Education more ripe for disruption than nearly any industry: Scott Galloway

  • Higher education is more ready for major change than any other industry, perhaps with the exception of healthcare, NYU professor Scott Galloway said during Insider’s “Access, Equity, and the Future of Education” virtual event Wednesday.
  • According to Galloway, colleges and universities need to embrace hybrid learning models in order to expand access to education and serve the public better. 
  • During the event, speakers shared their thoughts on the how the pandemic has shifted the education landscape, where it’s headed in the future, and how to make it more equitable.
  • Click here to watch the full virtual event. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the education landscape as it’s forced students from elementary school to graduate school to go remote. 

And according to NYU marketing professor, entrepreneur, author, and podcaster Scott Galloway, the pandemic has accelerated changes that were already brewing in higher education, making the sector more ready for major change than nearly any other industry. 

“Education, other than maybe healthcare, is more ripe for disruption than any other $100 billion-plus industry in the US,” Galloway said at Insider’s virtual “Access, Equity, and the Future of Education” event Wednesday. 

College tuition rates have skyrocketed — far outpacing the rate of inflation — and acceptance rates have plummeted, Galloway noted, while the quality of education students receive and the outcomes they can expect after graduation haven’t improved accordingly. All the while, compensation for administrators and faculty has grown, Galloway said. 

All that means that while higher education traditionally was a “lubricant” of upward social mobility, it’s now more of a “caste system” that primarily serves the privileged, Galloway argued. “We’re no longer public servants, but luxury goods who are drunk on exclusivity and brag about turning away 80 then 85 then 90{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of applicants,” he said. “I think it’s morally corrupt and the reckoning is on its way.”

The pandemic, Galloway said, has “pulled back the curtain on the game or the ruse that is higher education.” As colleges moved classes online, they put their outsized tuition costs in the spotlight, and exposed how dependent they are on tuition. “To use a kind of snarky analogy, Harvard is now a $50,000 streaming platform,” Galloway said. 

But there is a silver lining. Moving forward, colleges can expand access to education and improve their own finances by embracing the cards the pandemic dealt them, and doubling down on a mixed model of education that incorporates both online and on-campus learning, according to Galloway.

“We need to figure out a way to take a quarter to half of our classes online, we need to ideally get an increase in budget to substantially increase the technology we adopt, and then massively, massively increase enrollment,” Galloway said. “That’s where we need to head here.”

And, at least at some universities, administrators and professors expect the pandemic to have a lasting impact on the way classes are taught and on the selection of online opportunities they offer. 

“I believe it’s inevitable that there will be some design changes — that some of what we’re seeing right now at Yale will persist beyond the pandemic,” Lucas Swineford, executive director of digital education at Yale’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, said during Wednesday’s Insider event. Institutions — Yale included — will need to adapt as students demand more online options, Swineford said, and the university will likely see more technology integrated into on-campus lectures as professors see the merits of video conferencing and other tools. 

But web-based courses also have the positive effect of extending the reach of the college classroom beyond campus, Laurie Santos, the Yale psychology professor behind the popular online course “The Science of Well-Being,” said at Wednesday’s event. More than 3 million people enrolled in the course during the pandemic, Santos said. 

“If you put out good-quality digital content, people are going to come. People just have a motivation to learn more, and once that content is there, people will sign up,” Santos said. “It’s really made me realize that we can reach literally millions of people with the content that we want to share here at Yale.”

According to Santos, once universities learn to move informal interactions online — such as chatting with friends before class or talking with the professor after — they’ll “be able to bring the whole classroom remote.”

The pandemic has also demonstrated that younger students below the college level are ready to embrace online learning, according to Jessie Woolley-Wilson, president and CEO of DreamBox Learning, an online math-education platform for kindergarten through eighth-grade students. 

“It’s painful that we had to accelerate the move toward new models of learning as a result of a pandemic, but I’m very, very hopeful that we’ll never go back to the way things were,” Woolley-Wilson said during Wednesday’s event. “What we are seeing is the next step of the permanent acceleration in future learning models that are better for students because they’re personalized.”

But in order to make online learning truly accessible to all, officials from the local to the federal level need to step up and expand broadband access along with teacher training, Wooley-Wilson said. 

And innovative technology isn’t the only thing disrupting education in 2020. The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools program seeks to change the way students learn by bringing together those with and without intellectual disabilities, said Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, during Insider’s discussion. The aim of the program, Shriver said, is to teach children and communities to have an “inclusive mindset” that they apply to various parts of their lives. 

“We hope that as we learn more about how to educate people to have inclusive mindsets, we will educate generations upon generations who will not be bound by the old prejudices and old animosities and old injustices that have had their way for too long in the United States and in other countries around the world,” Shriver said. “Schools can be the front lines of an effort to build a new, more just, more peaceful, a more unified United States of America.”

Shriver was joined by two alumni US Youth Ambassadors to Special Olympics and the Unified Champion Schools programs, Tajha Ilerant and Myah Garrett. “Before Special Olympics came into my life I wanted to be a doctor,”said Garrett. “After I had all this experience, I realized I wanted to be a special education teacher because I saw the impact that teachers had on students at my school and I wanted to do the same for other students in my future.”

Ilerant said she believes the young generation today has potential to drive more changes than ever before. “I believe that our generation, we talk about the things that we want to do — but we don’t just sit around and talk about it, we make sure that the things get done,” she said. 


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