disruptive innovation

Disruptive Innovation in Education

A new product or idea that radically changes the way things were always done is a simple definition of disruptive innovation.

Disruptive innovation happens frequently in many industries, but is actually rather rare in education. Clayton M. Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, developed this theory and co-authored the book “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.” The goal of the authors was to find out why schools find it difficult to improve and how innovation could change, or disrupt, the educational system for the better. They did not have to look far to see that a computer was the disruptive innovation that could bring many positive changes to education and help students learn.

Discover some of the ways personal technology can create disruptive innovation in your classroom.

Individualized Instruction

disruptive innovationSchools are sometimes criticized for treating all students the same, not by choice but because of finances, regulations, or lack of resources. Online learning can offer an alternative for students and teachers to be able to collaborate and develop a program for a child’s specific needs. No school can offer all courses or have sufficient staff to teach a large number of specific interest subjects. All students can benefit from this disruptive innovation by taking classes online not offered in the classroom, study the material at an individual pace, and have the opportunity to repeat a class if they didn’t do well before moving on to the next.

Quality Education for Everyone

Students able to attend a good school in an upper-class area probably get a better education than students attending a poor school in a low-income neighborhood due to the availability of resources. All students are guaranteed a public education, but the quality of that public education is not the same everywhere. Disruptive innovation can help to offer all the same opportunities. Computers were first very expensive, but now their cost is much less prohibitive. They are also responsible for bringing individual tutoring to students in need that was once available only to student from wealthy families able to afford private tutors. Learning through various programs and websites offers students educational experiences that may not be available in a traditional classroom.

Higher Education Opportunities

disruptive innovationDisruptive innovation also offers the opportunity for a higher education to those who may not be able to attend college because of finances, work conflicts, or family obligations. The University of Phoenix, or Capella University, or the many others now offering degree programs that traditional institutions of higher learning thought would never work, appealed to non-traditional students and succeeded. Traditional institutions of higher learning may need to address change to disrupt the high cost and classroom-based offerings that keep students away from them.

Education has long been conservative and traditional. Change is slow despite the fast pace of this modern world. There are amazing disruptive innovators in the world like social media moguls Mark Zuckerman of Facebook or Peter Thiel of Paypal. They, and others like them, are always looking for the next new thing — a disruptive innovation. It might just be the next thing that will change education as we know it.

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Sue Hamilton

Sue is a Pennsylvania native and graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she earned a B.S. degree in English. She worked as a radio newscaster and newspaper reporter before becoming a paralegal in a small civil law firm. Reading is her passion and Sue is an avid volunteer with her community library.

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