Education as a Service…

I’ve started ramping up my reading of game related blogs and industry news as we start the final push towards finishing off T151, our introductory, 10 point level 1 course on interactive media and game design. (The first presentation in May is going out as a pilot, although the normal Relevant Knowledge fee will still apply. Numbers are capped in the first presentation, but readers of and the Digital Worlds uncourse blog who mail me direct over the next 48 hours have a couple of days head start in getting a chance to register.)

Anyway, anyway, one of the things that appears to have been picked up in stories over the last month or so (although it’s an idea that has actually been around for several years) is of “gaming as a service”.

Speaking at the Dice Summit in Las Vegas, Valve Software Chief Executive Gabe Newell provided some pearls of wisdom that are as applicable to gaming as they are to pretty much any kind of software.

Newell says the future will be “providing ongoing value.” Once you start thinking from a service perspective, he continues, “It starts to help you understand the phenomenon that’s out there.” The core of Newell’s argument is that a service allows “content creators to have a better relationship with their customers.” [The changing face of ‘games-as-a-service’]

And there’s more:

Atari President Phil Harrison was also there, affirming Newell’s assertions. “His essential argument that the industry is going to morph from being product centric to service centric is absolutely right,” he said.

He added, “What that means to development, marketing – all aspects of the business are going to be dramatically, seismically, and permanently shifted as a result of moving from product centric to service centric model. I think that’s the mantra that everyone must pin to the wall of their office, and think deeply about what that means to their company.” [DICE: Valve’s Gabe Newell and Atari’s Phil Harrison on Games as a Service “]

So what changes are to be expected?

The secret to entertainment as a service is understanding what it is customers are looking for. They want to be able to play content anywhere, they want to continue there games without worrying about saves, and they don’t want to be bound by geographical location, and they want you to administer your own software, says Newell. [Valve’s Newell: Entertainment is a Service ]

And what has this to do with education? Well maybe we should stop thinking in terms of selling courses and degrees, and instead actually start seriously the idea of “lifelong learning”? Maybe we need to start thinking about becoming an “lifelong education partner” of the 21st century adult, particularly if they are expected to have several different careers throughout their working life?

Banks know the value of snaring a student – traditionally, people are loathe to change bank accounts, so loss leading with an undergraduate banking package makes sense if it means you going to retain the graduate customer for the rest of their life…

…but from what I can tell, higher education seems to more interested in knowing who its graduates are in the hope that as alumni they’ll make a donation or two to their alma mater, or maybe even a bequest when they pop their clogs, than maintaining an active relationship in an educational sense?

So notwithstanding the joy, fun, creativity that will be T151, maybe we need to rethink the business we’re in? Maybe we need to look at subscription models, new models of reputation, trust and ‘capability badging’? Maybe we need to look at new models of delivering episodic course related content, with production in presentation the first time round (Dickens’ novels were serialised when they were first published, right?). Maybe we need to rethink the idea of cohorts in terms of leveling up through communities? Maybe we need…change?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

2 thoughts on “Education as a Service…”

  1. You say:
    “… maybe we need to rethink the business we’re in? Maybe we need to look at subscription models, new models of reputation, trust and ‘capability badging’? Maybe we need to look at new models of delivering episodic course related content …”

    Nice post, Tony.

    In a recent post that’s gotten lots of attention, Clay Shirky said “Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism.” The post was titled Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable.

    It’s fun to read Shirky’s post by analogy to education. It might be titled “Universities and Thinking the Unthinkable” and would contain the following sentences. “Society doesn’t need universities. What we need is learning.”

    Best wishes in the course T151. Should be fun.


  2. I remember one of the library staff saying that they were surprised in their first week to be asked which was the cheapest course that the University offered. They didn’t care what the subject was they just wanted to sign up so they could use the library. I wonder if any market research has been done on asking people what they would be willing to pay for subscription access to (say) the Open University course materials. How many people (worldwide) would pay $10 or even $100? How important is the qualification? How much would you pay for assessment or support? Could HE systems be modified to support a changed income model?

    This does pose the question of whether HE is as compelling a spend as WoW or SkySports though. If it isn’t how can we make it (reasonably) compelling?

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