations by three national proponents of online education. 
The three are Susan Patrick of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning; Michael Horn of the Education of Innosight Institute; and Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education reform.

At least he acknowledges, however subtly, that the presenters all come into this with a pro-online education slant.  I will say it more bluntly.  These presenters are not only biased, they're in bed with K12 Inc., which stands to make a ton of cash if the New Jersey legislature rolls over for online education.

So let's check out who these folks are, and see what we think of the presenters that have been assembled to educate our legislators on this issue.  

First up, Susan Patrick, President and CEO of iNACOL.  Her bio states that "iNACOL is the international K-12 nonprofit association representing the interests of practitioners, providers and students involved in online learning worldwide."  Which "practitioners and providers" (notice that students are last on their list) does iNACOL represent?  According to their website, K12. Inc is one of only three platinum members, the highest form of membership.  If legislation is passed to allow virtuals and hybrids in New Jersey, K12 Inc., one of iNACOL's top three clients, will be seriously cashing in.  Yeah, no conflict there.

Strike one.

Next at bat, Jeanne Allen Founder and President of The Center for Education Reform (CER), "the leading voice and advocate for substantive and structural education reform in the US."  Their website lists six issues they work on, and "Online Learning" is second only to "Choice & Charter Schools"  When you click on the link for Online Learning, scroll to the bottom, and who is listed under "Resources"?  You guessed it, K12 Inc..

Strike two.

Finally, we have Michael Horn, the "co-founder and executive director of the education practice of Innosight Institute."  He is a member of the Digital Learning Council, an offshoot of Jeb Bush's Foundation of Excellence in Education.  He is one of the authors of the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.  This is a very long document, but scroll to the end, and take note of the three big funders.  Gates, Broad and Walton.  The Reformy Holy Trinity.  I was a bit surprised that K12 Inc. wasn't on the list, and then I looked at Foundation of Excellence in Education's donors, and lo and behold, there was K12 Inc..  The best part?  Susan Patrick and Jeanne Allen are also on the Digital Learning Council with Michael Horn, and so is Ron Packard, CEO of K12 Inc, who raked in over 5 million last year.

Strike three.  

What I found even more alarming than the appearance that these presenters are being given a forum before the New Jersey legislature to basically sell K12 Inc., is what I learned when I surfed Innosight Institute's website.   Here's their mission statement:
Innosight Institute is a not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to apply Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen’s theories of disruptive innovation to develop and promote solutions to the most vexing problems in the social sector.
So what does "disruptive innovation" mean?

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that transforms an existing market or sector–or creates a new one–by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, reliability, and affordability, where before the product or service was complicated, expensive, and inaccessible. It is initially formed in a narrow foothold market or niche that appears unattractive or inconsequential to industry incumbents. 
Examples of disruptive innovations are the personal computer, which disrupted the mainframe and minicomputers, as well as Toyota automobiles, which disrupted those of Ford and General Motors. 
In education, for example, online learning appears to be a classic disruptive innovation. In the world of higher education, for example, online universities are rapidly disrupting the traditional universities. (emphasis mine)
And in a piece Michael Horn wrote for Forbes he had this to say:
As a disruptive innovation, online learning will continue to grow. I do expect our prediction that we made in Disrupting Class—that by 2019 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online whether in schools or at a distance—will be reasonably accurate. (emphasis mine)
There it is.  That's the goal.  Half of New Jersey's high school students' education online in 7 years time.  You ready for that New Jersey, because this is what these folks are coming here tomorrow to sell to our legislators.  I'll be there to hear what they have to say.  


  1. Yes, we need to talk about those online schools, those virtual warehouses, those education blending machines. Funny thing, I saw pictures of schools in Sweden and when I see the deformers making schools like that for our neediest students, then I'll know they are serious about change. As it stands now they do not care what type is education is good for each student. It's disruptive and new and innovative and NO ONE is researching what kind of student this is good for. Once a person of note sends their child to a virtual school for education, they may then be worth a second glance.

  2. I enrolled 3 mythical children in the K-2 history curriculum at K12 and I went through every appalling lesson. You might be interested in what I wrote: The K12 Virtual Primary School History Curriculum: A Participant's-eye View


    Keep up the good work! Public education needs more people like you.

  3. Thank you Susan! I am honored that you stopped by, thank you for your kind words! The NEPC got a couple of shout outs at the hearing yesterday. I am hoping that we can get someone from there to come to one of the hearings and give the legislators a national prospective that does not come from proponents whose clients stand to profit off of online education. Yesterday's hearing was a sales pitch and nothing more.

  4. very informative blog and useful article thank you for sharing with us , keep posting learn more online education news
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