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How to Build Successful mEducation – A Bigger Scope (#mlearning)

McKinsey & Co. and the GSMA have estimated the worldwide mobile opportunity in the education sector will be worth USD 70 billion by 2020 (check out the previous post), of which USD 32 billion is attributable to hardware and equipment sales with the balance split across a range of products and services, such as eBooks, eCourses, game and simulation-based learning tools, and collaboration tools. However, there still remains considerable uncertainty about where the commercial opportunities lie and the business models necessary to monetise them.

McKinsey mlearning driving forces

Image from Ambient Insight

In another report published on October 2012, it explores how mobile operators are applying different business models to address the mEducation market and the needs of key user segments. It includes illustrative case studies on the different business models applied by Bharti Airtel, SFR and Tata DOCOMO. These each fall into one of three generic categories:

  • B2B (business-to-business) – this involves the supply of an mEducation service to an organisation
  • B2C (business-to-consumer) – the supply of an mEducation service directly to students.
  • B2B2X (the end-user ‘X’ can be a government-operated school, a corporation or a consumer) – Within this generic framework, three alternatives are possible….

The sustainable delivery of mEducation services requires several business, education and technology disciplines to be combined. This calls for cross-discipline dialogue and a degree of partnering in operational ventures.

In the view of Geoff Stead (Tribal Group), much of the expertise to achieve this exists, but in isolated pockets; what appears to be lacking is a greater level of collaboration across the ecosystem of academics (pedagogical knowhow), technologists (flow of funding and tools) and practitioners (organisations involved in the physical and practical challenges of delivering mEducation).

In our view, local instructional designers are also a key constituency for collaboration. These designers provide a perspective on local context and customs, as well as content and how that content is intended to be used by educators and learners.

Partnering is central to new business models. The business model frameworks and tactics described in this study are intended to foster a more business-oriented dialogue between the education content, education services and mobile sectors about new and commercially-sustainable mEducation services.

Although this is a report focusing on business models, there are some really good quotes revealing useful suggestions on directions for mobile learning.

Within the eBook category, there appears to be a short-term opportunity to digitise existing texts. However, as Andrew Lowinger, the CEO of COPIA, a digital content platform provider, pointed out “digital text books will not remain the same as they are now; eventually, they will be compilations, especially as electronic aggregation is relatively straightforward”.

The text book conversion argument also applies to eCourses. Geoff Stead, Head of Innovation at Tribal Group, a provider of education technology products and services, noted that the business of “converting eLearning courses to mLearning is almost a waste of time because it is very important to re-think the mobile learning experience – shorter chunks, stop/start use, navigation and (built-in) assessment tools”.

Travis Allen, the founder and CEO of iSchool Initiative, a student-led non-profit organisation in the USA mEducation market, said that, in his experience, many leaders in education understand the need for mEducation and are very receptive to the concept. However, iSchool Initiative works primarily with parents and students on the basis that adoption of mEducation services is more likely to occur if there is a strong demand-pull.

Tom Hall of Pearson pointed out that “in the mobile learning world, the real opportunities lie in combining services and delivering them over a device direct to students, for a personalised, one-on-one learning experience”.

Joseph Noble (OUP) commented that “the market is generally moving towards offering a full service and not just digital content. The service wrapper includes items such as teacher training and syllabus structuring advice. In addition to these, OUP is itself addressing the market for test preparation services”. However, interviewees cautioned that end-user’s needs should determine the extent to which different elements of the service are joined-up. Institutional buyers are also seeking support for deployment, training and support activities.

Martin Restrepo (Editacuja) spoke of how platform tools need to turn non-developers into developers of content; these may be teachers in the traditional sense, but could also include farmers and service technicians, for example.

4 cases examined at the ending part of this report  are all great examples to know :

  • iSchool Initiative – indirect marketing approach (USA)
  • Bharti Airtel – Education as a passport to better employability (India)
  • SFR’s “School-As-A-Service” offering (French)
  • Tata DOCOMO – Anytime, Anywhere Learning with ‘Tutor on Mobile’ (India)

This report presents the findings from a set of discussions with education-sector providers, policymakers and mobile operators. Inter-disciplinary efforts are vital to the success of mEducation. Download the full report here : New Business Models: Innovation in Practice.


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