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Reducing the Cost of Higher Education

In a past post about a new educational model Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).  It seems that more and more well know universities are offering MOOCs.  Allowing anyone to have access to some of the best professors in their fields for free.

This movement has started to cause people to examine the question of what should the cost of higher education really be?  The question is being raised often enough that a post on the HBR blog has started to address it.

The biggest challenge is getting employers to understand the value of the MOOCs.  They still don’t know what to think about them.

According to a recent Financial Times article, many employers are unsure of what to make of MOOC education — unsurprising, since many new technologies and business models go through multiple evolutions. The good news, according to the article, is that 80% of respondents surveyed would accept MOOC-like education for their internal employee development. We can extrapolate from this survey that the employer demand for online education exists — and, moreover, that it is only a matter of time until universities and well-funded venture capitalists will respond to this white space in the market very soon.

Employers find it great for already hired and in the workforce people but what about using the system to get a college degree?  Would it be totally free?

Georgia Tech, in fact, has already responded; in January, it will begin offering a master’s degree in computer science, delivered through MOOCs, for $6,600. The courses that lead to the degree are available for free to anyone through Udacity, but students admitted to the degree program (and paying the fee) would receive extra services like tutoring and office hours, as well as proctored exams.

In the near future, higher education will cost nothing and will be available to anyone in the world. Degrees may not be free, but the cost of getting some core education will be. All a student needs is a computing device and internet access. Official credentialing from an on-ground university may cost more; in early 2012, MIT’s MOOC, MITx, started to offer online courses with credentials, for “a small fee” available for successful students — and we’re eager to see how Georgia Tech’s MOOC degree will transform the education model.

This seems reasonable to me.  You can take the courses for free, but to get the degree or access to office hours, tutoring and other services you pay a fee.

So now the student has the power to decide whether they pay for the learning or not.  The next step is to make a database that shows the student took the class and completed it.  Nothing more.  Then a person could list it on their resume and employers have a way to validate the person actually did it.  Maybe universities can change to have access to the database?

I find the MOOC system very intriguing.  As someone who has two elementary school aged kids, I am very interested in how the educational system will start to transform over the next decade and how employers will except the changes.

My Kids’ School Eliminates Waste in Cafeteria

It’s that time of year again when I spend a day working at my kids’ school.  It is always a lot of fun to be with the kids in their classrooms and help with activities.  Every year I learn something new from a visual management perspective or from some other aspect of lean.  The school is not “using lean” but there are always elements of it around.

This year I noticed some small improvements that were great ways to element small amounts of waste that would add up over time.  One example was the placement of the silverware in the lunch line.  It used to be the first thing in the line so every kid would grab one of each piece of silverware before choosing their lunch and knowing what they would actually need for their lunch.  Now the silverware is the very last thing in the lunch line.  The kids can choose their food and then pick the appropriate utensils.  This eliminates the cleaning silverware that was never used, saving time in putting silverware away as well as possibly reducing the number of dishwasher cycles needed to clean the dishes.

A second small improvement I saw had to do with reducing food waste.  As part of the lunch, students get milk in cartons, yogurt cups or other food items that are packaged.  In years past, if the student didn’t want it they threw it in the trash.  At the same time, other students might want an extra milk or yogurt and would have to pay extra for it.

Now the school has the “share table”.  It is a small table where students that don’t want their milk carton or packaged food item can put it on the table for other students to eat.  If another student wants an extra milk they can ask to go to the “share table” and pick an item.  Less food in the trash and less cost to parents of kids who want a little extra.  What a great idea!

It is amazing at all the learning that I still get every year I go into my kids’ school.  We can learn ways to reduce waste and communicate visually anywhere.  We just have to keep our eyes and minds open.

MOOCs…A New Way to Educate?

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are a new type of college or secondary education that are starting to pop up across the U.S.  The Kansas City Star had a great article about MOOCs earlier in January.

What is a MOOC?

MOOCs — massive open online courses — have attracted millions of students from all over the globe to learn from top professors at elite universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Princeton and Harvard.The best part is that MOOCs are free. All you need is time, a computer and the Internet.

The courses are anywhere from 5 to 16 weeks long.  A person can take whatever classes they like and pertains to what they may need in their career.  Imagine…

A student could take one MOOC taught by an MIT professor, another taught by a professor at Harvard and yet another taught at Duke. In the end, the student could take a discipline-specific assessment, like a bar exam, to get something akin to a license to practice in their field.

We know that with a growing presence of education online the traditional brick-and-motor way of learning is going to have to adapt.  A college education won’t be the same in 10-15 years.  What if you could get your basic remedial class credits for free and have them transfer.  Well…

The Gates Foundation recently put up several hundred thousand dollars toward grants for nine universities to develop remedial MOOCs.

Like anything new, there are still a lot of challenges to work out before it becomes mainstream.

Fort Hays State and Johnson County Community College are among campuses piloting MOOC-like programs and looking for solutions to problems such as how to test, how to grade thousands of essays and exams, and how to prevent cheating.

And if you thought their wasn’t much interest in MOOCs, there is data to show otherwise.
MOOCs cemented their prominence in the higher education conversation when a 2011 class on artificial intelligence, taught by former Stanford professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun, attracted nearly 58,000 students from around the world, more than three times the size of Stanford’s entire student body. Even though fewer than half of them completed the course, it was clear the MOOC’s reach dwarfed anything possible in a classroom or lecture hall.
I can really seeing MOOCs leading to a great new way to gain a college or secondary education.  Here are my initial thoughts.  What if there was a company that compiled the MOOCs in one grand list?  The company could create a list of courses that need to be complete in order to receive a certain degree (i.e. For an accounting degree take Accounting 101 from Prof. A at Stanford and Accounting 201 from Prof B from University of Texas, etc…).  The program would be accredited and recognized as any other degree.  Maybe more professional tests are required in the future, like a bar examine.
I think it is important to still pay for the education but maybe it is $75 or $100 for a class.  This could really reduce the cost of a secondary/college education and prepare the individual just as much.
As for the cheating aspect.  Maybe there is a centralized database with a person’s information and a picture.  Then when it is test time, the test is taken with a webcam on to show you are the one taking the test.  May not be perfect but my first thoughts on it.
MOOCs provide an interesting alternative to learning.  How can it be leveraged to better educate and be more cost effective?  What are your thoughts?

Executive Master of Business Operational Excellence

I can be stubborn sometimes.  I know.  It can be a negative trait sometimes as a person trying to create change.  But it can be a positive too.

One way I have been stubborn is refusing to get a Masters degree in business.  As a lean thinker, the typical masters program teaches so much of what I don’t believe that I couldn’t bring myself to want to pay to listen how standard costing is the holy grail of business.

I had a friend tell me that it would be good to learn the other side in order to present lean even better.  Deeply understand both sides.  Great point.  Even got me thinking about it.  Then I heard colleagues that did that and ended up arguing with the professor the entire time which caused the class a lot of angst.  Knowing how I would probably do the same I didn’t feel like it was a good use of money to go and argue with a professor.  Why waste the time and money getting upset?  I could use that money for something that won’t make me upset…like a vacation on the beach!

I have felt that way about a masters program for a very long time.  Until a couple of months ago.  Jon Miller posted on his Gemba Panta Rei blog the start of a new masters program.  Boise State University will be working with the Kaizen Institute to conduct a 12-month Executive Master of Business Operational Excellence program.

What makes this program different?  It develops a business leaders thinking in continuous improvement through six sigma, kaizen and lean.  It is not the typical standard costing finance classes.  The finance classes focus on value stream costing and new methodologies to look at cost.

The program is set up in the following manner:

  • Accredited by the AACSB, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
  • 12-month program
  • Four, week-long sessions in Boise, Idaho USA
  • One, week-long study mission in Japan
  • $44,700 tuition
  • Worry-Free: books, meals, workshops and study mission are all included in the program tuition
  • Classes held in brand new, state of the art Micron Business and Economics Building
  • Online learning through the Gemba Academy

If you have ever thought about a lean masters program, I encourage you to check out the website (here).  It looks to deliver fantastic curriculum in a unique way.


Lean Isn’t New

The last few months I have been a part of or given a lot of lean training around lean principles and/or behaviors.  The majority of  the responses to the training is very positive.  There is one response that I keep getting over and over, “There was nothing new in we heard.”

While I believe there is some new things in there, overall I don’t disagree with them.  In fact, I mention that Toyota has been doing if for 60 years and they learned from methods that date back 20+ years before they started learning.  Toyota gets the credit for the business philosophy and putting it to great use, but the roots come from Ford, Deming, the supermarket, and Training Within Industry.  There is a lot more material about principles and thinking that people can reference today.  Honestly, people have probably read or heard something before.

One question, I try to pose to them is, “You have heard this before and it seems to makes sense, so what behavior have you changed since learning this in order to get better?”  I usually get blank stares and red faces because I have not had one person answer that question yet.  I am not trying to be a jerk, but we have to ask the hard questions.  I’m still learning and I don’t follow the principles and behaviors all the time either.  Neither does Toyota.

I then explain the question is not a gotcha.  It is meant to show that while many people have read/heard of it and agree with it, there are very few to actually change, because changing is hard to do.  We have to make a conscious effort to do it and it will be hard at first.  The training classes are a mechanism to try and get the change to start to occur as well as educate others that may not have heard anything yet.

So overall, I agree the principles and behaviors are not new.  What is new is trying to get more and more people to actually change to exhibit these behaviors.