Boston consulting group unleashing the potential of technology in education
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Boston consulting group unleashing the potential of technology in education Boston consulting group unleashing the potential of technology in education Document Transcript

  • ReportUnleashing the Potential of Technology in Education
  • The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global manage-ment consulting firm and the world’s leading advisor onbusiness strategy. We partner with clients in all sectorsand regions to identify their highest-value opportunities,address their most critical challenges, and transform theirbusinesses. Our customized approach combines deepinsight into the dynamics of companies and markets withclose collaboration at all levels of the client organization.This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable compet-itive advantage, build more capable organizations, andsecure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a privatecompany with 74 offices in 42 countries. For more infor-mation, please visit www.bcg.com.
  • Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education Allison Bailey Tyce Henry Lane McBride J. Puckett August 2011 bcg.com
  • © The Boston Consulting Group, Inc. 2011. All rights reserved.For information or permission to reprint, please contact BCG at:E-mail: bcg-info@bcg.comFax: +1 617 850 3901, attention BCG/PermissionsMail: BCG/Permissions The Boston Consulting Group, Inc. One Beacon Street Boston, MA 02108 USA
  • ContentsIntroduction 5A New Era in Educational Technology: Why Now? 6Unmet Promises 6Key Forces Driving Change Today 8No More Tradeoffs: Richness, Reach, and Results 9Enabling the Closed-Loop Instructional System 13Taking the Right Steps 13Closing the Loop 18The Closed-Loop Revolution: A Road Map for Leaders 20Recommendations for Leaders and Policymakers 20A Call to Action 24Note to the Reader 26Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 3
  • 4 The Boston Consulting Group
  • IntroductionW e are at the dawn of an era in which rooms—and where today’s tech-savvy students are often educators have the potential to har- armed with personal laptops, smartphones, and other de- ness technology to produce a step vices. In recent years, an abundance of innovative digital change in student achievement. Al- content has also emerged, propelled by a new generation though visionaries have been prom- of education companies. Furthermore, the cost of tech-ising for years that technology would transform primary nology continues to drop precipitously, expanding accessand secondary education—and despite the billions of to significantly more students across all levels—manydollars spent networking schools and equipping them in lower-income groups that historically have been ex-with computers and other devices—the actual impact cluded.on student outcomes to date has been disappointing.Even where educators have succeeded in introducing But the simple fact that these new educational tools existdevices and software into the classroom, they’ve often and have advanced so significantly does not guarantee afailed to leverage that new technology to improve stu- revolution in student outcomes—neither does it meandent performance. Yet when technology is strategically that schools will adopt these novel technologies in aintroduced into every step of the educational value meaningful way. To truly reap the full benefits that tech-chain, it does, in fact, have the potential to enhance nology has to offer, the stakeholders in education mustevery aspect of instruction and learning. overcome a full range of barriers—from the lack of an ap- propriate information and communications technologyTo fully realize this promise—and dramatically improve (ICT) infrastructure to the much more human challengestudent outcomes in primary and secondary education— of changing entrenched practices in education.technology must be deployed in support of what is knownas a closed-loop instructional system. Such a system is a This report delineates how the technology of today anddeeply aligned set of educational objectives, standards, tomorrow can serve as a catalyst for change in primarycurricula, assessments, interventions, and professional and secondary education. It explores how those in educa-development. Within this system, technology can enable tion—from teachers to education leaders and policymak-continuous improvement at every level. ers—can harness the benefits of new technology to dra- matically improve student performance and educationalAlready, technology is reshaping higher education in the outcomes. This analysis has grown out of dozens of edu-U.S., where an explosion in online learning has enabled cation projects that The Boston Consulting Group hasmillions of adults to pursue degrees or certificates across conducted over the past ten years while working with cli-a myriad of fields. This growth has been seen across for- ents ranging from national, state, and local governmentsprofit, state, and private institutions that are seeking new around the world to school districts, charter school oper-revenue and growth opportunities. The building blocks ators, universities, and for-profit higher-education compa-are also present at the primary and secondary levels, nies. All illuminated the immense challenges that edu-where we have seen a proliferation of interactive white- cators face—and the pressing need for innovativeboards, computers, and other technologies in class- solutions.Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 5
  • A New Era in Educational Technology Why Now?E ducation pundits have long promised that just 1.6 percent of their total spending. Comparable la- technology would transform today’s out- bor- and knowledge-intensive industries, such as profes- moded schools, most of which were de- sional services and health care spend 4 to 6 percent of signed to prepare young people for the in- their operating expenses on technology. As a result of dustrial age rather than a knowledge their low spending, many schools struggle with brokeneconomy. More than a decade ago, during the height of computers, faulty network connections, and other issuesthe dot-com boom, high-tech executives and other en- that impede the effective use of technology. If U.S. educa-thusiasts were predicting that the revolution was just tion systems invested in technology at a level similar toaround the corner. “We’ve just begun to use these [digi- that of comparable industries, the total investment wouldtal] tools to transform education,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs equal $25 billion to $30 billion annually—three times thetold BusinessWeek in 2000 in a story exploring the future current spending on technology.of educational technology. Certainly, technology has suc-ceeded in reshaping many other sectors of the econo- An even more critical factor hindering the impact of tech-my—from banking to travel—beyond recognition. Even nology is the way in which it has been used in education.the staid book-publishing industry is being transformed, Computers and related offerings have typically been seenas the proliferation of devices such as Amazon’s Kindle as machines that can automate and support existing prac-and Apple’s iPad drives sales of e-books. So why has ed- tices rather than as tools to transform learning, teaching,ucation been left out of this revolution? and even schools themselves. As Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen and his coauthors observed in Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will ChangeUnmet Promises the Way the World Learns, “[T]he way schools have em- ployed computers has been perfectly predictable, perfect-As Tom Vander Ark, former executive director of educa- ly logical—and perfectly wrong.”tion for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recently ob-served, “Education remains one of the few sectors that For example, the U.S. government program known asinformation and communications technologies have not E-rate promotes spending on hardware and technologytransformed.” by reimbursing providers for discounts on services to eli- gible schools and libraries. While this program has en-One explanation for this failure is that technology spend- sured that many schools are now wired, it has not provid-ing still accounts for only a tiny fraction of overall educa- ed the support needed to help them use the technologytion spending around the world, lagging far behind ex- effectively. We’ve placed computers and interactive white-penditures on salaries and other current expenses. (See boards in the classroom and plugged them into the Inter-Exhibit 1.) Such spending has been far lower in education net, but we have done little to leverage this new technol-than in industries in which technology has had more im- ogy to restructure the school day, the classroom, thepact. Gartner estimates that in 2010 in the U.S., primary- curriculum, or the ways in which students engage withand secondary-education systems spent $9.2 billion on IT, teachers—all critical components to successful outcomes6 The Boston Consulting Group
  • Exhibit 1. Only 3 Percent of Annual Global Spending for Education Goes to Technology Estimated annual global expenditures, 2004 ($billions)1 2,500 ~2,000 ~1,300 2,000 Percentage of technology spending 1,500 9 17 1,000 19 ~400 24 500 ~200 31 ~55 0 Total Salaries Other current Capital Technology2 expenses expenditures Soware Outsourcing (including (including services and infrastructure) Hardware Telecommunications supplies) Salaries and benefits Sources: UNESCO, Global Education Digest, 2007 and 2009 (Table 13); World Bank; Gartner, IT Spending by Industry Market, Worldwide, 2007–2013, 3Q09 Update (October 16, 2009); BCG analysis. 1 Expenditures are broken down on the basis of the 2007 weighted-average proportion of primary, secondary, and postsecondary spending according to the International Standard Classification of Education (UNESCO). 2 Includes public and private expenditures (all other categories include only public expenditures).in education. The chief opportunity for innovation does A number of providers, such as K12 and Connectionsnot center on simply automating existing practices but Academy, have developed high-quality digital curricula,rather on redesigning educational processes to tap the lesson plans, instructional tools, assessments, and teacherfull benefits that technology has to offer. training. School systems can take advantage of these re- sources at greatly reduced costs rather than “going itTraining teachers to use instructional technology and dig- alone.” But so far, most have failed to do so.ital resources effectively is critical. But this training has inmany cases been inadequate. Much professional develop- As a result, in the majority of primary and secondaryment and training has focused more on operating the classrooms, the textbook still dictates what students learntechnology than on exploring and explaining how it and how they are taught. Two decades into the twenty-might transform education. As a result, many instructors first century, such an approach deprives students of anare uncomfortable using the tools in their classrooms, extraordinary wealth of digital content that can awakenand they all too often revert to traditional teaching tech- their curiosity, deepen their engagement with a subject,niques. and ultimately greatly expand the knowledge they ac- quire. Digital resources can also free up teachers to as-Similarly, implementing a digital-friendly curriculum is sume very different roles in the classroom, allowing themkey—but many individual school systems lack sufficient to spend far more time coaching and mentoring studentsresources to devote to in-house curriculum development. and far less time lecturing or disseminating facts.Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 7
  • By now, stories of how technology has failed to live up to Simultaneously, enormous advances have been made inits potential have become part of the culture at many ed- the infrastructure for technology, including the growth ofucational institutions. But despite technology’s troubled cloud computing. And the proliferation of mobile deviceshistory in the classroom, we’re convinced that the dynam- makes it much easier for students to access digital con-ic that governs educational technology is at a precipice of tent anytime and anywhere. By 2014, global shipments ofdramatic change. smartphones, netbooks, e-readers, and tablets are expect- ed to top 800 million units—four times the number in 2009. (See Exhibit 2.) With the prices ofKey Forces Driving Change The proliferation of these devices falling, it is becoming easierToday for educational institutions, local educa- mobile devices makes tion agencies, states, and nations to joinA confluence of four forces, in particular, is it easier for students to the technology revolution.helping to finally ignite the technology rev- access digital contentolution in education. Public scrutiny of the cost of and return anytime and anywhere. on investment in public education is es-The number of companies focused on calating. Since the mid-1970s, educationdeploying technology in education is proliferating. spending per pupil in the U.S. has more than doubled,Perhaps the biggest driver of change is the sheer number while many achievement metrics—such as the math pro-of companies dedicated to helping educators use technol- ficiency of 17-year-olds—remain remarkably unchanged.ogy effectively. Most of today’s companies—including Add to that the recent economic crisis, which has placedthose that are thriving—did not even exist five years ago. many school systems, states, and nations in dire fiscalTo be sure, some of these companies are still small, but straits, and it is no surprise that the cost and value of ed-together they demonstrate the reality that technology can ucation have taken center stage. The trend of recent de-transform the classroom. cades is simply not sustainable. Significant demand awaits new models in education that demonstrate theAt a new career and technical high school in Las Vegas, ability to produce comparable or improved outcomes atfor instance, students carry iPods that have been preload- a lower cost—and several technology-enabled models areed with apps customized to their course schedule. Stu- showing significant promise.dents in health science have an anatomy app, for exam-ple, while students learning Spanish carry a digital For instance, one study estimates that the Florida VirtualSpanish-English dictionary. School, the first and largest state-run online school, has saved Florida $38 million over the past four years. In Cali-Nationwide, individual parents, students, and teachers fornia, the Riverside Unified School District is piloting aare also getting into the game by developing education program under which students either use their own devic-apps, such as those introduced by DreamBox Learning es (such as an iPod Touch) or are given a device to accessand Reasoning Mind. As this activity accelerates, students digital content. Riverside estimates that this approachwill soon have access to thousands of customized learn- could yield a cost savings of 30 percent over traditionaling apps. textbooks, while also appealing to many students.Technological innovation is progressing at an acceler- And Rocketship Education, a charter school network out-ated rate. Another force is the breathtaking pace at side San Francisco with ambitious plans for nationalwhich educational technology is improving. There’s been growth, is asking its students to spend 25 percent of eachan explosion in the amount of high-quality content that day in a “learning lab” working on customized, computer-is readily accessible online. The benefits of all this digital delivered material; during this time, the students are su-content have been compounded by the emerging capabil- pervised by employees who earn lower wages than teach-ity to remotely connect students with dynamic teachers ers do. Rocketship believes that this model not onlyand tutors. In combination, these developments address supports learning but also is replicable and sustainableone of the key barriers to high-quality education in disad- without requiring philanthropy to supplement publicvantaged communities. funding.8 The Boston Consulting Group
  • Exhibit 2. Prices of Devices Are Falling Significantly—and Availability Is Swelling Smartphones Netbooks E-readers Tablets Shipments Average Shipments Average Shipments Average Shipments Average (millions) price ($) (millions) price ($) (millions) price ($) (millions) price ($) 1,000 600 200 600 200 600 200 600 800 33 150 150 150 400 400 400 400 600 100 100 100 400 200 200 200 200 18 50 50 50 57 200 29 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2009 2011E 2013E 2009 2011E 2013E 2009 2011E 2013E 2009 2011E 2013E 2010E 2012E 2014E 2010E 2012E 2014E 2010E 2012E 2014E 2010E 2012E 2014E Average price Global shipments Five-year compound annual growth rate of shipments (%) Sources: Smartphones: Gartner, Forecast: Mobile Devices, Worldwide, 2003–2014, 1Q10 Update; Netbooks: IDC, Worldwide Mininotebook 2009–2013 Forecast and Analysis, July 2009; E-readers (includes connected e-readers only): IDC, Worldwide Connected eReader, Portable Media Player, and Portable Navigation Device 2010–2014 Forecast, June 2010; Tablets: IDC, Worldwide and U.S. Media Tablet 2010–2014 Forecast, May 2010; BCG analysis.Technology increasingly penetrates a greater propor- constraints. Historically, a student’s access to teachers,tion of children’s lives. The classroom that does not em- courses, and content depended largely on where he orbrace technology is becoming progressively out of touch she lived. As a result, students in less advantaged neigh-with the way even the youngest children interact and learn borhoods or countries have lacked access to the high-at home and outside of school hours. One technology quality teachers and courses that inspire their more afflu-study commissioned by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at ent counterparts. At the same time, most schools haveSesame Workshop interviewed more than 100 children be- been structured in ways that severely limit the teachers’tween the ages of 4 and 7 (about half of whom were from capacity to meet the differing abilities, interests, andlow-income families) and found that about two-thirds had learning styles of individual students.used an iPhone before; 64 percent said that it was “easy”or “very easy” to use; and 53 percent did not need an adult But new advances in technology now offer hope that weto help them play with the iPod Touch during the observa- can eliminate these constraints and, in the process, great-tion period of the study. Educators must acknowledge that ly improve opportunities for individual students. In short,students need to learn how to apply their skills in a tech- the tradeoffs that have historically existed between rich-nology-rich setting. Not only will this approach prepare stu- ness and reach as they relate to student achievement aredents for the world into which they will be graduating, it being made obsolete by technology. These tradeoffs havealso reflects the world in which they already live. long limited teachers to choosing between focused one- on-one instruction and the broader “lecture hall” teach- ing of many students. Technology can eliminate thisNo More Tradeoffs: Richness, Reach, and forced choice by giving teachers both access to manyResults more students via remote connections and the ability to interact with all those students on a more individualizedThe four forces outlined above challenge the antiquated level via online assessments, adaptive learning, and com-system of education, which is severely limited by physical munications. (See the book Blown to Bits: How the NewUnleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 9
  • Economics of Information Transforms Strategy by BCG’s Technology, provides free access to more than 1,300 ofPhilip Evans and Thomas Wurster, for a detailed discus- the university’s courses and has drawn more than 70 mil-sion of richness and reach.) lion visitors since 2000—most of whom access the site from outside the U.S. And there are many other equallyAssessing the landscape in education, we are finally at a extraordinary examples.point where we can see several key trends taking shapethat expand both richness and reach. Since 2000, annual enrollment in U.S. postsecondary on- line courses has grown more than tenfold, from 165,000Education Anytime, Anywhere, and for Anyone. Loca- students in 2000 to an estimated 2.5 million in 2010. (Seetion has long governed students’ access to education. But Exhibit 3.) By 2014, it is expected to reach nearly 4 mil-thanks to the explosion in online learning—and technol- lion. Most of this growth has come from so-called nontra-ogy’s ability to connect teachers to students in remote ditional students: adults aged 25 and older. Nearly one-locations—this barrier is rapidly eroding. In Tamil Nadu quarter of these older students pursued theirin rural India, the Gramjyoti Rural Broadband Project, postsecondary education online in 2009; by 2014, thatlaunched by the Swedish telecommunications company proportion could climb to 35 to 40 percent.Ericsson, is using wireless broadband to transmit lessonsdelivered by specialist teachers. The sessions are interac- Although much of the early growth in the sector was driv-tive and cost far less than it does to recruit a teacher to en by for-profit providers such as the University of Phoe-move to that remote area. Similarly, the MIT OpenCourse- nix and Kaplan Higher Education, traditional not-for-Ware site, sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of profit universities are increasingly introducing online Exhibit 3. U.S. Enrollment in Postsecondary Online Courses Has Grown More Than Tenfold Through 2010 Postsecondary online enrollment (thousands)1 3,971 4,000 3,610 3,252 3,000 2,904 2,525 25% annual growth 2,140 2,000 1,783 1,538 1,261 990 1,000 756 560 381 165 229 0 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 20092 2010 2011 2012 2013 20143 Actual Estimated Sources: Eduventures, Online Higher Education Market Update 2009; BCG analysis. 1 At degree-granting schools. 2 The 2009 data represent ~11 percent of total postsecondary enrollment and ~24 percent of adult (aged 25 and older) postsecondary enrollment. 3 The estimated data for 2014 represent ~20 percent of total postsecondary enrollment and ~35 to 40 percent of adult postsecondary enrollment.10 The Boston Consulting Group
  • programs in an effort to boost growth and serve a wider With technology, all students—irrespective of where theyarray of students. UMassOnline, the online division of the live—can now have access to the world’s best teachers.University of Massachusetts, now offers more than 100 Academic Earth, for example, offers lectures from top-degree and certificate programs online and serves more rated professors at Yale, Stanford, MIT, and Princeton. Ac-than 45,000 students. ademic Earth’s mission is “giving everyone on earth ac- cess to a world-class education.” In Australia, CLIVEEnrollment in online courses is also taking off at the pri- International—CLIVE stands for Continuous Learning inmary and secondary levels, rising from just a Virtual Environment—is using technol-45,000 in 2000 to 1 million in 2007. Online Technology is enabling ogy to address a severe shortage of nativelearning often gives students access to English-language teachers in Asia, where teachers to customizecourses not offered in their high school. the demand for English instruction isApex Learning, for example, was founded what they offer on enormous. CLIVE uses videoconferencing,in the late 1990s by Paul Allen, cofounder the basis of individual webcams, and other technology to enableof Microsoft, in part to give students more teachers in Australia to lecture and com-choice in Advanced Placement (AP) cours- student needs. municate with students in Asia. This is fares. Today, Apex offers not only 15 AP cours- less expensive than the traditional solu-es (far more than the typical high school) but also a full tion of hiring English teachers from as far away as thehigh-school curriculum of approximately 100 digital U.S. and Canada.courses. Over the years, it has served some 1 million stu-dents from nearly 5,000 school districts across all 50 A Customized, Adaptive Learning Experience. Forstates. centuries, personalization has been the gold standard in education. It’s why wealthy families hire tutors for theirAnd more than half the states in the U.S. now have vir- children, it’s also why the universities of Oxford and Cam-tual high schools. These programs create new opportu- bridge still use a tutorial system. But for the vast majoritynities for home-schooled students and those who were of the world’s educators, personalizing instruction haspoorly served before—including physically challenged been an enormous challenge. Now, technology is en-students and those in small or underfunded schools. abling teachers to customize what they offer on the basisFlorida Virtual School now offers more than 100 courses of individual student needs, skills, and interests.to students in all 67 Florida counties—as well as to stu-dents in every other state and more than 40 other coun- Consider Reasoning Mind, which creates an engagingtries. online community to individualize math instruction for students in grades 2 through 7. This is a far cry from theA Great Teacher for Every Student. There is increasing old “drill and kill” software programs that did little toagreement that the quality of the teacher is a vitally im- raise math scores. Reasoning Mind, which is being usedportant factor in educational outcomes. Studies suggest in several schools in Houston and Dallas, employs an in-that providing students with a high-quality teacher three ternational curriculum far more rigorous than the typi-years in row will produce huge gains on standardized cal U.S. curriculum. An evaluation by The Academy oftests and help to significantly close racial and income- Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas found thatbased achievement gaps. The problem, however, is that “Reasoning Mind students perform 10 [to] 20 percentmany of the best teachers work in affluent schools, often better than their peers on TAKS [the Texas Assessmentleaving low-income students with less effective instruc- of Knowledge and Skills achievement tests] and othertors. In the U.S. and many other developed countries, math achievement tests, and 76 percent of students saythere are also serious shortages of teachers in the science, they like math more than before they participated in thetechnology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. program.”And many developing countries face more fundamentalshortages of trained teachers in all disciplines. In coun- Meanwhile, in New York City, School of One—a pilot pro-tries such as Nepal and Chad, the ratio of trained teach- gram being tried in three of the city’s public schools—isers to students is just under 1 to 100, compared with an demonstrating how technology can help teachers person-average ratio of 1 to 15 in developed countries. alize instruction. School of One uses a learning algorithmUnleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 11
  • that takes into account individual students’ performance and a multimillion-dollar investment to produce. Instead,to develop a daily “playlist” for each student and teacher. the state turned to CK-12 Foundation, a nonprofit publish-The menu includes teacher-led instruction, one-on-one er, which used freelance authors and a combination ofmeetings, independent learning, and virtual tutoring. paid content and materials harvested from the public do-Though this program is still being piloted, Arthur Levine, main to create a new textbook in just three-and-a-halfpresident emeritus of Teachers College at Columbia Uni- months—for a fraction of the original projected cost.versity, recently commented, “New York City’s School ofOne may turn out to be the single most important exper- Similarly, despite the increasing importance of science,iment conducted in education so far. It is the future.” many students attend schools that have outdated and in- adequate science labs. But now “virtual labs” are emerg-Timely, Relevant, and Compelling Content. For gen- ing that expose students to world-class science. Brighamerations, the content provided in classes has been largely Young University and Pearson Education have teamed uplimited to textbook materials. Because it takes an average to create Y Science Laboratories—offering virtual labs inof three years to produce, a new textbook can be out-of- chemistry, physical science, physics, and earth science todate from day one. By contrast, technology offers educa- middle and high schools, as well as to colleges. These labstors exponential increases in the timeliness and richness put students in a virtual environment where they makeof the learning materials that they can share with stu- the same kinds of choices—and experience the same con-dents. sequences—that they would in an actual lab. The labs were created by video game designers using photographsTake, for example, the Commonwealth of Virginia, which and videos to create remarkably realistic simulations.was told that a new physics textbook would take five years12 The Boston Consulting Group
  • Enabling the Closed-Loop Instructional SystemI f educators, institutions, and policymakers are to tury was viewed as ideal preparation for those who would realize the full potential of technology, they need eventually run the British Empire. Greats students were to take a holistic approach and incorporate it into required to complete rigorous courses in Greek and Latin, what is called a closed-loop instructional system. history, philosophy, and literature. (See Exhibit 4.) Today, there’s growing agreement among educators andThe closed-loop approach in education is hardly new: the business leaders that graduates should be equipped withbest educational institutions have always taken a compre- twenty-first-century skills. Among the most important arehensive, holistic approach to educating their students. thinking critically, collaborating, and creating knowledgeThey start by setting clear objectives. They then put in or new insights from mountains of information. Whileplace a curriculum designed to meet those objectives, education was once designed largely to impart content,and they hire instructors who can teach the curriculum in twenty-first-century instruction focuses more on develop-a compelling fashion. Because student aptitudes and ing competencies. And because these competencies willlearning styles vary enormously, these institutions use be required of workers from China to California, the ob-frequent assessments to spot problems and then inter- jectives of national education systems are likely to lookvene to help struggling students get on track. Finally, they increasingly similar in the years ahead.carefully monitor student outcomes and use these data tomodify and improve the closed loop for future students. In the U.S., higher-education institutions are increasinglyWhat makes technology such a powerful lever is that it can using sophisticated technology to teach twenty-first-cen-help educators do all of this better, faster, and usually at a sig- tury skills. The University of Phoenix, for example, is us-nificantly lower cost. ing a virtual simulation developed by Toolwire to help students in its Axia College IT program develop problem- solving and critical-thinking skills. In the simulation, stu-Taking the Right Steps dents act as IT professionals in a virtual company, and over the course of the semester they must work throughHere we outline how educators can use technology to en- IT problems similar to those they would face in the work-able each of the six core elements in a holistic, closed- place. Technology ensures that they gain lifelike experi-loop instructional system. ence in a highly condensed and tailored setting while they confront problems they might not witness in a mul-Establish educational objectives focused on twenty- tiweek internship or other “real-world” experience. Simi-first-century skills. The first step in creating a closed- larly, in a University of Texas course on instructionalloop system is to carefully establish objectives. These technology, students are assigned a project to design ashould set clear expectations for what students will learn school district’s annual technology plan. As part of the as-and the abilities and skills they need to master by the signment, they must work with an IT professional in atime they graduate. Take Oxford University’s famed school district. The students also use Skype to videocon-“Greats” program of study, which in the nineteenth cen- ference and collaborate with chief information officers inUnleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 13
  • Exhibit 4. Technology Enables a Closed-Loop Instructional System to Deliver Better Student Outcomes ◊ Building twenty-first-century ◊ Abundant high-quality content skills: critical thinking, ◊ Timely, relevant, modular multimedia collaboration, and synthesis ◊ Tools to sort, share, validate, and ensure alignment with standards Develop objectives for the education system Develop relevant curriculum and instructional strategies ◊ Real-time data, enabling detailed Track analysis at outcomes multiple levels and ◊ Better-informed learnings decisions about ICT infrastructure strategy and resources Deliver instruction ◊ Global reach and individual Provide customization appropriate ◊ In-person, virtual, and blended interventions learning Embed frequent and ◊ Multiple channels for interaction ongoing assessment and collaboration ◊ Adaptive, “smart” interventions based on assessment feedback Hint The oxygen in the atmosphere is in the form ◊ Automated and live ◊ Real-time feedback to of oxygen molecules (O2 ). How many molecules of oxygen2 are in a mole of oxygen (O2 )? 3. 01 × 1023 students and teachers 6. 02 × 102 3 9. 03 × 102 3 1. 204 × 102 4 ◊ Deep insight into Hint: Avogardo’s number is 6.02 × 1023 learning gaps, enabling get next hint Source: BCG analysis. tailored approach Note: ICT is information and communications technology.school districts across the country. It is only a matter of harvest and use open-source content. Curriki, a nonprofittime before similar instructional technology is available created by Sun Microsystems cofounder Scott McNealy, isfor use at the middle- and high-school levels. dedicated to the development and free distribution of “world-class educational materials” for grades K–12. It al-Develop relevant curriculum offerings by using open- ready provides more than 40,000 lessons, videos, and oth-source content. The next step is to develop a curriculum er educational resources that have been used by educa-that will enable teachers to realize these objectives. Tech- tors from Silicon Valley to Morocco.nology has now expanded curriculum resources beyondthe highest hopes of teachers from just one generation Another company, BetterLesson, was launched in 2008 toago. Rather than relying on a single textbook, today’s provide access to highly rated curricula. It allows teachersteachers can mine resources developed by the world’s to upload lesson plans for free and to collaborate withgreatest universities. The challenge is how to navigate other teachers by sharing best practices and insights.through this abundance to find and validate material that KIPP, the best-known U.S. operator of charter schools, ismeets the standards students will be held to—and then using BetterLesson to help improve the effectiveness ofto adapt this material to those students’ needs. its teachers.Fortunately, there is a growing number of companies and Some educational systems are developing comprehensiveother organizations whose mission is to help educators intranets that help all the stakeholders in education make14 The Boston Consulting Group
  • better use of online content. On the sites, students and he or she can now record or stream lectures, thus greatlyteachers can have their own online working space, as well expanding his or her ability to reach students. In Korea,as the ability to chat with other students and teachers for example, Megastudy offers students in so-called cramabout their goals and progress. Teachers can plan and de- schools recorded lectures from star teachers. Becausevelop learning sequences by drawing on a large content these courses are far less expensive than traditional onesrepository and the resources of their colleagues from oth- and are accessible wherever there is Internet access,er schools. The Ultranet created by the Australian state Megastudy now serves 2.8 million students, or about halfof Victoria is a good example of this trend. (For more of Korea’s college-bound high-school seniors.about Victoria’s Ultranet and other examples fromaround the world, see the sidebar “Educational Technol- The University of Southern California (USC) has also em-ogy on a Large Scale: Lessons and Best Practices.”) ployed many of these new tools in creating its online Master of Arts in Teaching program. (See Exhibit 5.) Stu-Deliver instruction virtually. Technology helps create dents in this program do not take classes on campus—butextremely interactive and collaborative learning environ- they are still able to take advantage of “office hours” byments. Students in the U.S. who are studying Spanish, for conducting live video chats with professors. The onlineinstance, can use videoconferencing to communicate with courses include live streaming lectures that use interac-students in Spain or Mexico—creating the virtual equiva- tive whiteboards. Students are asked to record and thenlent of a foreign-study program at a fraction of the cost. upload clips of their student-teaching experiences so that other students and faculty might comment on them. Stu-In addition, as we discussed earlier, technology can ex- dents in this online master’s program are already report-pose more students to the best teachers. A teacher no ing higher completion rates than students in the tradi-longer needs to be physically present in the classroom— tional on-campus program. And 12 times as many Exhibit 5. USC’s Online Program Delivers a Classroom-Like Experience “It’s going to sound strange, but I feel like the level of interaction is much higher in this classroom. It’s not like a lecture hall where someone’s sitting in the back and could be texting.” Illustrative example of online features “If you want to ask a question, you just raise “It’s like The Brady Bunch. your hand, or there’s a We each have a window.” button you press and it raises the hand on the professor’s computer. He answers right away “The professor can ask a just like you’re in a question in a pop-up. It’s normal classroom.” just like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. We respond and “There’s a chat area where he can see if, say, only I can type a question if 50 percent of us know I missed something, and the answer, and then the professor will see that’s an area he needs that right away.” to explain more.” “There is a chalkboard where the professor can write notes and highlight “He can show us slides important things that or videos and make the people say. It helps you video full-screen. So get a better understanding everyone is watching of the material.” the video together.” “Students can instant-message each other privately during class if, for example, they really liked what someone said but didn’t want to interrupt the class.” Sources: University of Southern California Master of Arts in Teaching program (mat.usc.edu); interview with Susan Metros, associate vice provost for technology-enhanced learning and deputy chief information officer for USC, August 2010; interviews with USC students; BCG analysis.Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 15
  • students are being served by the online program as by learning modules online. These activities are designedthe campus-based one. to assess the students’ comprehension by using real- time data, with a scaffolded series of predeterminedEmbed frequent assessment with real-time, continu- “hints” that help students if they’re having difficulty.ous feedback. While educators have long recognized thecritical importance of assessing student performance, the Throughout the program, students receive instantaneoussheer logistics of grading tests has often delayed these as- feedback on their progress while their instructors gain asessments until it’s too late to intervene effectively—at real-time view of the concepts that are challenging to in-least during the relevant school year. Technology can ac- dividual students and the class as a whole. This knowl-celerate this process enormously, facilitating real-time edge arms instructors to better tailor their in-personfeedback on how students are doing. teaching time to the immediate needs of their students. OLI’s leadership attributes the program’s positive resultsTake the online courses developed by Carnegie Mellon largely to the value of the embedded assessments.University’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI). The bedrockof OLI’s courses is “embedded assessment,” in which Provide appropriate intervention with immediacyshort tests are woven throughout the online curriculum. and customization. Even when an assessment reveals a(See Exhibit 6.) Students taking a course in probability clear need for intervention, accessing the appropriateand statistics, for instance, encounter a series of learning help can often pose a big challenge in the traditional edu-games, questions, and problem sets as they move through cational environment. But technology is radically revising Exhibit 6. Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative Uses Instructional Feedback Loops to Improve Outcomes Embedded assessment and intelligent tutoring lead to acceleration of student learning Hint In blended classrooms (with face- Low-stakes assessments to-face and online instruction), are embedded in every student performance is The oxygen in the atmosphere is in the form lesson, driving continuous improved—with 75 percent of oxygen molecules (O2 ). How many molecules improvement less class time of oxygen are in a mole of oxygen (O2 )? 3.01 × 1023 Hint 6.02 × 1023 9.03 × 1023 coutez la phrase. Mettez les mots dans 1.204 × 1024 l’ordre correct. Hint: Avogardo’s number is 6.02 × 1023 Listen Tes ? ça faire te de parents permettent get next hint Check Online-only students achieved outcomes similar to those of traditional students, with Hint: Le deuxième mot, après un adjectif greater persistence: 99 percent took the final possessif, est un substantif. exam, compared with 40 percent in traditional classrooms get previous hint get next hint “Hints” are scaffolded to walk students through the cognitive processes they should engage in Sources: Interview with Candace Thille, director, Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative, June 2010; http://oli.web.cmu.edu/openlearning/; BCG analysis.16 The Boston Consulting Group
  • Educational Technology on a Large Scale Lessons and Best Practices Many nations—and states and provinces—have only just To create the Ultranet as it exists today, Victoria spent a begun to think about how they might use technology to decade and more than $4 billion to build infrastructure improve their education systems. They have much to learn and improve its schools. The Ultranet aims to unite all from locales that have adopted aggressive technology 1,550 schools in the state—along with more than 500,000 strategies, notably the state of Victoria in students, 70,000 teachers, and 1.1 mil- Australia. Victoria’s experience offers im- The Ultranet aims to lion parents—in a dynamic, student-cen- portant lessons to other nations, states, tric online-learning environment. It in- provinces, and education systems that unite all 1,550 schools corporates many of the key elements of a aim to optimize their use of technology in Victoria in a student- closed-loop system. It also facilitates cur- to transform education effectively. riculum development by offering a so- centric online-learning called design space where teachers can Victoria, Australia work together online to plan curriculum environment. The Australian state of Victoria—best and learning activities. (See the exhibit known for its largest city, Melbourne—of- “Victoria’s Ultranet Enables Stakehold- fers the most encouraging example that we have encoun- ers to Collaborate and Communicate.”) And it offers con- tered of a major system that seems to be getting it right. siderable support to students, including opportunities to In 2010, Victoria launched a sweeping e-learning initiative communicate with other students and teachers. known as the Ultranet. The Ultranet is a knowledge man- agement framework for schools and their communities; it Although it is far too early to assess the Ultranet’s ulti- assists teachers in planning and delivering learning activ- mate impact, Victoria’s endeavor in educational technol- ities, and it facilitates the collaboration and sharing of ogy is differentiated from others by the attention its de- curriculum content among teachers. signers have paid to developing a comprehensive Victoria’s Ultranet Enables Stakeholders to Collaborate and Communicate Space for students to communicate with their Students and teachers can learning contacts about collaborate in order to their learning goals collectively deepen their and learning portfolio knowledge and skills Home 1 Collabo- Community for users in eXpress rative Venue for professional se space learning lea a particular school or for dialogue among teachers spaces Re similar groups across in planning curriculum schools to share activites and learning activities and information De Design within and across ies Communities sp spaces schools Users Lea Learning Record of up-to-date Content information about each Capacity to store and profile pr student, including timetable, search for personal, attendance, performance, school-produced Re Learning and feedback content and DEECD mail E-mail lea Privacy t k tasks digital resources se and 2 security Teachers to plan, deliver, and assess learning activities and for students to participate in such activities Source: BCG analysis. Note: DEECD is the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria.Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 17
  • Educational Technology on a Large Scale (continued) change-management plan—and by the efforts of clearly ing professional training to staff and training them in the identified leaders who can drive systemic change. Reason- effective use of the Ultranet to improve the teaching and ing that teachers are more likely to respond to coaching learning processes. This layered approach to leadership from their peers than from technical experts, Victoria se- recognizes how critical the human element is in deploy- lected 68 teachers to become regional-level Ultranet ing educational technology. Without strong buy-in from coaches and to support schools in their region. At each teachers and principals, technology is not likely to launch school, the principal is expected to champion the Ultranet fundamental change. among teachers, students, and parents. Finally, each school has “super users,” who are responsible for provid-what is possible and helping students access the special- Such data systems require significant up-front invest-ized tutoring they need. The data provided by continuous ment, however, and that has been a key barrier to theirassessment makes it feasible for instructors to quickly adoption. Yet, the importance of data systems has beenpinpoint exactly where a student is having a problem, recognized at the national level in the U.S. One of theand the emerging industry of “intelligent tutoring” can four major priorities of President Barack Obama’s Racethen respond by quickly delivering a tutor with the pre- to the Top initiative is “building data systems thatcise skills needed to help the student. measure student growth and success and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction.”Consider Tutor.com: since its launch in 1998, the compa-ny has emerged as the leading online provider of tutoring A second barrier to widespread adoption has been theservices. Tutor.com connects students to a network of limited types of data being collected. To date, these datathousands of tutors, and help is available 24-7. It also of- have been confined largely to academic test results. Butfers its services to individuals and through libraries, to truly personalize learning, educators will also needschools, community colleges, and the U.S. military. Its suc- data on each student’s learning preferences and interestscess is spurring new entrants, such as Apangea Learning, and on which instructional approaches work best for himwhich offers three levels of support that range from an or her. The ultimate goal is for those who lead education“automated learning coach” to one-on-one sessions with systems to use these data to make better, faster, and morea tutor. Apangea says that it can help students boost as- customized decisions about how to serve individual stu-sessment scores by as much as 30 percent. dents as well as the entire school system.Track outcomes through ICT-enabled data-manage-ment systems. For those who run education systems, Closing the Looptechnology can be used to track what students are learn-ing far more precisely and quickly than ever before. To- Clearly, there are many examples of how educators areday, administrators often have to wait months for data on using technology to enhance each stage of the closedstudents’ achievement and performance. Even then, the loop. However, realizing the full potential of the ap-data they get are often too rudimentary to allow firm con- proach requires combining all of these elements into aclusions about which approaches are working. But exist- seamless system. Achieving this goal is far from auto-ing technology can enable teachers and administrators to matic, and bringing all the pieces together requiresunderstand what is currently working at the level of an strong leadership.individual lesson or course, program of study, or school—or even an entire system. The data can then become a Still, we are encouraged by a number of ongoing effortspowerful management tool for administrators as they al- that seek to use technology in a holistic way in an effortlocate resources and decide which programs to continue to create a closed loop. One excellent example is OLI. Be-or curtail. gun in 2002, OLI set out to conduct research on the most18 The Boston Consulting Group
  • effective ways to foster online and “blended” learning; the areas where students are clearly having trouble un-the latter combines online and campus-based instruction. derstanding the material. In this way, instructors areTo develop world-class curricula in subjects ranging from able to intervene in a highly personalized and custom-statistics and economics to chemistry and French, OLI ized fashion to meet their students’ identified and indi-formed teams consisting of subject-matter experts, spe- vidual learning needs.cialists in the human-computer interface, IT profession-als, and students. Carnegie Mellon closely tracks the outcomes from these courses and identifies the strategies that are proving mostThe teams establish learning objectives for each course, effective. The combination of embedded assessments,and they develop a series of online course modules that continuous feedback loops, and careful research has cre-are carefully designed to leverage technology to meet ated a continuous improvement cycle. This approach isthose objectives. The curriculum and assessments are accelerating student learning: one study showed that stu-entirely online, with no textbooks to reference. As noted dents in an OLI statistics course learned a full semester’searlier in this report, courses incorporate a series of em- worth of material in half the time it took their peers in abedded assessments and deliver real-time feedback on traditional classroom. Furthermore, in the blended mod-performance to both students and faculty. In the blend- el, the percentage of students passing the courses has in-ed environment, instructors have been able to use tech- creased. These courses, which have won recognition fromnology to reduce the amount of in-person class time by the U.S. government, are now being used elsewhere, in-75 percent for a typical semester-long course. Students cluding community colleges.learn the material largely outside of class, allowing in-structors to use class time more efficiently to focus onUnleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 19
  • The Closed-Loop Revolution A Road Map for LeadersW e turn now to a broader question: Embrace a holistic strategy. Often, leaders in education what should educators, policymak- work with various technology vendors in silos and build ers, and other stakeholders do now a system of disconnected parts. Or they focus on building to strategically adopt and deploy infrastructure, with little or no provision for the instruc- technology that enables the closed- tional experience or for the resources necessary to trainloop system? teachers. Or they focus on one element of the closed-loop system, such as rich digital content, while ignoring otherIn the coming years, the technology revolution in educa- elements that are essential if that content is to truly im-tion has the potential to gather strength and momentum prove student outcomes.as visionary leaders take up a technology-enabled closed-loop approach to instruction. But whether and how quick- By contrast, a holistic strategy starts by setting clear edu-ly this happens within systems (and even nations) will cational goals and then designing a closed-loop systemdepend in part on the policy environment—and the tailored to meet those goals. The strategy is not primarilyextent to which it encourages and fosters the use of tech- about how to put the latest, greatest software or device tonology. use but rather about how to employ available technolo- gies and people to address a specific educational need.Another critical variable will be how quickly individual Furthermore, although “holistic” does not necessarilyinstitutions move to adopt and implement effective tech- mean putting all of the pieces in place at once, it doesnology. To date, there has not been a strong policy push mean that strategies must address all of the steps of theto adopt educational technologies at the primary and sec- closed-loop system. An initiative that is only about cur-ondary levels, despite the groundswell of activity in post- riculum, or only about delivery or assessment, may drivesecondary education. modest improvements—but it is less likely to produce a significant change in outcomes.In short, while a technology revolution is now possible, itis hardly inevitable. And this suggests that gaps in relative Enable teachers to use and leverage technology insystem performance may widen, depending on the extent the classroom. Teachers are especially important andto which policymakers and leaders in education seize are arguably the most significant factor (of those that arethese opportunities. within a school’s purview) in determining student out- comes. Starting at the beginning, schools of education need to develop courses and concentrations that aim toRecommendations for Leaders build the teachers of tomorrow. The next critical step inand Policymakers creating a highly skilled and highly energized corps of digital instructors requires educational institutions toCrafting the education system of the future requires both adopt a comprehensive approach to recruiting, develop-education leaders and policymakers to take decisive ac- ing, and retaining top teaching talent. Such an approachtion today. will have a positive impact on student outcomes no mat-20 The Boston Consulting Group
  • ter how an institution uses technology—and it will facili- on their strengths and areas for improvement, along withtate a more successful implementation of technology ini- customized learning plans to guide that improvement,tiatives. online communities for interacting with fellow learners, and in-person and virtual tutors to provide help alongEducational institutions must also address other teacher- the way.related imperatives. First, it is critical to provide teacherswith technology-related training at multiple levels. The For most students, especially in primary and secondarypast two decades have provided ample ev- schools, technology works best when in-idence that the average teacher doesn’t The promise of corporated into a blended environment.have the time or energy to figure out new (See the sidebar “Tuning In and Turning technology extendstools and systems on his or her own. Teach- On in the Tech-Enabled Classroom—ander training must go beyond how to operate far beyond what most Beyond.”) Although online-only experienc-a new device to cover how to integrate students experience in es will be appropriate for some, this is nottechnology into the curriculum and how to likely the answer for the majority of tradi-teach in a technology-enabled environ- school today. tional students (aged 24 and younger).ment. Imparting such knowledge often re- Rather, the goal is to use digital tools toquires drawing on outside expertise. greatly enhance instruction and interaction—and, in the process, transform school into something both less con-Second, new approaches should be designed to take into fining and more relevant for individual students.account the obstacles that teachers face. For many teach-ers, lack of time is the greatest constraint. Technologies Promote the development of high-quality digital as-that save time and make the teacher’s job easier are more sessments that enable continuous feedback. If we’relikely to be adopted than those that add complexity. Tech- going to build a true technology-based closed-loop in-nology is well suited to helping teachers break through structional system, we must develop continuous feedbacksome of their current constraints—such as the time it loops that deliver real-time performance data to educa-takes to assess student performance. But even when a tion leaders, instructors, parents, and students. Thesenew approach seems promising, it must be designed with start with high-quality digital assessments—not only for-its overall impact on the teacher in mind. mative, embedded assessments (exercises conducted dur- ing the course of instruction to determine where furtherThird, vehicles for professional development must be instruction is needed) but also end-of-course summativemultifold: classes and seminars alone are insufficient. assessments (so-called because they summarize the stu-The same technology that has the potential to revolution- dent’s educational development)—that provide perfor-ize student learning should empower institutions to pro- mance data much more quickly than current assess-vide teachers with more customized help, as well as offer ments do.online communities that aid them in supporting one an-other and exchanging ideas. Currently, it can take up to six months for data to become available from even the most comprehensive of the sum-Create an engaging student experience. Leaders must mative assessment systems, such as the Florida Compre-ask themselves and their teams whether technology is be- hensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Effective use of technol-ing used to provide a fundamentally more engaging ex- ogy could greatly accelerate these processes, deliveringperience for students or merely to replicate the status faster feedback to schools, teachers, parents, and stu-quo in electronic form. dents. Embedded assessments will position teachers to create so-called micro–feedback loops for quickly identi-The promise of technology extends far beyond what most fying their students’ immediate needs, delivering custom-students experience in school today. As we have de- ized interventions, and seeing the results immediately.scribed, new technologies can help achieve both scale Continuous, data-enabled feedback loops will also helpand personalization in learning. Many more students can districts, states, and nations identify the best or preferredhave access to the best content and instruction. At the providers in education on the basis of their ability to de-same time, students can expect more frequent feedback liver better outcomes.Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 21
  • Tuning In and Turning On in the Tech-Enabled Classroom—and Beyond Imagine how a high-school U.S. history course might be In addition, the teacher would work individually with stu- delivered using the technologies available today. To begin dents to guide them in crafting projects exploring the a unit on the tumultuous 1960s, students would log into 1960s in greater depth. Technology would allow the stu- their course website and work through a class module. dents to roam far afield in their research and to access But rather than spending classroom time listening to both primary sources and analysis too new or comprehen- their teacher lecture about dates and concepts, the stu- sive to have been published in textbooks. One student dents would use a computer or device while at home or in might use Skype to interview a Vietnam veteran, while an- the library—or anywhere—to view videos featuring inter- other might explore the digital archives of the Library of views with Cold War scholar John Lewis Gaddis, lectures Congress to learn about the antiwar movement. To devel- from Todd Gitlin discussing his book The Sixties: Years of op, present, and share their insights, the students would Hope, Days of Rage, or discussions with Doris Kearns Good- create videos, podcasts, or interactive online modules of win about Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. their own or use other Web-enabled technologies or tools. They would then use the Internet to access primary docu- ments such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Bir- It is important to note that it isn’t the technology itself mingham Jail” and would work through interactive online that makes this an advanced or modern approach. Cer- modules designed to explore the key issues of that tainly, students in prior generations could have accom- decade, from the civil rights movement to the Vietnam plished some of these same activities—watching videos, War. Personal devices—smartphones or tablets or a mix reading the primary text of King’s letter—without devices, of both—would allow the students to continue working on interactive modules, or online technologies. Instead, the the modules while they traveled to and from school, wait- technology facilitates a full integration of all the materi- ed to be picked up after practice, or worked at home. als, instruction, assessments, and interventions related to the lessons. Since students would cover most of the material while outside of the classroom, the teacher would be able to de- Ultimately, this blended approach could immerse the stu- vote class time to developing the students’ critical-think- dents in the issues that dominated the turbulent 1960s in ing skills through group discussions and debates about a far more meaningful and enlightening way than current the era. Because the teacher would spend less time dis- teaching methods can. Meanwhile, it would also enable seminating facts, the focus would be on providing stu- teachers to provide customized coaching and to focus in dents with individualized assistance. He or she would be particular on developing the students’ higher-order think- equipped with quantitative and up-do-date data on how ing skills. well the students understood and applied the material, since the online modules would include embedded assessments that would instantly feed results to the teacher.Develop a critical mass of research that confirms—or blended learning can both improve and accelerate stu-refutes—technology’s benefits. To date, research on dent outcomes. This research, which was conducted inonline and blended instructional formats and strategies introductory-level mathematics courses at an elite univer-has been small in scale and reach. Also, the press has sity, must be supplemented by equally careful researchbeen flooded with articles that purport to demonstrate into how technology is best deployed in other settings—that educational technology doesn’t “work.” But as Clay- such as secondary schools and community colleges—andton Christensen, Michael Horn, and Curtis Johnson have in less “linear” subjects.argued in their book, Disrupting Class, research needs toexamine technology use at a deeper level to answer the Online universities and virtual schools, with their vastquestions of where, when, and how it is best deployed. populations and course catalogs, present amazing oppor- tunities for large-scale research agendas. Given the speedThe most compelling research so far has been done at the at which real-time assessments can provide data, wepostsecondary level: Carnegie Mellon has shown that should expect an explosion of research evaluating how22 The Boston Consulting Group
  • students learn. In turn, this should pave the way for faster tios obviate one of technology’s major benefits—theimprovement in the ways students are taught. ability to reach more students with fewer, or different- ly structured, resources. Education officials need toA key element in the building of this trove of high-quality promote policies that focus more on outcomes than re-research on educational technology will be the develop- source inputs.ment of robust longitudinal data systems. These data sys-tems, which permit the tracking of student outcomes ◊ Eliminate geographic barriers to quality. Policymakersacross years and school systems, will sup- need to consider a range of changes gov-port both high-quality research and the Funding should be erning issues such as textbook adoptioncareful evaluation of digital providers. and teacher certification. The goal should based on student be to empower schools and students toEnact policies that encourage and facil- outcomes rather than seek the highest-quality options, no matteritate the proliferation of digital learn- on enrollment or “seat where they might be based. Digital instruc-ing. In higher education, competitive mar- tors must be able to teach students at mul-ket pressures will no doubt encourage time” in class. tiple school sites and across multiplemany institutions to catch up with online states. In the U.S., adoption of the Com-pioneers such as Carnegie Mellon. But in markets with mon Core State Standards (already adopted by morefew competitive pressures, states and nations must adopt than 40 states) will serve as a critical step in catalyzingsupportive policies that create a similar impetus for digital providers to develop universal, state-neutralchange. In the U.S., the Digital Learning Now! report, re- curricula and to benefit from improved scale. (Theleased by former Governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise in Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-ledlate 2010, provides a helpful blueprint for such policies. effort coordinated by the National Governors Associa-Among its recommendations are the following: tion Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The standards were developed in◊ Promote more flexible use of funding. In today’s budget- collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and constrained environment, it may not be realistic for experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to governments and schools at any level to increase over- prepare children for college and the workforce.) all technology spending. But shifting how and where current funding is directed could make a big differ- Build an ICT infrastructure that enables the closed ence. If funding streams are made more flexible, school loop. Each educational system will start from a different districts could deploy funds where they are most effec- point in terms of its existing ICT infrastructure and edu- tive instead of simply where regulations dictate. For cation-related software applications—so each will require instance, print textbooks and digital content should a customized technology road map. High-speed Internet compete on a level playing field; districts should not and wireless access are the minimum essentials, but in be prevented from using budgets for instructional ma- many countries outside the U.S., even these are not wide- terials to procure digital content. In addition, funding ly available. After creating the basic ICT infrastructure, should increasingly be based on student outcomes many organizations struggle to invest in the right soft- rather than on enrollment numbers or “seat time”— ware applications and end-user devices. Vendors are in- the hours spent attending class. In the world of digital novating profusely, but because few standards exist, the education, students should progress faster if they can solutions often are not interoperable. For example, the demonstrate that they have already mastered materi- applications that run on Apple’s iPad and those that run al. And funding for education providers should reflect on Google’s Android tablet are not interoperable, frus- this shift from traditional, linear progress. trating school administrators who are trying to deploy tablets in their institutions.◊ Remove obstacles to innovation. Existing policies, par- ticularly in the primary and secondary educational sys- Given the proliferation of applications and devices and tem in the U.S., limit the ability of educators to restruc- the emergence of cloud computing, there is likely to be ture the traditional classroom through digital means. significant change in the technology landscape of the fu- For example, caps on class size or teacher-student ra- ture. As a result, it will be important for nations, states,Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 23
  • and school systems alike to keep their technology options districts, and institutions that decide to embark on thisopen, especially in the absence of standards. This reality journey.will require approaches such as partnering, outsourcing,leasing, and otherwise making the cost of technology in- Today’s technology has the power to break down the bar-vestments more variable. It also implies using the com- riers and constraints that have long frustrated educators,puting cloud as a way to minimize exposure to changing while also equipping students with the new skills thatstandards and to reduce up-front investments. they will need to succeed in the twenty-first-century econ- omy. Products and services are availableImplementing a closed-loop system will The early winners will today that were not even thought possibledemand a holistic ICT and applications just a few years ago, and costs are drop- have the support ofstrategy; such a strategy will systematically ping rapidly. Meanwhile, the demand forbuild toward and reinforce the closed loop. policymakers willing technology in education is increasing ev-It is critical to design modular target archi- to create a supportive ery day, as educators look for new ways totecture so that individual components can improve student outcomes in an era of fis-be swapped in and out as new applica- ecosystem for change. cal constraints—and as today’s studentstions and technologies emerge. Each or- expect classrooms to employ the kind ofganization will therefore require a capable chief informa- technology that they use in their personal lives.tion officer who understands how technology will be usedin instruction and learning. Also critical to making the Nonetheless, this revolution has not yet realized its fullright choices will be an integrated decision-making potential. Since computers were first introduced in class-process in which key stakeholders (such as principals, rooms, we’ve learned that technological devices, soft-teachers, parents, and students) are engaged. ware, and Web-based content are not enough to funda- mentally restructure teaching and learning. Rather, creating this revolution will require leadership in craft-A Call to Action ing a holistic strategy for educational technology, efforts to tap and leverage teachers, an engaging student expe-Carnegie Mellon’s OLI and the many other examples cit- rience, high-quality continuous feedback, solid researched in this report demonstrate that the technology revolu- and data, supportive policies—and an underlying andtion in education is no longer hypothetical. It has already true commitment across all levels of the educational sys-begun, especially in the postsecondary space. And we are tem. Consequently, even as some institutions and sys-convinced that it holds the extraordinary potential to tems take full advantage of technology, others will lagtransform primary and secondary education—not only in far behind.terms of how students learn but also how much and howquickly they learn. We are also excited about the oppor- The early winners won’t necessarily be the best-endowedtunities that this technology revolution presents to coun- districts and systems, but they will have the support oftries beyond the U.S.—nations in both the developed and farsighted policymakers who are willing to create a sup-the developing world that are looking to dramatically im- portive ecosystem for change. They will also be headedprove their educational systems. by leaders who truly grasp technology’s potential and who are committed to the kind of multifaceted profes-In today’s global economy—from rural villages in India sional development that will empower teachers to useto the heart of Silicon Valley—no nation or neighbor- technology to improve student outcomes.hood can afford to ignore this opportunity. In this re-port, we have highlighted several governments, educa- We feel certain that at least some of these leaders willtional institutions, and school systems that have come from the charter school movement, which wasundertaken ambitious plans to use technology to en- founded with the mission of proving that schools that arehance learning. Some of the stories we have presented publicly funded but independently run can deliver supe-clearly illustrate the challenges that can limit the impact rior results. By nature, such schools are better able to takeof even large, expensive efforts. But we are confident a “clean sheet” approach to education and are less en-that these lessons will help guide other countries, states, cumbered by legacy systems. These schools, along with24 The Boston Consulting Group
  • some bold school districts, will demonstrate that technol- tem. This approach will increasingly separate the best ed-ogy can be an enormously powerful tool in improving ucation systems from their more mediocre counterparts.educational outcomes. Eventually, their leadership will We recognize that there are risks—from making theinspire a much broader transformation. wrong investments to failing to execute a technology strategy—and thus a need for careful execution. But weAnother common key to success will be a holistic ap- are also persuaded that the rewards will be enormous.proach to integrating technology into a closed-loop sys-Unleashing the Potential of Technology in Education 25
  • Note to the ReaderThe analysis in this report has grown former U.S. Secretary of Education For Further Contactout of dozens of education projects Margaret Spellings, a BCG senior ad- Allison Baileythat BCG has conducted over the past visor. Partner and Managing Directorten years while working with clients U.S. Coleader, Education Practiceranging from national, state, and local The authors also acknowledge the BCG Bostongovernments around the world to contributions of several of their col- +1 617 973 1200school districts, charter school opera- leagues: bailey.allison@bcg.comtors, universities, and for-profit higher-education companies. All illuminated Reggie Gilyard, a partner and man- Tyce Henrythe immense challenges that educa- aging director in BCG’s Los Angeles Principaltors face—and the pressing need for office and a coleader of the U.S. Edu- BCG Washingtoninnovative solutions. cation practice +1 301 664 7400 henry.tyce@bcg.comAbout the Authors Larry Kamener, a senior partnerAllison Bailey is a partner and man- and managing director in the firm’s Lane McBrideaging director in the Boston office of Melbourne office and the global PrincipalThe Boston Consulting Group and a leader of the Public Sector practice BCG Washingtoncoleader of the U.S. Education prac- +1 301 664 7400tice. Tyce Henry is a principal in the Kristen Loureiro, a consultant in mcbride.lane@bcg.comfirm’s Washington office and a core BCG’s Boston officemember of the Education practice. J. Puckett Martin Manetti, a partner and man-Lane McBride is a principal in Senior Partner and Managing Director aging director in the firm’s Abu Dha-BCG’s Washington office and a core Global Leader, Education Practice bi officemember of the Education practice. BCG DallasJ. Puckett is a senior partner and +1 214 849 1500 Christiane Mück, a project leader inmanaging director in the firm’s Dal- puckett.j@bcg.com BCG’s Dubai officelas office and the global leader of theEducation practice. Joanne Wilson Nor Azah Razali, a partner and managing director in the firm’s Kua- Global Practice Manager, EducationAcknowledgments Practice la Lumpur officeThe authors thank the interview par- BCG Los Angelesticipants for providing invaluable in- +1 213 621 2772 Penelope Winslade, global manag-sights into the current state and fu- wilson.joanne@bcg.com er of the Public Sector practiceture potential of technology in edu-cation. They acknowledge the work Finally, the authors would like to Carmen Rocheand dedication of Sara Staats (a BCG acknowledge Elizabeth Bailey and Marketing Manager, Public Sectoralumna) in driving the initial re- Bill Symonds for helping to write the Practicesearch, and Joanne Wilson, the glob- report and Mary DeVience, Elyse BCG Sydneyal practice manager for the Educa- Friedman, Kim Friedman, and Janice +61 2 9323 5600tion practice, for her contribution to Willett for their contributions to its roche.carmen@bcg.comthis report and for helping to keep editing, design, and production.the project on track. They also thank26 The Boston Consulting Group
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