An educator, engineer, entrepreneur, and community leader, Nick Suwyn started his software development journey at age ten building computer games for neighborhood children. As a child, he developed a love for music and after high school began sharing his passion by teaching after-school music programs at elementary schools around the Phoenix valley. As he was teaching, he attended DeVry University and graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Computer Information Systems. He then worked as a software engineer for two years before combining his love of technology with his aptitude for teaching and joined a coding bootcamp to lead their academic team. Two years later, Nick founded Promineo Tech with a mission to increase affordability and accessibility of technology education. Today, Promineo Tech is the leading provider of coding bootcamps to community colleges and Nick serves as the CEO, continuing to lead innovation that forwards educational access.
The rising cost of higher education in the United States, coupled with the rampantly perpetuated myth that college is the only path to success, has led to a world where learning is perceived by many as either too expensive or simply inaccessible. Over the past 20 years, tuition from private and public universities has jumped as much as 175%, and the national student loan debt now totals $1.757 trillion. As a result, many are left with crippling debt, and even more, as much as 48.4% of the adult population, have not completed any post-secondary education. Two critical questions to be asked include “why is education so expensive?” and “what can we do to make education more affordable and accessible?”.
Much of the expanding cost of higher education comes from common expenses like administrative staff, facility construction, textbooks, and instruction. While other, less recognized drivers, include line-items like marketing and ancillary services such as climbing walls and other college experience frills aimed to make a campus fun. Most of these are necessary expenses, but most can also be optimized and reduced to pass significant savings on to students and increase access to learning.
Education Delivery Optimization (EDO) – the process of introducing operational efficiencies to decrease the cost of learning while maintaining quality – is a straightforward and pragmatic approach we’ve used at Promineo Tech to increase access to tech education, but it doesn’t have to stop there. EDO can be applied to almost any topic, and technology is making it easier every day to introduce cost-saving measures into how we deliver education.
The process of identifying and prioritizing these expenses is the first step towards creating a more efficient and cost-effective education system. By focusing on the most significant expenses, we can better understand the greatest opportunities to reduce costs while maintaining the quality of education.
At Promineo Tech, we started with the cost of live instruction. Completely replacing live instruction with on-demand content is not an option for most academic programs, so the question became a matter of how to make the most of minimized instructor time. The solution was a flipped classroom. Instead of having an instructor there to introduce topics to students, we developed videos and curriculum for students to familiarize themselves with at the start of each academic week. In the middle of the week, now armed with a rudimentary understanding of new topics, students meet with an instructor to help solidify what they have already started to learn. Rather than an instructor spend time as a content-delivery mechanism, the instructor’s role is to lead a Socratic seminar to identify gaps in the cohort’s understanding of the weekly learning objectives and then provide personally tailored micro-lectures to fill those gaps. This model enabled us to pass immense cost-savings on to our students, while maintaining a quality learning experience.
Another area where costs can be significantly reduced is administration. With today’s tools and technologies, it is fairly inexpensive to automate tasks that traditionally required countless hours of administrative efforts. With proper planning and minimal upfront investment, it is possible to accomplish an incredible amount of work without the need for an entire workforce.
Finding ways to substitute physical requirements for digital is a huge opportunity to decrease tuition. Some examples include moving from an in-person to an online modality, using digital media as opposed to physical textbooks and other resources, or even replacing costly learning objects with AR/VR or holograms. We recently previewed a hologram table that enabled a room full of students to dissect a virtual cadaver, extinguishing the need to purchase new ones each class. With technology like this, the need for expensive machines, supplies, and other resources typically needed in medical or trade education can be reduced to the investment in a single piece of hardware.
This article is in no way meant to be considered a comprehensive outline of how to approach Education Delivery Optimization, and the truth is the process and solutions will be different depending on the institution and the training. However, it’s imperative, given the skyrocketing costs of higher education, that we take a closer look at how we can improve affordability and, in turn, increase access and equity to learning that can improve lives and society. Education can be affordable, but we need more institutions and training providers to adopt modern tools, technologies, and methodologies to make this happen.