Keynote – Michael Horn

December 3, 2008 at 5:55 am | Posted in Keynote | 3 Comments

Day One – First Keynote – Michael Horn, co-founder and executive director of Innosight Institute.

Michael referred to the book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns which he co-authored with Clayton Christensen and  Curtis W. Johnson.

He began by explaining that the authors had begun by asking “why do successful organistations fail?” and coming to the conclusion that the very principles of good management that were useful to organisations on their way up ultimately lead to their demise.

Horn ilustrated what he meant with examples from a variety of business contexts where organisations that were once at the top of the pack ended up, 2-3 generations later, down at the middle, bottom or even failed altogether.

He then explained the development of Christensen’s work on Theories of Disruptive Innovation, ending up by explaining what lessons lie in all of this for education.

The key thing for me from this presentation (in terms of education) is the evidence that disruptive innovation is entirely dependent on the response of the consumers/customers. If the customers are already well served by an existing service, then the disruptive innovation will be in direct competition, and the likelihood is high that the existing service will win out.

If the disruptive innovation is introduced to a different sector of the market, then they are more likely to appreciate and adapt the innovation – because it’s better than what they had before (nothing). An example of this is the uptake of solar power generation in the Indian sub-continent instead of mainland USA where it goes competes directly with the established electricity grid.

In education there are a number of areas of non-consumption that Horn pointed to that may be ripe for the picking in terms of providing alternative forms of education provision, eg:

  • credit recovery (for students who have failed particular credits or standards)
  • exclusions and school drop-outs
  • scheduling conflicts within existing schools
  • home-schooled  and home-bound students
  • smaller, rural schools
  • tutoring opportunities
  • early childhood

Horn pointed out that the opportunity created for some sort of online learning provision to address the needs above is enormous. He pointed out that the adoption of online learning in the US alone is booming, with numbers of school-level students enrolled in online courses rising from 45,000 in 2000 to 1,000,000 in 2007. He suggests that, based on this tragectory, 50% of all courses will be available online by 2015.

Lots for me to think about in the NZ context in this regard – this is the enormous opportunity that we realised back in 2001/2 at the NZ Correspondence School, but the opportunity passed. The opportunity exists now with the Virtual Learning Network, but will require considerable vision and leadership to take it into this new era.



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  1. Here here for the Virtual Learning Network.
    I am trying and succeding to be as disruptive as possible and i believe it is starting to gain traction. Join me please in being disruptive
    Regards eddie

  2. […] Michael Horn – How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns […]

  3. An alternative source of non-consumption the growing demand from adults to take online courses

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