Abductive reasoning, i.e., imagining what might be, is something that most schools have never been good at, for years and years. We tend to operate in the camp of deductive and inductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning is anathema to us. And so, even as online learning continues to gain traction in the larger K-12 market place, we continue to espouse our traditional business model of ever-increasing tuition for a product ("education") that is delivered (no, I don't like that term, either...) in the same way.
As Vasant Dhar, a professor at NYU Stern School of Business, writes in the January 7 (2013) 'soapbox' column of the FInancial Times, "Top-branded universities may soon find themselves competing on price with lower-tier brands and potentially losing the battle. Their edge has been solid reputations and knowledge, honed over decades, which until now has been paid for. IT has changed that forever. Information is fluid and once separated from its source can be easily copied, modified and even improved. Top-branded universities have reason to worry over the long term." (11)
Substitute "top-branded independent schools" for 'universities,' and you can begin to see what I'm driving at.
I'm not about curtailing school as we know it. I'm not about tearing down buildings or retro-fitting them to be cyber-cafés. I tend to disagree with Prof Dhar about how easy it is to copy, modify, and improve information, primarily because I believe that how we learn is not in synch with how our society wants to test kids (standardized tests); in other words, testing/assessment is its own issue that is hurting real learning.
Having said that, I think that schools do have to worry if our instructional models continue to be command-and-control, wherein we do straightforward lectures and one-way delivery of content, expecting it to be regurgitated on exams (assessments). If we continue down that path, we will be in trouble.
We do need to consider the value of abductive reasoning, a type of thinking that allows us to say, "Hey, wait a minute. If online learning continues to be this disruptive, how might we alter our learning environments so that we cannot be replicated, so that we can increase our value proposition?"
Some schools are doing that, but too few. We need to embrace abductive reasoning that encourages us to use the phrase "how might we" as a means of imagining the next steps of our own evolution. In other words, imagining how we might transform our business models.
If we choose not to innovate (business models) when we are capable (i.e., now), what will we do when we are forced to innovate, but cannot (diminishing resources and enrollment)?