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lead sponsor: the UK's Department of Children Schools and Families DCSF

charrette 3: the economics of future learning

The internet and other new communication technolgies have effectively thrown the economcs of many industries up in the air - and in many cases we are still waiting for them to come down again!

Sites like eBay have created a many buyers - many sellers scenario with few institutions, and a market that looks suspitiously like the economists' model of Perfect Competition.

Retail suddenly has a major rival in on-line sales, music has broken out of the myth that a recording was the "real thing" and suddenly the high value experience is (once again!) the live performance.

Even CD ROM encyclopedias lie remaindered in baskets, whilst peer referenced wikis, although imperfect, offer similar free content in exchange for some mass engagement in their content.

In the UK BBC 3 has moved from a traditional TV channel to offer a significantly user generated experience that bridges web, mobile and broadcast.

In amongst all this change, finance officers struggle to see a business plan. Probably the most compelling business case can be made for scale. As one of the board of Skype once commented:

"in time all the phone calls in the world will be free. We hope that 50% of them will be ours. At that point we won't need a business plan!"

event date: 15 - 16th july 08
location: tower bridge, london

chair: prof stephen heppell
rapporteur: mike baker
media: illumina: stephen crawley, scott munroe, sabrina organo


lyndsay bird: soon to join IIEP
doug brown: becta
dominic flitcroft: dcsf
stephen healy: activeMINDS
sandra mcnally: london school of economics
harry patrinos: world bank
james penny: ex ibm, GDST
catarina taylor: gems education
janice dolan: save the children

lys johnson: heppell.net

During the dot-comm bubble the myth was finally burst that Content was King, with the collapse of the many who clung to the hope that it was. Today, much new value is being created at the interface between social interrelationships - Facebook, Google, eBay, Twitter all bring people together and realise significant value at the place where they connect - although there is currently precious little (if any) public service in those spaces.

For Education an additional complication of globality (perhaps fuelled by increased migration rates and better communication) makes the economics of learning even more complex, whilst at the same time new technology produces some very powerful alternative competitors (like mass home learning).

For example, many universities place their course content freely for others to find; many enthusiasts offer forums of wisdom considerably richer and more current than tradional sources; university journals struggle to be current and thus to justify the charges for work that was freely donated to them; workplaced learning within organisations challenges the relevance of learning within tradional supplier institutions; a vast textbook industry struggles with a future; learning at home is suddenly seeing rapid growth and support; the costs of disengagement are not borne by schools which hugely distorts their policy decisions; a national currirculum sounds like an economic anachronism in a global world; learning is beset by artificial barriers of age, phase, level, scale, location - why shouldn't school age children distance learn at university level from the cheapest provider? and if we care about lifelong learning why does the tariff vary for participating?... and so on

Is it possible to envisage a learning future that comes at funding and finance in entirely new directions - as we have seen with other Internet transformed industries - and does it throw education up into the air completely in doing so. If learning is the driving force could it survive the death of education?

This charrette, like the others, explores the dimensions of a freshly complex world and looks for policy guidance now that will head off sigificant problems in the immediate future.


horizonTAL - horizon scanning for learning from heppell.net

last updated: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 10:50 AM