A few weeks ago, I moderated a panel discussion at the South by Southwest education conference, in Austin, Tex. Known as SXSWedu, the gathering is in only its fourth year and already draws some 6,500 entrepreneurs, educators, investors, and policy makers, easily surpassing the attendance at many of the annual meetings held by the various higher-education associations.
Many of the education providers who showed up in Austin were relatively new players in the field. They don’t yet have the brand names of traditional colleges that have built their reputation over generations by offering degrees and certificates through the factory-model, one-size-fits-all delivery method of modern higher education.
But what these new entrants have been able to do relatively quickly is divide the massive higher-education market into segments based on what students want and need, and then create offerings that appeal to only a slice or two of the overall market. Such a lean approach, of not trying to serve everyone, is definitely cheaper, and often better, for meeting student demands.