How $70k/year (what?!?) Liberal Arts Colleges can reinvent themselves

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The phrase “disruptive innovation” has gradually crept into the academic jargon and is synonymous with innovations that disturb well-established companies and products by building new markets. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen explains this in his best selling book “The Investor’s Dilemma”. A patron of the concept, he has raised eyebrows in higher education by predicting that almost 50 percent of the 4000 colleges and universities in the U.S. will be bankrupt in 10-15 years.

Recently, Professor Christensen predicted that the introduction of online courses in universities and colleges will subvert their business model to such an extent that they will perish. On the contrary, colleges today are just not ready to give up! For instance, Bennington College feared being pushed into oblivion since it almost ran out of business in recent decades. But, amid scares of a worsening U.S. higher education market, the small liberal arts college still manages to attract students in spite of their $73,000 annual fee!

In 2015, Sweet Briar College, a 114-year-old school in Virginia declared that they would cease operations. In a surprising act of perseverance, alumnae raised over $3 million to resurrect their institute and hired a legal firm to stop the plan. After 2 years, in an overhaul, the college cut it’s tuition fee by half, to $21,000. It slashed its majors from 40 to 18, focusing mainly on courses in engineering, maths, science, technology, and even environmental sustainability. According to spokesperson Melissa Richards, Sweet Briar has stabilized its budget, raised an additional $64 million and is expecting a 20% hike in enrollment this fall.

David Bergeron, a former deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education adds, “They’ve survived because they’ve been able to exploit what they’re good at, and that has enabled them to continue to attract students and retain faculty.” At present, exclusive liberal art colleges like William and Amherst rank among America’s most desirable and affluent institutions, irrespective of their size. But even those with limited funds are finding ways to stay operational.

Many education pioneers believe that technology offers a range of learning styles, bringing the student at the center of teaching and learning. Author Audrey Watters deems disruptive innovation as one of the greatest myths in today’s modern business landscape, specifically of the ed-tech industry. Today’s job market is seeing a rapid paradigm shift from manufacturing to service. Automation is making jobs with routine skills increasingly obsolete. In this regard, eLearning and technology are the catalysts in the democratization of education.

Colleges must recognize this trend and introduce online courses and remote exams in their curriculum to stay relevant. Furthermore, online courses save time and money! Something every university and student is seeking.

Like any standard educational program, exams are central to online courses. Preserving the integrity of online tests is an absolute priority for educational institutions, especially when online exams are conducted remotely. Any breaches to their credibility can take a heavy toll on the institute’s reputation and finance.

Automated and live proctoring with an AI-based solution like Proctortrack can effectively detect and deter students who cheat. Proctortrack puts a stop to this double-dealing by adding AI-based behavior analysis and machine learning to the monitoring process. It removes the likelihood of human errors and automates the whole process without disturbing the online exam setup.

Proctortrack has delivered over 2.5 million test sessions to date and has already established that it can revolutionize the way exams are conducted, as it validates educational credentials by ensuring trusted exam integrity. This, in turn, realizes competency and value to society.