This post continues exploring the issue of disrupting the educational industry and notes how cloud computing may help accelerate this type of disruption.It also continues exploration of the topic of “learning platforms”, addressed in an earlier posting, and now raises questions about whether Chegg’s evolving service offering positions the company as a potential learning platform provider.
As you know from my earlier blog post of learning platforms—On Learning Platforms and Ecosystems, Published 5/28—I have an interest in whether, and how, (digital) learning platforms will emerge and at some point play roles similar to what Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google are now playing online. I feel that education (both k-12 and HE) need to be disrupted, and I have been pleased to see a growing number of “edupreneurs” setting out to do exactly that, especially in the SF Bay Area. I am hoping for a project in the near future to explore all of this in considerable greater depth, so I will likely post updates on this from time to time.
Large, incumbent players—as well as large customers (either school districts or large HE institutions)—may have been skeptical to what smaller, innovative and aggressive startups might be able to do in the so far difficult-to-disrupt educational sector. But I think these kinds of smaller and innovative players today have a much better chance than in the past to have a major, disruptive impact, in part because of what technology is now enabling. One such technology—and only one of many technologies, I think—that favors disruptors, is cloud computing. In a seminar this spring at Stanford University’s Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (SPRIE), entitled “How entrepreneurs harness the power of cloud computing”—see goo.gl/QnHtz—speakers pointed out how cloud computing “…can dramatically decrease timelines and investment costs which encourages flexible growth and experimentation by rapid iteration.”
This kind of experimentation and rapid iteration is exactly what is needed in education to yield the kind of transformative change that is needed, especially to drive costs down and expand access to people who before could not afford to take advantage of high quality educational offerings. The SPRIE program referred to above did not specifically refer to the educational sector, but Silicon Valley has seen an explosion in edupreneurs who have visions to dramatically transform today’s educational industry.
In this context, I was intrigued when I recently read the article on Chegg (goo.gl/2n10R), a “potential disruptor” in the HE educational market that I had know about for about a year but not given a great deal of attention to, to be quite honest. I first came across the company when I reviewed a very interesting edtech map created by Michael Horn of Innosight Institute and Anthony Kim of Ed Elements (a project for New Schools)—see goo.gl/HpHcR—and as I compiled my own list of interesting startup companies in various sectors of the educational industry (which Horn and Kim had very nicely disaggregated and structured in their tech map). The Bloomberg Business Week article on Chegg was a well-done account of the evolution of Chegg and how it now—after a number of acquisitions and new leadership—is positioning Chegg as “… a digital hub providing everything a college student needs, from homework help to discounts on dorm room decorations, and ‘to save them time, save them money, and make them smarter.’ ”
What I find interesting about Chegg is that it illustrates the variety of needs that students have that may not be directly about learning, or courses, per se, and that significant business opportunities exist in meeting these needs (online, more cost-effectively). Some of the services that Chegg currently provides, or will provide in the future, may directly deal with learning, and providing homework help certainly should be part of a “learning platform” but most of the other services that Chegg are more tangential or indirectly related to learning.
So, at least for now, Chegg is not a leading “learning platform” provider, but given its history of acquisitions to reach its strategic goals, perhaps the company at some point will broaden its vision to also serve more directly the learning needs of its customers.