The previous two articles covered disruption, the importance of experiences, and how teachers need to refocus on student goals and aspirations. In this article, we cover Education and The Innovator’s Dilemma. 


Rarely is the history of innovation linear. Most technologies evolved from entangled interests, serendipitous discoveries, and convoluted implementation.


Since the beginning of the 20th century, we have worked to improve the educational systems that are already in place. However, when improvement is the only goal, the result is a system that is bloated, bureaucratic, expensive, and ultimately unsuitable for its intended use. Although pedagogy may be stagnant at times, a systematic revolution in the way teaching students is on the horizon. New models like the Flipped Classroom and Blended learning are only the beginning. Education is witnessing the most significant disruption our generation has ever seen.


Why should the ELT industry start paying attention?


Whether you’re running a language center or the CEO of an international publishing house, disruptive innovation begins at the bottom of the market. Still, it doesn’t stay there, according to disruptive innovation theory. This is due to inexpensive products and services; they frequently find success at the lower end of the market and outside established marketplaces. They improve by using their market strength to go up the value chain and compete with conventional market leaders. Depending on the product or service, this could take years or minutes.

An example of such a service is Duolingo, the app that has grown into the largest language learning platform and one of the most downloaded education apps worldwide since its launch in 2011.


Duolingo has “mastered” the end-users learning experience by implementing a game-like curriculum. Duolingo boasts a whopping 500 million registered learners, 40 million active users, 1.5 million premium subscribers, and $190 million in booked revenues in 2020 without selling a single book. 


It has stayed loyal to its mission to make education freely accessible.


Duolingo is incorporating artificial intelligence into its primary language learning tool. Content generation, personalization, and cognitive modeling are three main areas of concentration. Duolingo employs AI to build course material and deep learning to extrapolate English coursework into other languages and increase semantics and word frequency interpretation.


Content generation & building course material sounds like what a publisher does. As I mentioned in part 2, Content is a commodity and no longer King; Duolingo is paving the way with AI and Machine Learning and disrupting markets that a handful of companies have previously dominated. 


Publishers that have published a coursebook in the previous ten years have used the same approach. The specifics vary, but they’re all coming from the same place. That’s why it’s been so simple for publishers to seize control of that aspect of the process and begin designing courses in-house rather than relying on writers. It’s simple because it’s become routine. And books created out of routine aren’t exciting nor engaging!


On the other hand, Pearson has made significant changes and efforts to change its products and business model. It’s a frequent stereotype that ELT is a conservative and slow-moving industry. While this may be true, reform now is necessary to be relevant in a few years. There’s no need to kill current enterprises, but neglecting to start a new one is unquestionably death. Publishers need to start thinking, innovating, and experimenting with new business models; it is imperative for future growth.


Things are changing fast, and to quote Darwin,” it’s not the strongest that survive, but the most adaptable.” 


Accept innovation with open arms.


 Teachers. Consider all of your options. Obtain permission from your superiors so that you can expand your horizons. Teaching is a two-way street: the teacher and the student benefit from the experience. Please keep an open mind, and don’t let your textbooks or curriculum limit you; instead, look for ways to improve on them. It’s up to you how you go where you want to go; no one can tell you how to get there but you. Teaching is, after all, an art form. 


Administrators. Now is the time. A lack of innovation is the only certainty – and fast – when it comes to staying relevant. You don’t have to be a trailblazer for change, but you shouldn’t be the one to hold back your colleagues. You’ve got a terrific team and are given the responsibility for setting their objectives. As long as they come back to you with new tools and ideas, and a smoldering look in their eye, you’ll know they’re onto something. Let them go out and be unique. 


Students. More people are earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the nation’s colleges and universities. In other words, information and higher education are no longer exclusive to the well-to-do. Everyone can now be a student, which is unprecedented in modern history. As students worldwide, we must keep asking questions, looking for new ways to learn, and passing that knowledge on to the next generation.


Technology will be their tool; Curiosity will fuel their learning


The goal of technology is not to replace humans but to enhance our capabilities, so no, EdTech folks haven’t taken over the market yet, so there’s still time. It’s an enormous opportunity for publishers to create or partner with tech companies in building tomorrow’s language teaching tools and experiences.


Our children will enter the world as adults into a climate that requires them to be highly creative, self-motivated, and entrepreneurial to succeed. Our responsibility is to equip them with the necessary skillsets to reach personal and professional success.

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