Union Square Ventures is high on my list of venture capital firms I respect most. They’ve invested in a bunch of my favorite companies including Disqus, Etsy and Twitter (and I’m about to be a Tumblr user for my personal blog which I’m highly looking forward to!). This weekend there was a good article about Union Square posted in the New York Times (HT: Kareem) in which they talked about education as a sector that hadn’t been touched in a big way by web services:
The partners said they planned to look at how Web services might transform sectors not yet touched in a big way, like education and the environment.
We at eduFire couldn’t agree more. Then I hopped over to their blog and read this cool post entitled “Power to the People“.
Lectures could historically only be heard at the time and place of the lecture. Now we can watch a video recording of a lecture over the web. A tutor had to be in the same place to look at the work of a student and provide feedback…With access to course materials, ability to watch lectures and even tutor at a distance, we believe that we are only at the beginning of the web’s impact on the fundamental structure of education. We expect much of that change to be away from the existing educational institutions and towards empowering individuals and newly-formed groups.
What Union Square and some other smart VCs get is that the fundamental organizing structure in education could likely change very radically in coming years. For starters, schools have done a tremendously ineffective job at properly organizing education. Tons of good teachers quit. The ones who stay are hampered by stifling bureaucracy.
But schools don’t need to be the fundamental organizing structures for education. Just because it’s been that way for quite a while doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. Indeed, you’re seeing more and more people opt out of a bad system (over 1 million students are now homeschooled in the US alone) and that’s likely to only intensify as online learning alternatives increase in quality and quantity.
That’s one of the great things about about the Web. If it’s broke in the “real world”, you can, in most cases, fix it on the Web. Don’t like the way video works in the real world. Create YouTube. Think that the music industry in the real world is messed up. Create MySpace or Imeem or Pandora. Don’t like how the education system in the real world works…
OK, better get back to fixing it! :)
(P.S. Bonus eduFire T-shirt for first commenter who can tell where the photo above was taking without clicking through to Flickr!! :)