The Death of the CD - What education can learn from the music industry

Why are you much more likely to find a concert ticket than a CD in your Christmas stocking and what does this tell us about the future of learning design?

Last week, we were over Aston University talking about the future of business education with a great crowd made up of Deans of Business and Heads of Teaching and Learning from universities across the UK.

In the midst of our thought provoking conversation, a lightbulb moment struck: the education industry is a lot like the music industry, and there’s a lot we can learn from changes in how music is consumed when we think about the future of learning design and delivery.

1960s-1990s - Cassettes and CDs (& Minidiscs):

Think about how we used to consume and purchase music back in the 80s and 90s. We would hear a song on the radio or on television and we would spend £20 on a 10 track album CD / MiniDisc / cassette to listen to the one or two songs that we wanted to hear.

2000s - iTunes and Spotify:

Then, in the early 2000s, iTunes and then later Spotify came along and disrupted the market by commoditising music content. So now, we can listen to exactly what we want, when we want it. If we pay a nominal fee, we can listen to exactly what we want, when we want it ad-free. If we're willing to listen to a few ads, we can consume all the songs we want for free.

How does the music industry survive? The single growth area in the music industry and the product which is largely keeping the industry afloat is... live entertainment.

We now expect to have low-cost or even free access to world-class music content, but what drives us to invest time and money in money is the experience - why? Because experiences - particularly shared experiences - can be transformative: they connect us to others, they rouse the mind, they stir powerful emotions and have the potential to leave a lasting impression.

Education - The Rise of the Experience:

In education, we’re seeing the same trend. Like music, education content is being democratised and commoditised. Increasingly, we can consume learning content on demand and for free from world-class experts. Right now, any one of us has instant and open access to a huge volume of content provided by world-leading experts, including experts from universities like MIT, Harvard and Stanford.

So how does education survive? Through the design and delivery of experiences. By re-conceiving learning not as the delivery of content but as a series of encounters and connections which bring meaning, feeling and resonance to that content, we ensure relevance.

More than this, we also better ensure that learning is more effective. Experiential and Transformational learning theories show us that well-crafted experiences which rouse the mind, stir powerful emotions and leave lasting impressions have the potential to trigger radical changes in thoughts, perspectives, attitudes, and behavioral patterns— to deliver so-called “learning transformations” (Meziro).

The Rise of LXD

The decline of traditional LD (learning design) and rise of LXD (learning experience design) is already under way. On the ground, this typically means the decline of the ‘sage on the stage’ knowledge-transfer based pedagogies and the rise of rich blended learning experiences which, through immersion, connection and emotion, support faster and deeper knowledge and skills development.

Take, for example, the rise of business school 2.0. Here, lectures are increasingly being replaced with experiences, e.g. through immersive workshop environments where learners collaborate on real world problems with real-life businesses, through global experience placements or through the creation of real businesses with real business roles for learners.

While some innovation is already happening in the face-to-face learning environment, the online element of learning experiences still tend to be more about the delivery of content than they are about the delivery of an experience.

It is notable that where innovation is taking place, learning experiences happen “in the flesh” with online platforms used typically as repositories and transmitters of content rather than the sites of experience.

At Cohort, we are piloting a next-generation platform with the aim of disrupting this tradition. Through user-centred design + a set of LXD principles (which define great design as experiential, immersive, connected and emotional) + a next generation experiential platform, Viper, we design and deliver rich, immersive and connected learning experiences which are either predominantly or fully online.

Our proposition is that next-generation platform has the ability to deliver “close to real” experiences with impact at scale. The pilot of our first fully-online immersive learning experience finished a couple of weeks back and the results are significant - we’re excited to share them with you early in 2019.

In the meantime, think about what you would rather find in your stocking at Christmas: a CD, a cassette, a MiniDisc or a concert ticket?