The Amazon Kindle Pricing Myth

The Financial Times perpetuates the myth that Amazon.com charges "$9.99 for all its e-books in the US." Yes, Amazon does charge $9.99 for many books. Yet, there are many books for which Amazon charges less than $9.99 and many books for which Amazon charges more than $9.99.  The Kindle edition of Christensen's excellent The Innovator's Prescription, sells for $17.40, for example.  Myth. Busted.


Caution: Ostrich Posturing can be Hazardous to Your Future

But I don't think we should worry about online education being an adequate substitute for more traditional forms.  That is.......yet.
Prompted me to respond as follows:
I find interesting that the NYT chose to characterize the study's findings so positively. Perhaps the reporter read the abstract only?  For example, the study authors observe:
"the observed advantage for online learning in general, and blended learning conditions in particular, is not necessarily rooted in the media used per se and may reflect differences in content, pedagogy and learning time."
The study authors also observe:
"the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and pedagogy. It was the combination of elements in the treatment conditions (which was likely to have included additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration) that produced the observed learning advantages. At the same time, one should note that online learning is much more conducive to the expansion of learning time than is face-to-face instruction."
One might take away from this that student time-on-task is the central factor driving differences observed in the meta-analysis; that online and blended (online combined with face-to-face meetings) expands student time on task. It would seem that any tool that expands the time students spend working with course material would be beneficial to the educational process.
Not addressed by the study is my hunch (yes, pure speculation) that on-line and blended course delivery requires that learning outcomes be specified with greater clarity than may be the norm for face-to-face classes. We know from the Brightman workshop that measureable student learning increases in parallel with the specificity of the learning outcomes communicated to students.
Overall, my take away is that the study suggests that course delivery method -- online, face-to-face, or blended -- is a comparatively minor factor in learning effectiveness. The study findings suggest that, from the perspective of student learning, online delivery is a viable substitute for and alternative to, face-to-face the delivery channel.
Following the classic path of a disruptive innovation, online and blended delivery bring to the table and leverage an attribute on which face-to-face instruction cannot compete. That attribute is convenience. Like it or not, students regard courses as commodities.  Given a choice between commodities, consumers will choose the more convenient alternative. Indeed, convenience can trump better performance (as witnessed when you take a photo with your phone rather than a dedicated camera). Are our course offerings competitively convenient?
For digital natives – i.e., our current and future students -- online learning is a traditional form. Online delivery is non-traditional only from the perspective of digital immigrants (i.e., those of us old enough to have lived BC … where BC could be interpreted as Before Calculators and/or Before personal Computers). Bowling Green just opened a new middle school.  The school is designed for distance learning. This is the norm, not an exception. Imagine the expectations those digital natives will have when they come to college!
We in higher ed ignore these market dynamics at great peril.


Patience may be Rewarded

As my road bike -- a Cannondale R400 -- approaches its 20th birthday, I've begun giving thought to updating my ride.  The notions of a softer ride -- the 'Dale's all aluminum frame is unrelentingly stiff -- and integrated break-shifters beckons.  Working to my advantage is the economy. Bike sales have slowed to a crawl:
"The days of selling $4,000 to $6,000 bikes slowed down this summer," noted Trek presidentJohn Burke last week at the company's dealer gathering called Trek World. America's biggest bike company has lowered the price of its entry-level road model to $600 for 2010 (down from $900). For enthusiasts, its Madone 5.1, which features the Wisconsin-made OCLV black carbon frame and can be fully customized down to the paint job, starts at $3,099. 
Trek's main focus for 2010 will be on urban, city and commuter bicycles. Key will be the introduction of its new Ride+ line of electric-assist bikes. Trek plans to offer 3 e-bike models in the U.S. after partnering with BionX on the proprietary drive system, which consists of a hub motor and lithium ion battery. (Source:Bicycle Retailer and Industry News)
I'll pass on the BionX, thank you.  I need and crave the exercise.

However, this does have me wondering:  Will miniaturized electric motors, secreted aboard racing bikes, become the equivalent of yesterday's doping scandals?

Principles to Guide Discussion of Health Care Innovation: Some Initial Thoughts

As discussion about the health care sector approaches a full howl, here are some thoughts, offered in no particular order, regarding principles I believe should be guiding discussion about health care innovation:

1. Change the reward structure. A major problem with the health care system is that it rewards treating the sick. I believe the system should be re-imagined as a wellness support system. By increasing the baseline wellness level, resources needed to treat illness due to preventable causes, overall cost of health expenditures would reduce freeing up resources that could be directed elsewhere (perhaps to aid those with catastrophic health issues such as your friend). This tool lets you fiddle with wellness ROI. Essential to wellness program success is careful targeting of behaviors to change.

2. Personal responsibility. I believe that health is a personal responsibility. We each have a responsibility to actively pursue a health. System incentives should be aligned with pursuit of healthful life.

Incentives in the form of modest co-pays, and the like, insulate consumers from the cost of health care. Consumers, rationally, are less price sensitive as a result. Consumers need to have incentive to be concerned about the cost of health services. Increasing price sensitivity of consumers will increase pricing pressure on health care providers.

3. Empower innovation. Innovation is the only path to reducing the cost of health services while simultaneously increasing the quality of health care. Encourage entrepreneurs to do what they do so well: create effective solutions to problems. Innovation is needed in myriad areas, including diagnostic and delivery technologies and in business models.  Christensen, in The Innovator's Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care, provides an outstanding blueprint for how to empower innovation in the health care sector.

A challenge of innovation is that innovation spurs changes in consumer expectations. Expectations re. what the health care system can deliver (e.g., ., what can be treated) are a function of the system's ability to innovate and get rewarded for that innovation. The more the system can deliver, the more consumers expect of the system (i.e., consumer expectations regarding what constitutes 'basic' health care shifts out along the classic path of mature sustaining innovations.

4. Focus on outcomes rather than inputs or specific solutions. A focus on outcomes spurs innovation that can yield better outcomes at lower costs. A focus on outcomes is consumer-centric; it puts the focus on quality of patient care rather than on the caregiver.

5. Health care, is a complex adaptive system. System improvement is a function of the system being able to cycle, adapt, and 'emerge'. This implies identifying and removing barriers that inhibit system innovation and adaptation. Implicit in construing health care as a CAS is the implication that the system is smarter than any individual entity (human or organization). Ergo, the health care system will operate most efficiently -- and be more effective at yielding optimal patient outcomes -- when barriers to system function are systematically identified and removed. Put succinctly, the market will deliver more effective outcomes than can a bureaucracy.

6. Economic prosperity. Issues with the U.S. health care system are meaningfully a function of the state of the U.S. economy. The healthier the U.S. economy, the more wealth there is available in the private sector. Wealth in the private sector reflects job creation, salary and benefits expansion, increased charitable giving to non-profit hospitals and other community support organizations, and greater freedom of individual choice. Greater charitable giving, for example, expands the system's ability to provide those lacking resources access to care. Greater economic prosperity means that more people are employed. Greater economic prosperity means that companies are competing for employees by offering benefits, including health care coverage. Prosperity increases the ability of individuals to attend to their health care needs.

These thoughts are necessarily initial, incomplete and preliminary.


Apple Enabling "1984" 25 Years After 1984

Apple's famous '1984' ad concluded, "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce MacIntosh. You'll see why 1984 won't be like "1984": Scott Ott illustrates how Apple is enabling 2009 to be like "1984". Yep, there's an app for that: