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  • J. Seymour

Our Changing World & Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation is a term I've heard often and thought deeply about as of late. Heather Staker's work in Blended Learning has its backbone in this concept. Familiar examples of disruptive innovation in industry include hybrid cars, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and smart phones. These innovations created unique markets disrupting the markets that they entered. Disruptive innovation is essentially the emergence of a new technology that disrupts the status quo and replaces it with a brand new market (Christensen).

This morning as I was reading the front page of our local newspaper, the concept again stared me in the face. The headline read, "Tele-Teller? Fewer Branches in Banking's Future" (Block). The article speaks to the emerging technology of teller machines (much like ATM machines) that will connect customers with bankers via video conferencing. This is just one more way the banking industry has changed over the past few years. Mobile banking has supplanted the need for customers to physically visit their financial institutions, and now mobile tellers are offering other technology rich options for customers. According to the article, "...brick-and-mortar branches are on the decline" (Block).

It's not just banks that are changing the way they do business. On my drive into work this morning, I heard what is now a familiar commercial on the radio offering virtual health care visits from a major health provider in the area. For a relatively inexpensive fee, a patient can meet with a health care professional in virtual communication and be diagnosed and treated for common ailments. And, there are many other industries taking on new shapes due to the insurgence of technology.

Education, for example, has seen sharp shifts in pedagogy. The standard "sage on the stage" practice that has existed since the one room school house model is slowly being replaced by the "guide on the side" philosophy. Technology has increased access to information, allowed for collaboration opportunities that did not previously exist, and it has created platforms for disruptive innovation to shift common delivery methods. Flipped classrooms are found in many schools, and colleges commonly offer online course options to give students more flexibility. Virtual education is becoming more popular as students and parents desire multiple pathways for education.

The Wausau School District has embraced the opportunities that technology has made possible. In addition to technology rich instruction within the district's schools, there is also a new option for students. Wausau Area Virtual Education (WAVE) is a virtual school that allows students to receive a high quality education from the Wausau School District without ever entering a traditional school building (if that is what the student chooses). Through conferencing tools, a brick-and-mortar meeting place in the local mall, email, a variety of apps and extensions, learning management systems, and the phone, teachers interact with their virtual students and guide them on their learning journey. Students work at a time and place that suits their learning styles and their personal needs. The student is in the driver's seat of his/her education, and as a result true ownership of learning occurs. Additionally, students can restructure their day to make time for sports, family, work, accelerated learning, travel, and a plethora of other things. This can be a perk for students who find the strictly scheduled seat time of the traditional day to be too restrictive.

Virtual school is not for everyone, however. Many will prefer the face-to-face structured interaction that the traditional delivery methods provide. However, for the independent learners who want to be in control of their learning, virtual school options might be the perfect solution. Virtual schools are just another example of disruptive innovation changing our world.


Block, Phillip. "Tele-Teller? Fewer Branches in Banking's Future". Wausau Daily Herald. 1/4/2018.

Christensen, Clayton. "Disruptive Innovation".

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