A doctor and a teacher from the 19th century climb into a time machine (possibly built by a Silicon Valley dude trying to disrupt the past) and travel to the 20th/21st century. The doctor visits an operating theatre, where he witnesses triple-bypass heart surgery. He emerges from the experience in a state of rapturous wonderment at the achievements of modern science. The teacher finds himself, coincidently – this isn’t a set up – in a modern classroom, where he sees a chalkboard, some desks and books, and a fellow teacher in front of rows of children, dictating notes to them. However, he questions whether he’s really travelled in time at all – for surely, this classroom is almost identical to the one he left behind in a smog-filled Victorian metropolis?
It’s crunch time for ELT publishers. There are a few more years left for the traditional ELT publishing business to stagger on, possibly even quite profitably for some. But we all know it’s on the way out, as evidenced by the attempts – with varying degrees of conviction – of the existing players to turn their businesses into ones capable of surviving and thriving in a world populated by rapidly changing student expectations and super-ambitious and rapacious EdTech start-ups who will very happily destroy the cosy world of ELT.
A recent scary-sounding post on FutureBook (Will you be in the nine percent of publishers that survive?) about recent research into disruptive innovation got me thinking about what it might mean for ELT publishing. A few weeks ago I posted a primer on disruptive innovation in which I made the case for EdTech as a disruptive force in ELT. I thought it might be interesting now to delve into this a bit more and explore what it is that a disruptive ELT publisher might do, and how to avoid being among the ranks of the disrupted.