Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Will The Greenville School District Promote Internet Based Education?

The Greenville News reported today that:
The Greenville County School District's construction program will run out of money next month, likely forcing the sale of another $60 million in bonds to finish the job and pushing the total close to the $1 billion mark, officials said Tuesday.
Another article a reported on plans for Internet based education. (Unfortunately it's not available online.)
A bill introduced last year by Rep. Rex Rice... would set up a statewide virtual charter school district, supported by tax dollars but not run by the Department of Education... Now we see a curriculum that is very suitable, especially for science, for use in elementary through middle school. Such programs can allow students to interact with a teacher at a remote location, or they can be largely text driven. Among the advantages is the capability of parents to check and see what their kids are learning on a daily basis. A parent doesn't have to wait nine weeks for a report card to know how their youngster is doing.
Note that this is a discontinuous innovation that leverages the inherent advantages of the new technology to create an entirely new model for delivering education. It does not require the expensive brick and mortal of traditional schools. And it brings distinctive value to new market, that it is provides real time feedback to students and their parents regarding the students' progress. In fact, if successful this model would make much of the status quo method of delivering education obsolete.

The article goes on to note:
... The Greenville County School District is in the planning stages of developing a virtual high school. It would be aimed mainly at giving students a chance to take courses they couldn't get at their own school or allowing them to continue their studies if they aren't able to be in school.
Note that in order to protect their $1 billion investment, the Greenville County School District is planning only a incremental innovation. Their vision is that education is still delivered in a brick and mortar school, and the Internet in only used to supplement the status quo. The last thing the Greenville County School District is likely to do is to create a new model that will render the $1 billion investment in schools obsolete. How would they ever explain that to the taxpayers that funded their spending?

Perhaps more clearly that anything I have seen lately, this illustrates why there needs to be schools independent of the current school districts to bring truly innovative education to students. This is not a question of whether the Greenville County School District is run by smart people and has motived teachers and parents, or whether their heart is in the right place is attempting to serve the students of Greenville County. The Greenville County School District is trapped by The Innovator's Dilemma, as is any market leading organization faced with a discontinuous innovation. The solution to the Innovator's Dilemma is to allow new entities to bring discontinuous innovations to market that will make the status quo obsolete, something like "a statewide virtual charter school district, supported by tax dollars but not run by the Department of Education."

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