There has never been a better time than the present to take a hard look at our Education system. What we continue to hear are complaints surrounding the cost, quality, and outcomes-- while educators struggle to meet a variety of demands within tight budgets. Students and parents today are overwhelmed by the vast amount of educational tools, resources and paperwork required in the journey through K-12 and post secondary. Repeated requests from administrators and an unending supply of software tools lead to confusion, frustration and anxiety--in a generation of students that are justifiably concerned about future employment opportunities and escalating education costs. One very obvious factor is the complexity that has grown out of decades-long attempts to modernize the education sector. Stakeholders have been unable to agree on single approaches that would 'transform' the sector, and the result is a disjointed model that protects the interests of institutions and constrains the user.
What we need today is a simplification of the tools and information offered; to eliminate the 'one size fits all' model; and to create an algorithm-based system that will drive individualized support and direction through the educational services available. By centralizing and integrating our educational support programs onto a single platform, we can create an equitable system grounded in transparency, efficiency, and ease-of-use. We need a student-centric model that processes information in real-time, eliminates manual administrative costs and delays, and drives down technology costs in the education sector. We must also eliminate error-prone paper processes, and ensure all financial payments made to schools or their vendors are accepted online, tracked and audited.
By hosting a single end-to-end solution, we will have a clear picture of how well our educational system is working through real-time analysis of data we hold. For example, we will understand how different institutions or geographic areas are performing in program completion, and post graduation job placement. We will be well positioned to understand student preferences and how they match with greater societal needs, and provide well-informed policy decisions for future generations. For example, costs of program versus starting salaries would drive greater discussions on how to influence the marketplace to develop meaningful employment opportunities. Finally, by hosting data we can react quickly to unexpected events, such as strikes or threats at Educational Institutions, and communicate important 'real-time' messages to those impacted. With data securely housed in a single location, we develop the full picture of the individual student, so we can take better care to support those who are vulnerable, isolated or in need of special programs.
The concept of an 'Education Marketplace' could be unlimited, providing academic transcripts, financial scholarships and bursaries, college and university admissions, student loans, online assessments, youth and post-grad employment opportunities, MOOCs, online textbooks and other tools that already exist in the education sector. The key will be to integrate these functions into a self-serve offering that is customized to each user, prompting specific tools and information at the right time in their education life-cycle. Our overarching goal must be to reduce complexity and not simply draw people to everything under the sun. Using technology well, we can create tremendous benefits that align with our economic, environmental, and security goals. For example, we will reduce the overall cost of education by eliminating manual administrative costs; we will protect and sustain our environment through paperless communications; we will eliminate security and privacy incidents through a single secure platform; and drive better outcomes for citizens. When we offer customer-centric services, there should be higher employment, lower defaults, and greater satisfaction with educational attainment.
It is estimated that $2 Trillion U.S. is spent on Education each year ($5.5 Trillion Globally). Although a one-time build of this platform would require significant effort and cost, the future downstream costs would be far lower than the current annual spend. A well architected servicing system would reduce the government's future annual investment, since automated tools and processes would require only upgrades and enhancements. In addition, manual overhead and administrative costs at Colleges and Universities would be replaced by automated tasks-- paving the way to lower tuition and fees for students. By partnering with start-ups and well-established solution providers, we would consolidate and/or eliminate redundant IT servicing costs associated with Cloud hosting, network security, and QA testing. Clearly, we can improve the quality of educational outcomes through client centric technology and reduce the cost dramatically at the same time. Most importantly, we can level the playing field for students regardless of where they live, their family income, or background.