I have been tremendously impacted by the writing and lectures of Clayton Christensen from the Harvard Business School (HBX). If you haven’t heard of Dr. Christensen, it is likely you are using one of his theories in your everyday vernacular. Disruption and disruptive innovation were terms first coined in Christensen’s groundbreaking book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. If you are responsible for thought leadership, management of people or innovation within your organization, do yourself a favor and read or watch anything by Christensen. He is that good.
Recently, when an article from Christensen come out on higher education, I quickly got my hands on it. However, instead of being inspired, the article left me gravely concerned. In the article, Christensen states within the next 10 years, up to 50% of all higher education institutions will either merge or close. If his prediction is correct, we would see a key thread of the fabric of American society not just frayed, but cut from the cloth. Education, when done well, is the great equalizer. It takes a person of potential and through the educational process equips them to succeed. The education of the students at my school focuses on their intellectual, emotional, professional and spiritual development. Given the challenges the world faces, I find my work not only interesting and professionally fulfilling, but vital for a future desperate for good ideas and effective leaders.
So, is Christensen correct? Will online education become so good that face-to-face education will disappear from the educational landscape? While online education is an important tool, I don’t think it will become the primary tool for educating future generations of students. Online education is getting much better and will continue to improve. In fact, I just finished a course offered by HBX and Dr. Christensen. It was excellent and I learned a significant amount of new material that I am already working into my leadership responsibilities, but I am a person with numerous degrees who is always looking for ways to improve and grow. Without that initial foundation of education and mentorship from some key faculty, I remain unconvinced regarding an exclusively online approach to education.