There is a huge amount of noise and numerous newsletters about MOOCs at present and we are seeing considerable interest and equally considerable investment being made into MOOCs. The MOOC list we keep is growing longer and longer, and in a previous blog we predicted the emergence of the corporate MOOC, and we now have a few of them on our list as well. SAP having launched their MOOC earlier this year for example.

While we continue to watch MOOCs, and understand the issues and the fear and fascination they are generating across Higher Education and indeed into government policy, MOOCs are not the only exciting development on our radar at present.

A report by IBIS Capital into which Learning Light contributed highlights a fundamental issue. The research firstly is showing significant levels of growth are predicted  in expenditure across the global education market, and this includes accelerating growth in edtech and e-learning, while also crucially highlighting the accelerating cost of education in the US and European markets.

While educationalists debate the pedagogical values of MOOCs, investors are weighing up the financial opportunities of MOOCs it is important to understand the views of the future student market:  the financial cost to them of education, and this it is this that politicians are addressing at present.

Our first observation is that MOOCs are not the only game in town to address the rising cost of education.

It is with this in mind that the recent White House announcement addressing the cost of education and putting forward effective ways of reducing costs to Middle America is so interesting.

The Obama initiative is very compelling, and here is how: It is really about allowing  and enabling more US students to benefit from higher education to address the looming skills gaps that many western economies face as the baby boomer generation retires while keeping costs to Middle America of college education down.

The key to this is two-fold: firstly in the reducing cost of education (US Student debt, and no doubt UK student debt becomes increasingly unsustainable), and secondly to support students through the learning process to success from the initial informed choice of “what course is best for me” to pro-active student learning performance management to mitigate against dropout and disillusionment with education which is all too common an occurrence.

So how does the Obama bargain reduce learning costs to students? Naturally there are a number of initiatives are noted, flipped classrooms, MOOCS and the creation of a competitions for education innovation.

However, In essence the approach is to create a market solution based on competition and the informed student purchaser, and the market making mechanic is the publication of data on institution and course performance, using “Datapalooza” – think big data and learning analytics.

This process is already underway with Austin Peay State University developed “Degree Compass” designed along with Desire2Learn.

“Degree Compass (DC) is developed from University research funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It uses Netflix-style big data techniques to allow students to accurately predict how well they’d do in any course on their degree program. By comparing the grades of similar students and all other students, and analysing the student’s record, it selects the courses that are most likely to deliver the grades the student requires to graduate on time.”        

Results published by Desire2Learn indicate that the system is achieving 89% accuracy, which is impressive indeed.

While we are used to league tables and crude data presentation, the success of Degree Compass in predicting student performance, and crucially enabling students to make an informed choice based on their education track record (grades achieved) only….not on personal demographics and personal information is very powerful, and a great tool to support access to higher education amongst more disadvantaged groups, where the college going tradition does not exist.

In our view we are seeing the emergence of a new education virtual value chain based on three intertwined activities: assessment, analytics and accreditation (and this will take place in the College/school VLE and/or the MOOC platform) and in the final component of our new education virtual value chain: adaptive learning platforms, which we are taking great interest in.

On a final note: Why accreditation (it’s not new!), well it won’t just be the MOOC that will work on (monetize) payment by results in the future, education establishments (public and private) will find income closely tied to the results they achieve, and assessment and analytics tools to really manage (not just survey) the “student experience” as it is called will be at a premium and topic for a forthcoming blog.