The most inspiring, forward-thinking educators and marketers may have different goals, but I see a future in which their methods converge. Education is evolving right alongside our ideas of how to deliver what people want in the ways they need. And, just as educators learn how to teach their students, marketers can use the same techniques to reach their audiences.
Two thought-leaders in education right now are Salman Kahn and Sir Ken Robinson. They both argue that education works better when it’s interactive and individualized – much like marketing.
Salman Kahn’s Data-Driven Educational Model
Five years ago, Salman Kahn was an analyst at a hedge fund. He was also a big-hearted guy who took time out of his week to tutor his cousins who lived several states away. He began making YouTube videos as supplements to help his cousins with the material they were studying, but when he posted those first YouTube videos, his cousins told him they actually preferred learning from him on YouTube than in person: “They preferred the automated version of their cousin to their cousin!” says Kahn. They could pause and repeat. They could review material they should have learned last week without embarrassment. If they were bored, they could fast forward without seeming rude.
As Kahn says, “The very first time you’re trying to get your brain around a new concept, the last thing you need is another human being asking ‘do you understand this?’”
These videos became the Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math, science, economics and finance and some arts and humanities. Kahn’s central argument is that teachers should consider giving students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom where the teachers are available to help.
Then Kahn suggests an even more interesting idea:
If each student is working on a computer, completing videos and assignments, data can be collected on how well each student understands each concept. That data can be graphed, giving teachers an instant insight into students who are having trouble with the quadratic equation (trouble spots marked in red), versus students who have mastered it (marked in green).
The teacher can then ask a “Green” student to tutor the “Red” student on that trouble spot. Learning is self-paced and self-directed. There are no tests since data is collected in real-time. Best of all, “No student left behind” becomes more than just a political platform – it becomes reality.
Khan has been working with a school in Los Altos California to put this idea into action in two of their math classrooms, and it’s been working brilliantly.
Check out Salman Kahn’s TED talk “Let’s use video to reinvent education” here.
What does Kahn’s 'video + help' teaching method offer us marketers?
Let’s look at why it works so well.
Learning is self-paced and self-directed, but tracking data allows instructors to catch confusion and step in to help immediately. If this sounds like a really good Customer Success program, then you’re right! Consuming content – eBooks, blog posts, webinars, videos – is by nature self-paced and self-directed, and by combining that with an active Customer Success team, you can help people over their hurdles faster.
But that’s not all.
Kahn’s approach treats every student as an individual and allows them to customize their learning paths. They can take as long as they need to learn a skill, and once they’ve mastered that skill, they can choose the next lesson they want to learn.
Sir Ken Robinson’s Customized Education
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.” – Abraham Lincoln
This is the quote with which Sir Ken Robinson begins his Ted Talk. And while we marketers aren’t exactly Abe Lincoln trying to wrest control of a nation on the brink of war – we too face new challenges that require new solutions. But before we get into that, let’s hear what Sir Ken Robinson has to say (I encourage you to watch the video, because I can’t capture an eighth of the humor he puts into his talk).
Robinson argues that there are two models of education, just like there are two models of restaurants: The fast-food model, and the Michelin star model.
In other words: Standardized, one-size-fits-all – or customized. “When you go to a Michelin starred restaurant, nothing is standardized. They’re customized to local circumstances,” he says, continuing, “We have sold ourselves into a fast food model of education and it’s impoverishing our spirits and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies.”
Why are people opting out of education? He says it’s because today’s educational models don’t feed their spirits, energies or passions. What is the solution? “We have to go from what is an industrial, manufacturing model of education based on linearity and conformity to a model that is based on principles of agriculture. Human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process.” And, a good farmer creates the environment in which his turnips and rutabagas can thrive.
How can educators grow better students? A more personalized, individualized approach to learning.
Watch Sir Ken Robinson’s “Bring on the learning revolution!” TED Talk here.
Now, why do consumers opt out of your products? Especially SaaS products, but anything that a consumer would want to buy more than once.
It could be because your product and/or its marketing isn’t feeding your consumer’s spirit, energy, or passion. But it could also be something far more simple. You’re not giving your consumer what he or she needs to thrive. Your turnips don’t have what they need to grow.
That’s a marketing problem. That’s a research & development problem. Most importantly, it’s a problem that can be solved.
What Robinson and Kahn’s TED Talks on the future of education have in common is the belief that people respond better when content – educational or otherwise – is tailored to them. When people are treated as individuals, rather than demographics, or consumers, or 30 10-year-olds in a classroom, they have a better chance at success. When people can interact and form their own experiences, they also have a better chance at success.
Does this reveal the future of marketing? Perhaps. How might you make your content more personal and interactive?