Webinar: Innovation in Challenging Times

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Innovation is a word we hear a lot, but what exactly does it mean for higher education? And how can we keep moving forward, especially during these challenging times?

Industry leaders, including Todd Zipper, President of Wiley Education Services, recently discussed this topic at the 2020 P3•EDU Conference. Stream the webinar today to hear insightful ideas on how higher education can evolve and emerge in a strong place post-pandemic.

Topics of Discussion

This in-depth conversation covered the following topics and more:

  • The perception of tuition, as well as options to decrease the overall cost
  • Ways to shorten the distance between students and faculty in a remote world
  • Examples of collaboration between universities and external organizations
  • Steps to define goals that will propel your university forward

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Read Video Transcript

Kasia Lundy:
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the panel on Innovation in Challenging Times. I’m Kasia Lundy, and I am a partner in the higher education practice at EY-Parthenon, which is part of the larger Ernst & Young organization. I am joined today by three amazing speakers. I’ll let them do quick intros on their own. So, Todd, why don’t I start with you?

Todd Zipper:
Hi, everyone. My name is Todd Zipper, and I’m the president of Wiley Education Services, which is one of three business units of Wiley. We’ve been traditionally referred to as an OPM provider, which is best characterized by revenue share partnerships. We have approximately 70 universities in the US, UK, and just recently Australia. That said, it’s important to note that we have evolved the business model pretty significantly over the years to include more à la carte, fee for service type model around our bevy of solutions that include student recruitment, academic services, marketing and lead gen, clinical placement services, market research, and more.

Todd Zipper:
Furthermore, we’ve been investing in what we call bridge education, that is best summarized by education that provides tangible career outcomes, and it’s often outside of the degree format. We operate two businesses in two separate industries in this market. One of them is called Advancement Courses, which provides digital continuing ed courses to K-12 practicing teachers who need to meet various requirements. The second business is called mthree and focuses on recruiting, training, and deploying mostly junior technology talent to global corporations like Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan to offices all over the world. Both of these businesses partner with universities in order to best serve students and employers. Looking forward to the discussion today.

Kasia Lundy:
Thank you, Todd. Ted, can I go to you next?

Ted Mitchell:
You bet. Good to see everybody. My name is Ted Mitchell. I am the president of the American Council on Education or ACE. We are the umbrella organization for American higher education. We represent two-year colleges, four-year colleges, public and private, urban and rural, and our brief is twofold. One is we do federal policy advocacy on behalf of the higher education sector, and second, we engage in professional development and CREDIT evaluation for our members and our member institutions. In that professional development, we’re proud partners with John Katzman and the Noodle organization that you’ll hear about in just a moment. I do want to say that we are also partners with P3 in this endeavor, and really pleased once again to be a part of the program.

Kasia Lundy:
Thanks, Ted. And John, last but not least.

John Katzman:
I’m John Katzman, I founded and run Noodle. Prior to that, I founded and ran Princeton Review and 2U. Noodle is a next-generation online program manager. We work at this point with several dozen of the best schools in the US. I think a variety of folks, including myself in my prior life, have proven that online education can be as good as campus-based education. Our goal is to actually reduce the cost of higher ed by 25% without impairing the student/faculty dynamic, ratios, engagement, to take that part and support it better at substantially lower cost.

Kasia Lundy:
Thanks, John. Yeah, anxious to get deeper into the kinds of points you were just raising. But maybe before we get into the conversation itself, just a few reflections, because innovation, the title of our panel is Innovation, and I don’t know if you will agree or not, I’m sure it’ll come out through your comments, but innovation can be a pretty loaded term, no matter what sector you’re in. It can mean different things to different people. It can have many different purposes. Sometimes we do it to improve experience, sometimes to reduce costs; John, like you were mentioning, sometimes just to differentiate one organization from the other. So, what it is and how we define it, and perhaps even more importantly, how we scale it; I hope those are some of the questions we can tackle together today.

Kasia Lundy:
But for sure, when I think about innovation, I think it’s challenging and messy, even in the best of times. So, given that we live in somewhat extreme times right now, external factors like COVID-19 have certainly upended everything, and in the space of one to two weeks, higher education had to move to remote learning very, very quickly, right? So it was a… You can debate whether that was innovation or not, but it was certainly a massive shift that transcended differences among institutions, be it segment affiliation or location or reputation or size.

Kasia Lundy:
So, with all of that sort of as a backdrop, can I ask you actually a very basic question, which is, how do you, each of you, define innovation for yourself and for others? And maybe you can make it come to life a little bit by sharing something specific, something that you’ve seen as particularly innovative in higher education. And maybe we make it a little harder, and John, maybe we say you can’t talk about your own innovations, and Todd, maybe you can’t talk about your own, but Ted, you can talk about anything you want, so… Who do I start with? John, maybe you?

John Katzman:
Sure. Innovation is solving old problems with new solutions. The problems of higher ed, to me, start with how expensive it is, and the perception of expense as well, that people are overall pretty satisfied with the product, it has its flaws as everything does, but they’re feeling as if this is just too much. And how we solve that involves a lot of trial and error. So, any idea has maybe a 25% chance of working, even if it’s a really good idea and you’ve thought it through, and so innovation also is an iterative process.

John Katzman:
I look at the way, for instance, that schools report their tuition. Everybody in the world believes that higher ed is getting more and more expensive every year. The number of articles around that is in the thousands. The fact is that the cost of college tuition has been flat to inflation for 20 years, and no one ever talks about it, because we describe tuition so badly. We describe the most expensive student, not the average student, and certainly not the least expensive student seat. And how we drive down tuition, and at the same time, how we drive down the perception of that tuition, involves innovation. And once someone does it, the only other thing about innovation, and then I’ll be quiet, is generally, other people will follow, and you know you’re on the right track when all of a sudden, there are other people sniffing around your solution.

Kasia Lundy:
Yeah, so, John, just to push a little bit on that, anything specific that would get to that goal that you described?

John Katzman:
Sure. Number one, the capacity constraints of a modern university, if you can take 25% more students without building a building, using the summer more effectively, by using internships and externships, by using online classes of one sort or another, if you then can use some marketing and recruiting expertise to fill those seats with people every bit as qualified as your current students, so that you’re not degrading the conversation on campus, that’s a good start. At the same time, I look at the cost of teaching, which has largely been flat to inflation across the sector, versus the cost of academic support, advisement, counseling, student services, which has tripled in 20 years and is now as expensive as teaching, and think, boy, all of the support systems around teaching are where we can make a huge impact without doing a lot of damage.

Kasia Lundy:
Yup. Todd, do you agree with that? Would you add anything to that, or a different kind of nuance?

Todd Zipper:
Yeah, I mean, I’d define it similarly, you know, bringing new and unique solutions to address a need or a pain point. I think COVID-19 has put us in really crisis mode, so even though I subscribe to “necessity is the mother of all invention” philosophy, I don’t think schools, at least the ones that I’ve been interacting with, have really been able to breathe to really focus on those innovations, in a respect. I think they’re just trying to figure out new ways to flow students around campus, and whether they should open up the cafeteria, how to deal with hybrid learning.

Todd Zipper:
I wanted to just highlight a couple of innovations that I’ve seen in the last six months that… Outside of what we’ve been doing, to use your criteria. One of them was… These seemed like they were two innovations that were going to happen anyway but were accelerated. One was Southern New Hampshire announced their $10,000 per year degree, so I guess I’m in pretty violent agreement with John, which is not atypical, in that I thought that was brilliant, right? They’re bringing what seems like the best of what online education can bring with campus life, right? We’ll see; obviously, I’m not sure how this freshman year is going for them. I think they were doing it this first year. But that is well below a lot of state school tuitions, and I think is something that is going to drive meaningful outcomes for students and society.

Todd Zipper:
I was pretty impressed with that, and like John mentioned, I think if it works, I think a lot are going to follow, although I think it’s important to note that scale is going to be really important there. I don’t think they can do this with 1,000 or 2,000 students on a campus. I could be wrong, but that’s kind of how I’m thinking about it.

Todd Zipper:
The second one, a competitor of ours, Guild Education, right around the time of the pandemic, launched a new outplacement model to help America’s laid-off workers, right, to access training and job opportunities. I thought that was pretty cool. A third thing that, you know, I won’t go into some of the cool things that we’re doing, but I don’t think we are ever going back to on-campus or face-to-face learning the way it was, and so, maybe I’ll just give one example. Loyola Law School, who we work with, has an intensive LLM program in the summer on ground, and they wanted to run the program, right? So they worked with us very quickly, because we were working with them on their online programs, and we designed something for their on-campus students. I don’t know how you ever go back to what was previously, so I think that that is probably an innovation, call it hybrid, whatever we want to call it, that we’re not going to go back to just purely an in-campus or on-campus experience.

Kasia Lundy:
Yeah, it’s very interesting, and I do want to come back to this theme at some point, which of these changes or innovations that are happening now you might see as more permanent going forward, but… Ted, you have perhaps a different vantage point here from where you sit and where you’ve been. What are your thoughts on this, examples of innovation?

Ted Mitchell:
Yeah, so I want to agree with the general definition of innovation. I think that innovations are ideas that are put into practice that add value, and I think that that’s just sort of my variant on what John and Todd have said. I want to set the stage for some of the things that I hope we’ll talk about today. I think the greatest innovation in American higher education is the Morrill Act, and the innovation of the Morrill Act, for those of you who haven’t been following the 19th century in a while, was to create land-grant colleges. Land-grant colleges changed the nature of the debate about American higher education from who would go to where they are to what they would do and what the graduates would do. It really quite wildly changed the brief for higher education. And I think we haven’t quite figured it out yet, which is why I raise it now, because I think that some of the innovations that we’re going to be talking about are really trying to implement the Morrill Act a century and a half later.

Ted Mitchell:
So, what have I seen lately? Definitely subscribe to the examples that John and Todd gave, and I would add to it a terrific innovation that’s happening in and around Dallas, where the Dallas Community College district, which has multiple campuses of its own, have utilized blockchain tools to be able to create a seamless transportability of student records between the K-12 school system, the variety of community colleges that exist, and the four-year institutions, that has radically disrupted the traditional ways in which students get transfer credit for the work that they do. And, not coincidentally, it helps policymakers and practitioners alike understand pathways that students take in a much more granular and detailed way, to be able to intervene in those over time.

Kasia Lundy:
Yeah, great. I mean, a lot of what you’re also mentioning, some of the more specific examples have elements of technology in them, and I think that’s sort of natural; given the increasingly, well, at least recently, remote world we’re living in, technology’s playing a bigger and bigger part. But I would be curious, and this is a question for any of you, sort of technology beyond the classroom, and Ted, you pointed to using blockchain and AI with respect to credits and so on, but beyond the classroom, so sort of beyond the pedagogy and the teaching and learning, have you seen anything particularly innovative, or something that should be scaled by other institutions in the area of student supports? That’s probably, when I think about higher education sort of going at scale to remote, that’s potentially one area, student engagement and student support, and access to different things, not just the classroom experience, that may have been a little bit lacking, and again, because the shift happened so massively, which doesn’t mean that some institutions haven’t figured it out or begun to figure it out. Just curious what you’re seeing out there.

Ted Mitchell:
Yeah, and I’d be interested in Todd and John’s perspective, but I think that the COVID and the increased use of video technology, chat, social media, has actually shortened the distance between students and supports in a pretty interesting way. I think that it is now easier for students to attend office hours, it’s easier for faculty to reach out to students in a light, nudgy way, to use the behavioral economists’ term. And I think that that is going to replace the sort of on-foot trip to an office somewhere to do some kind of transaction that can be done more efficiently, with less stress, online.

Ted Mitchell:
I think where we’re just starting to see some change is in the mental health kinds of supports, where, as I think everybody knows, we started out COVID with just a major structural problem, which is that therapists and State A were not able to provide services to students in State B. And so, as students migrated home, they were suddenly without the kinds of supports that they need, and at a moment where they probably needed them more. So, we’re working that out; we got some help from the federal government, from state governments and licensing agencies. But I think that’s sort of the next frontier for the area of student services and technology-enabled student services.

Kasia Lundy:
Great, yeah, I was just going to ask you about that, so I’m glad that’s going on. Todd, John, I’m going to break the rule now. What about institutions that you are working with? How are you seeing them perhaps engage with their students differently, in new ways?

John Katzman:
So, to me, the largest area of potential improvement is not technology itself, but the use of it to facilitate collaboration at scale, that we have a history of every school being an island, and I think that’s what’s changing. We see our schools as a network, and the question is always, how do we weave them together in ways that allow them to differentiate even more but lower costs and raise outcomes?

John Katzman:
So, for instance, there’s a program that we’re launching called Four Plus One, where research universities allow liberal arts colleges to offer for dual credit one course a semester during your upperclass years. So, they are the first four courses in, let’s say, a data science master’s, and if you walk out of the school with a 3.0 or better, and in good standing with that school, you can run right into the master’s program, finish it by December of that same year, right, go full time in the summer, then part time in the fall, and you’re done. You’ve saved 40% on tuition because you’ve taken four out of the ten courses already, and a year of opportunity cost over a standard model, which is easily a larger savings.

John Katzman:
You’ve taken all in, opportunity cost plus tuition, the cost of a master’s down from $100,000 to maybe $30,000, and walking into the liberal arts school, can feel comfortable that, “Yeah, this is a great long-term play,” if you look at Tony’s work at Georgetown. “It’s also a really good short-term play to get a liberal arts education because I can also hit the workforce at six figures within months.” You couldn’t do that without technology. Being able to take those master’s courses while you’re on campus means you have to be taking them online.

Kasia Lundy:
Yeah. Yeah, no, I take your point that it’s not necessarily about technology, technology’s just one component of it, but one thing you said really resonated with me, that collaboration itself can be a form of innovation. I’m just curious about, again… Ted, maybe I’ll go to you on this one. I mean, higher education for sure has been collaborating, right? I mean, always, different forms of collaboration. But does anything need to change about the ways institutions collaborate going forward to make an idea take hold and scale and…

Ted Mitchell:
Yeah, it’s a really great question, and it’s a really difficult problem. I think that for centuries, I’m obviously taking the long view today, for centuries institutions have prospered by doing their own thing, their own way, with their own resources. And so, there are deeply held cultural shibboleths around “It has to be made here.” So, we need to break those down, and the way that we’ve seen that happen most genuinely is in two different kinds of relationship. One is regional relationships, in which people are proximate, and technology is still important, but they’re sort of the same communities, the same microeconomies, the same students in many cases. So that’s one place, and you see that, as an example, in agreements between community colleges and four-year institutions around transfer, so that would be an example.

Ted Mitchell:
And then the other is to John’s point about networks, creating networks of like-minded institutions who agree going in that one of their expectations is that they will share, and they won’t rely solely on themselves. And so, the University Innovation Alliance is a great example of that kind of collaboration. The WICHE, Interstate Higher Education, Western Interstate Higher Education Consortium is another. And then you have third-party providers, Coursera, for example, that are building courses through university faculty that are deployable in any institution that wants to augment its curriculum, provide other opportunities for students that wouldn’t be made in the back room of the physics department, but would be made at a different institution. And I think that the popularity of those kinds of collaboration are growing as well.

Kasia Lundy:
Yeah, and I’m wondering, so one of the… Just to keep playing out this theme of collaboration and networks and cooperation, one of the troubling, somewhat troubling pieces of data that’s coming out over the last few months through various surveys, or the National Student Clearinghouse, is that the pandemic… I mean, the enrollment and re-enrollment patterns or drop-out patterns recently would suggest that during the pandemic, the lower-income students, first-generation students, and students of color have been disproportionately affected. So, I don’t know if any of you have any thoughts on how, again, innovation, whether you consider that through the lens of technology or whether you consider that through the lens of collaboration and networks, could actually help with that issue.

Todd Zipper:
One thing I’ll highlight is, it’s actually a company that does this, but I read about it through an announcement from the Council of Independent Colleges, where they did a deal with… I think this company’s called Acadeum, and a lot of our partners are in the CIC, where they could pool together their course catalog, in a sense. And one of the big issues we find is we do a lot of undergraduate programs, adult learners, first-gen type stuff, is that if they don’t have a very clear, tight degree map for themselves, it’s much easier that they’ll drop out, right? Or they’ll go somewhere else, right, to find that course that they need, and a lot of smaller institutions don’t just have this unlimited capacity to offer courses. And so, that seemed like a pretty cool solution, where you can kind of send a student off property, if you will, to another school, but really they’re not leaving, they’re just taking this one course that they need while staying within their track.

Todd Zipper:
That, I think, goes to what John was talking about here. To me, it really pools their resources nicely together, but it takes a lot of coordination to pull all that off, and money flows, and who gets paid what. And so, I don’t think it’s quite scaled yet, but it is an attractive solution we’re certainly looking into.

Kasia Lundy:
Yup. John or Ted?

Ted Mitchell:
Well-
John Katzman:

There’s… I’m sorry, Ted.

Ted Mitchell:
You go, John.

John Katzman:
There are opportunities for collaboration at scale in just about every area that you can imagine. If you think about marketing, we each spend a tremendous amount of money buying clicks on Google to turn into students. The average online program is spending between 20% and 30% of tuition on marketing, the large national players at 30%, the for-profits even more. Each one of us, if this student turns out to be inappropriate for this school, we throw them back, and that’s a huge percentage of the time, we’re throwing them back. And the idea of buying a click once, and saying, “Look, this isn’t the right fit, you take them,” and all of a sudden, if you can raise your yield even 1%, 2% of the students you can rescue, you can cut your cost of acquisition by a lot.

John Katzman:
And the idea of models, it really encouraged schools to look hard at that expense and say, “We can collaborate. Not all of us are competing with all of us.” In fact, most programs have maybe three or four competitors of note, and everybody else is potentially an ally. How you weave together the network is critically important, and how you take advantage of those savings and get them back in the hands of students is ultimately a sustainable advantage.

Kasia Lundy:
It almost sounds like a unified enrollment system, John.

John Katzman:
Well, you know, what tech does that makes me insane is somebody will build a highway between corporations and universities, between applicants and students, and then they’ll build a huge tollbooth on that highway, and all the money kind of gets… All the savings get sucked out into the valley. And so, the question of how to work with schools in a way where we are creating those savings and then giving the savings back to students, that’s the innovation.

Ted Mitchell:
Can I build on that and take it back to your question about equity? Because I think that they’re quite related. So, it’s true, and I think that as data come out over the course of the remainder of this year, we’ll see that there is a disproportionate negative impact of COVID on the enrollment and retention of low-income, first-generation, students of color. And interestingly, I think that that tracks exactly not only the impact of the disease on families and communities, but the impact of the recession on families and communities. So, this does push us back to the question of cost. As students are looking at their opportunities, Todd’s right: “Show me a clear path, no wasted effort, no wasted money, just… I got to get there to be able to improve my life chances.” We need to be more on the ball about that, and for institutions, that means understanding options that aren’t just in that institution to help students move along the way.

Ted Mitchell:
So, re-enrollment, for example, really needs to be about helping students, through personal advisement, get the courses that they need to get to where they want to go. And if the student says, “By the way, my home institution is in Maine, and I’m working with my family in Oakland,” then fine, we need to make sure that there is a relationship between a community college or another kind of institution in Oakland whose credit will transfer across the country to the home institution, which is where tech is important, issues of security are important, and issues of quality assurance are important. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so impressed by the blockchain opportunities, that one could sanction the quality of different institutions and then buy into that, not by having to do your own evaluation but by saying, “If John and Todd say that that college is okay, then I’m with it because I regard them as trusted partners.” But that whole way of putting students at the center and helping them get the education that they need to meet the pathway in a cost-effective way is the challenge that COVID provides us.

John Katzman:
Yup, and the challenge that needs to be solved. And Ted, what you were describing, I think what you’re saying, it goes beyond academic advising, right?

Ted Mitchell:
Right.

Kasia Lundy:
I mean, it’s the… We call them different names, but student success coaches, life coaches. I imagine John and Todd and the work that you do with institutions, that’s a critical component, right, of any online strategy or strategy you develop with them.

Kasia Lundy:
Going back to… What you are raising is that it actually requires a certain amount of, well, effort and mindfulness on the part of an institution to engage in this journey. So, when you think about institutions where innovation can actually succeed, can you talk a little bit about what those institutions might have in common? What does it come down to? Is it the leader or leadership, is it just an overall culture or a mindset in that institution, or is it actually the fact that they may have outside partners who push them and encourage them? Or is it all of those things or none of those things?

John Katzman:
There is a great video on YouTube someplace about the first follower. I don’t know if you remember the video; there’s some guy doing a crazy dance at a concert, and everybody’s kind of looking at him funny, and then somebody else gets up and starts dancing with him crazy, and then within minutes, the whole hillside is full of people doing this crazy dance. A great innovator, Michael Crow, can’t generally do it alone. It’s not just force of personality, one guy, it’s who are the people… In a modern university with shared governance, it’s the faculty leaders as well as the administrators who can come together and start driving innovation. Almost everybody at most schools has a blackball and can block almost everything, which is why it takes so long to create a relationship and create trust, and create change.

Kasia Lundy:
I wasn’t sure where you were going first with the analogy, John. I thought maybe this was, you were going to say something about herd mentality and all that, because you’ve been [crosstalk 00:32:24] opposite.

John Katzman:
No. No, I was saying let’s dance.

Todd Zipper:
I’ll throw a couple other things on the fire here. I think that, in addition to charismatic leadership and the support that I think is key, and we’ve seen that time and time again, we often say the number one thing we look for in a partner is leadership that has a vision and can get things done. They could have vision, but they could not have the hearts and the minds of their faculty and their teams.

Todd Zipper:
I think you got to make innovation a core part of your strategy. You know, it’s got to be stated, you’ve got to build space for it. So, for example, in my business, we have an innovation challenge every year. We have, actually, a… We call it IC 365, where we have constant innovative ideas coming through, and we give people the space to constantly try both big-I and little-i type innovations and give them the capital they need to do that.

Todd Zipper:
I also think it’s about requiring a reorientation on priorities. Many higher ed institutions for decades have been designed to placate numerous stakeholders, right? And to me, the way I see it is that education is becoming more of a consumer product, so it’s a new era of this consumer student-centrism, and what are you going to need to do to win? So, for example, for us, we’re trying working with our partners to revolutionize what we call the student journey, to make it a lot more self-service, just like you would when you order a taxi, or whatever we call it now, through Uber. Those that work in the enrollment and student recruitment business, it’s incredibly painful to get somebody through the process. Don’t get me started on transfer credit evaluation, the conversation before. So, the solutions that we need there, I think, are essential, but it is with the eye of student at the center of it all.

Todd Zipper:
Another, I think a lot about funding, and going off of this idea of lowering the cost of education, which I am completely on board with, really the price-value equation, and trying to get that right. The thing that haunts me about higher ed is the signals, the market signals are very distorted, and so, how do you get those things to align? So, we went out there and bought this business around tech recruiting, where there is no market, there is no cost. I mean, we pay people to get trained, and then we get them in jobs, and they’re significantly better off. You can’t always do that in higher ed, but I think we need more experiments, and just following the bootcamp space around income share agreements, I know this could be a political issue at times, but I want to see that experimented with in higher ed.

Todd Zipper:
We’re actually trying to explore some stuff with some of our partners there to see if we can align the interests of the learner, the provider of the education putting some skin in the game, and the employer, and of course, the funder, whether that’s the taxpayer or some other vehicle. And so, I think we have to, by putting the learner at that center of the attention, just like the Amazons of the world do, I think it’s going to lead us more in the direction of innovative products on funding, on learning, et cetera.

Todd Zipper:
The last example I’ll give, and I know John just did a great announcement last week around this, to give him some kudos, is around the employer model. So, we do a lot there, but that deal that Starbucks and Arizona State did, which feels like almost a decade ago now, the thing that was exciting about it was that it was going to be no cost to the learner, right? And to John’s point, there was no marketing involved in the whole thing; the marketing was done once, and then that was it, and then it was probably just some intranets and emails going around and communication. Certainly a lot of incentive for Starbucks employees to do that. I’m surprised we haven’t seen more of those innovations. You have plenty of guys like me out there doing the lunch-and-learns and the employer marketing, but that’s not an innovative product the way that deal was. And so, that’s putting the learner at the center of the equation.

Kasia Lundy:
Right. Absolutely, and you were just… I was thinking of higher ed institutions, but Todd, you’re right, you just expanded the ecosystem to include all kinds of other partners, including employers. Speaking of an ecosystem, Ted, maybe I can put this question in front of you, how might we actually, from here on, orchestrate a whole ecosystem, rather than sort of institution by institution, thinking about everything that you all just mentioned, which is how do we get ourselves to a system that is lower cost while still maintaining quality? What can get us there, or what are even some baby steps toward getting there? You’re on mute, Ted.

Ted Mitchell:
You’d think we’d get used to this. So, it’s a great question, and I think I want to go back a half step and say that I think that… John talked about faculty. I do think that creating room in institutions for innovation and change is really important, and that’s sort of the first thing for a leader who’s interested in innovation, is where’s it going to happen, how’s it going to be supported, how can I make it into a cultural thing? Because it really runs counter to the way most faculty members are trained. They’re trained to keep refining things and refining things and refining things until they are as perfect as they can be, and then they send them out for peer review, and then they revise them and revise them and revise them again, and eventually, before they die, they publish something. And that’s not the kind of iterative approach that most of the rest of the world takes to making change happen. And so, I think we need to accept that, but we need to move forward.

Ted Mitchell:
And to your question, so then, what’s the way out? I think that among the many things that have crippled higher education innovation in the past, a lack of consistent information is high on the list. Think about how recently we’ve begun, only recently we’ve begun to be able to compare graduation rates of institutions, throughput rates of institutions, job placement rates for programs within institutions. Without that, it’s really hard to figure out who’s doing the dance that you want to imitate, to John’s point. And so, I think the first thing that the ecosystem needs, and hopefully state and federal governments will help us by making investments in this, is an information infrastructure that allows us to see, to monitor, and then to be able to feed back information about actual student experience into the institutions.

John Katzman:
So…

Kasia Lundy:
Great, thank you. John, did you want to add something?

John Katzman:
I do. I agree with Ted that data is a critical part of it, but also, in terms of metrics, clear goals. What are we trying to do? My goal, I want to lower the cost of higher ed to students by 25% without screwing it up. You need scale. You know, a network, to work, runs into Metcalfe’s law, that every additional player, node in the network adds exponential value. More universities working together, more employers, more students on our site, right now we’re up to about half a million a month coming to find a school, more providers, ed tech providers woven together into something coherent. Everyone you add adds value to everybody already in that network. A guy with a telephone, if nobody else has a telephone, it’s not much.

Kasia Lundy:
Yeah.

John Katzman:
And then finally is commitment. If you walk around to most college campuses and you say, “Who here is responsible for using technology to lower our costs dramatically and raise our metrics, whatever they are?” Nobody will raise their hand. That’s nobody’s job. And it has to be somebody’s job, either on campus or that’s where networks like us come in, that you need somebody who, that’s their job, not teaching, not serving students every day, but just thinking about what the limits of the technology are and how to employ them.

Kasia Lundy:
Yeah. This has been a great conversation, and I think we’re at time, but I do want to close with one question, and one bullet or one sentence will be sufficient. Ted, I want to go back to what you said at the beginning, when you mentioned the Morrill Act. What would be the next equivalent of the Morrill Act in terms of the size or magnitude of innovation? If you were to disrupt something or change something, what would that one thing be?

Ted Mitchell:
Well, I think it’s happening. I think that Todd mentioned it, but the average college student isn’t the 18-year-old being dropped off for a four-year residential experience. The average student is a working adult who needs just-in-time education that can be supported by aid that comes in smaller buckets against institutions that provide learning in a variety of different modalities and variety of different times, and using place as a variable, not a constant.

Kasia Lundy:
John?

John Katzman:
I still believe in degrees, and as a starting point for life learning is walking in with a BA. Only 8% of students graduating from bootcamps didn’t go to college. So, to me, the next equivalent is when we start thinking about the space before college, the space between high school and college as a thing. What do you know right now, and what do you need to know to succeed in the program you want to do? And let’s find the least expensive, smartest way to get you that, and once you’re there, now start college. And it could be a week, and it could be five years, but how do you balance the need for access with the need for rigor and high standards? It’s with that on-ramp.

Kasia Lundy:
Yup. And Todd, you’ve got the last word, so let’s make it good.

Todd Zipper:
Well, I’m actually going to jump on Ted’s bandwagon, in that I think creating, in a utopic, total transparent world, around outcomes and everything that goes beneath that will create the mechanisms to drive real, tangible outcomes throughout the system and lower the cost. So, I want to be part of that solution, because I think that transparency around who’s graduating, who’s not, where their careers go in the end, how much money they’re making, what’s their satisfaction rates, none of that really exists at scale, and I think if it did, I think you would see a system start to run at a much faster pace and much more aligned with learners’ needs, and increasing access and affordability like we’ve never seen before.

Kasia Lundy:
Hear, hear. Thank you very much for your engagement and for your candor, and thank you for everyone who is tuning in to listen. Thank you.

John Katzman:
Thank you.

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