Episode 10: Lowering the Barriers to Participation
Welcome to Education and Technology Futures, a videocast that highlights interesting trends and connections in the worlds of education, technology, and culture.
What can education learn from online dating and e-commerce platforms? Simplicity and reduced friction. Making education easy to access and easy to use is an important key to success in the coming decade.
I’ll admit, it’s been decades since I’ve given much thought to dating, but I was nonetheless intrigued by the Pew Research Center’s latest report showing that 30 percent of U.S. adults have used a dating app. 12 percent say they’ve married or entered into a committed relationship using these platforms.
This reminded me of another statistic that crossed my desk recently, the fact that Amazon’s Prime membership has now crossed 150 million.
To my way of thinking, these two phenomena — online dating and online retail and entertainment — have a number of things in common. Both offer a personalized experience that provides suggestions based on the customer’s individual preferences. Both types of platforms also give customers the power to filter results and make comparisons, as a way to help them find exactly what they’re looking for. Even better, both online dating and online retail platforms allow the customer to interact with the platforms whenever and wherever they choose.
But I think what really ties all this together, and what will continue to drive the growth of these and other platforms, is simplicity.
They make it easy. They make it easy to sign up. They make it easy to figure out how to use the platform. They make it easy to make decisions. They make it easy to give feedback.
They make it easy and comfortable for people to get what they want.
There are obvious connections to education here, particularly in an era when there is increasing competition for students at almost every level. But the biggest takeaway, I think, can be stated in the form of a question.
“How can I lower the barriers?”
Talking about the challenges of getting more instructors and institutions to adopt and implement open educational resources or OER, David Wiley writes, “There are some things about working with OER that are just harder or more painful than they need to be, and getting more people actively involved in using OER will require us to reduce or eliminate those points of friction.”
Yes. Reducing the friction.
That’s also the call in a recent article about serving adult learners. You see, in spite of the fact that there are more than 70 million adults in the U.S. who have only attained a high school degree, the number of adults enrolled in higher education institutions in actually down from its peak in the 1990s.
While there are many contributing factors to this decline, one of them is certainly the fact that we don’t make it as easy as we could.
We aren’t making it easy enough to sign up. We aren’t making it easy enough to use our platforms. We aren’t making it easy enough to make decisions and give feedback.
And most important, we aren’t making it easy enough or comfortable enough for people to get what they want.