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Thursday, January 28, 2010

A spot in the value creation chain

Am walking through a very helpful process with a friend who is fluent in b-school speak aimed at identifying where Lucere sits in the classic "value chain." Here's one point worth reflection that came from yesterday's session:

Businesses use technology to save costs. So far education really hasn't done that: for-profit online publishers clamor to replace the classic textbook makers. Those textbook makers are the priesthood of this profession -- like the travel agents or even the staff writers of branded news organizations. They were people who had special access to a market (in this case the schools) and there were signficant barriers preventing newcomers from penetrating that market.

But for all their expertise and efforts the textbook makers haven't figured out how to address the needs of kids. If they had, then test scores would eventually go up, dropout numbers would fall.

Lucere's contention: There's tremendous value in the content available via the Internet, not just as "broadcasted" material but as instructional material. It's not just about "telling me" about climate change--it's inspiring me to figure out how to explore what climate change means for me, my community and then the world.

Everything comes with a cost: the cost of a textbook is printed on the side. The "cost" of so-called "free" content on the Internet is time. That's the "hidden" costs of those materials. Teachers value their time tremendously. That means they've made an economic judgment: The hidden cost of using Internet materials has greatly exceeded the cost of a textbook. The benefits of using Internet materials are murky: do they help? How do they help? Who do they help? The benefits of using textbooks may not be precise (do kids really learn?) but the penalties for not using textbooks could be severe (class is disorganized, the state standards are not touched.)

Lucere's job is clear: Lower the "hidden" costs of reaching content on the Internet -- and demonstrate the benefit.

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