By Robin Gibson Marketing Director at Kortext
the world-leading personal learning platform, providing access to over a million digital textbooks and digital content from over 40000 of the world’s leading educational publishers
It seems that an ever increasing number of businesses within the services industry are productising. Why? Simple: It makes them much easier to buy. Services are too nebulous, some might say, without a palpable product. Packaging these products for two or three audiences – with free, freemium and premium options – seems to be working well for industries from the professional services, law and even dentistry.
Industries with actual, real-life products seem to be moving in the opposite direction: towards subscription services. You can see this in the music industry just as much as in the demand for printer ink and coffee capsules.
That move from product to service is something that many industries are facing right now, and will continue to face. Call it digital transformation if you like, but it’s really a customer experience transformation – and the trend won’t end.
Uber’s future will, no doubt, be based on driverless cars. Disney may never sell another DVD, or might stop releasing movies in cinemas altogether. Thanks to open and app-based banking, physical trips to the bank to deposit a cheque are a thing of the past. Even Spotify is a major data provider for advertisers, because music can create both a mood and an opportunity to sell. Perhaps the only differential along the march from product to service to subscription to fragmentation is the speed with which each industry adopts it?
Education has, for far too long, relied upon hard-copy material – as if having sleep-deprived students clamour for the only copy of an expensive tome is any way to behave in the modern era. When so much of society relies upon fast knowledge transfer and accessibility, it seems strange that education has yet to catch up. The COVID-19 crisis has pushed us further and further towards a way of working we had previously been told, time and time again, was impossible.
And yet, many of us who have experienced education in this new, flexible way, have thrived. Those who are resistant to this development may make snide comments about how they were never allowed to attend lectures in their pyjamas, but I feel there is something even more crucial that is being ignored: accessibility. Ableism, a discrimination in favour of able-bodied people, is something that educational institutions are still struggling to eliminate. Many students, for a myriad of reasons, find it hard to access what they need to succeed – be that because the physical journey is untenable or because it is not in a format that they need.
The digitisation of education is something that can benefit everybody, though, regardless of ability. Since the pandemic has scattered students all over the globe, they no longer have to forgo their education and can learn from anywhere in the world – be that a bed in Hong Kong or a kitchen table in rainy London. It’s not that I don’t think face-to-face teaching should be abandoned altogether, because that would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but not adapting to the blended learning model opportunity is what will hold the education sector back.
Udemy and Google have already stepped in and stepped up, providing what some educational establishments resist: easily accessible content delivered in a way that suits current students’ needs.
We’re riding the wave of change at Kortext. Our name kind of gives away what we do: providing the essential reading for university courses. And we don’t come with long queues for the library or late fines – we’re always open, always available and always online. Student engagement, which has traditionally been measured via scribbled notes on feedback forms, is easier than ever to track digitally. When done effectively, and with proper consideration to privacy concerns, we have the power to change the very nature of education away from the recent trend of one to many driven by HE expansion, back to to one to one as tutors and students once again can connect and collaborate with ease.
Inevitably, this will require change in the way things have been previously done. Just as Uber, Spotify and Starling inspired an alteration in the modus operandi of their industries, so it will be in the education sector. How things operate has to alter. A university library, for instance, will become a meeting place and study area with the library staff being guides to discovery – search engines with a heart. The traditional “student pays” model will also change as users expect to access content in a cohesive integrated manner free to them, given the tuition fees already paid.
Our sector’s last real existential challenge came when polytechnics evolved into universities. Today the same educational establishments face a new opportunity: integration. The opportunity exists to deliver a world-class, integrated experience for the student whether they are sitting a lecture hall, at home or indeed joining from the library. This integration and connection can last way beyond graduation as the student can maintain connection to their institution using digital platforms to both receive and contribute thinking that will move society forward. This is how the next generation of difference makers will create benefit for all.
The need to educate isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s one of the most important tools we have to make the world better for everyone. It’s time to grasp the nettle – like Kodak didn’t.