Mod11: Learning Community Environments

11.1 Market Opportunity Statement

This market explores emerging virtual geographies of learning. The existing schools, colleges and universities of our world form a tapestry motivated by physical and human geographies. When a real-world community achieved critical mass it built a school; when a group of communities achieved critical mass they built a college, etc. It makes sense, and will continue, but the Internet is providing an important additional driver.

Using British Columbia as an example, Open School BC and BCcampus are the provincial centres for the online aggregation and extension of the K-12 and post-secondary education systems, respectively. These organizations are mirrored in many other jurisdictions, providing a practical way to roll up the collective presence and needs of a regional consortium of schools, and often to reach out from that region with collective capabilities into other regions.

Correspondence schools and distance learning opportunities have existed for generations, but the Internet is providing a mobilization for knowledge and learning that is fundamentally different than has ever existed before. At one level it enables an organization like the University of Phoenix to expand a network of campuses that transcend political geography. On other levels it enables groups wishing to offer learning of any kind, including religion, trades, etc., to reach out effectively and economically to serve prospective learners.

There are two streams in this emerging market: 1) expanded forms of competition for traditional school systems having business models based on local audiences of learners; and 2) expanded numbers of schools in specialized subject areas where the Internet provides a new opportunities for communities of learners to achieve critical mass. Simply by integrating freely available open source tools, for example, learning ventures and isolated groups of learners can construct new schools and knowledge guilds overnight.

Learners have always cared about the brand, quality, accessibility and cost of their education. This emerging market offers differentiating competitive opportunities in all these dimensions.