THE BLOG
03/30/2011 01:03 pm ET Updated May 30, 2011

School-as-a-Service

I spent the last two years and more than $1 million trying to get a couple high schools (initially, just the 9th grades) open in NYC and Newark. States have created elaborate charter review processes intended to result in quality schools and baked into the process is the twenty year tradition of growing good, new, small, schools one grade at a time. In 5 years you can confirm that it is a good school; in ten years you know that it is a good network. It takes a long time and it is very expensive.

What if it was possible to create "school-as-service" and you could just turn it on and it worked well anywhere, anytime?

Software as a service (SaaS) made it easier and cheaper to use computers especially for those of us that use multiple devices. It's software on demand anywhere anytime. It's no longer necessary to load computer programs with a disk, you can access almost any kind of program -- spreadsheet, word processor, customer relationship manager, or tax preparation software -- on the web.

As Digital Learning Now recommended, the shift to school-as-a-service starts with a statewide commitment to every student as a digital learner. Where states reduce historical barriers, the shift to personal digital learning will mean school-as-a-service: access to quality courses and teachers from multiple providers.

Utah Governor Herbert signed a bill yesterday that introduces SaaS education. Florida SB1620 and Idaho SB1184 will do the same.

The emerging vision for education is school-as-a-service. Open your browser and you have learning options, multiple providers, multiple devices, customized engaging learning anywhere anytime.

These bills are also important because they introduce performance-based funding; a portion of the funding is withheld until students successfully complete the course. This is a step toward states funding outputs not inputs.

SaaS education changes the basic assumptions -- it doesn't need to be time and place bound. That doesn't mean it will all go virtual -- for the foreseeable future at least 90 percent of families will enjoy the benefits of local schools -- but it does require a new mindset, new staffing patterns, new budgeting strategies, and new ways to communicate with students and families. School districts should get on the SaaS bus.