When Apple first introduced the iPhone in 2007, it was received with skepticism, intrigue, and wonder. Since its initial launch seven years ago, the evolution of the iPhone has continued to win over consumers and develop an unparalleled level of brand loyalty that all industries can learn some lessons from, even higher education. Because, let’s face it, if the development of the iPhone required higher education collaboration, this would be an Android world.
The iPhone did more than disrupt the tech industry, it changed the way people viewed communication and, ultimately, access to information. While the iPhone was developed initially to challenge the emerging smartphone market, it eventually became clear that its value extended beyond simple communication. Apple was able to add a human connection to an inanimate device through its touch interface. It maximized the human need for social interaction by connecting the user to the product. Using this foundation, Apple continued to enhance the iPhone to meet the needs of a demanding and shifting consumer population. Apple accomplished this revolution without apology or permission. They understood their purpose, focused their passion, and met the needs of its consumers.
Today, we face the same opportunity to revolutionize higher education. We just need to apply some proven principles.
- Give the People What They Need: Never before did people stand in line for hours, if not days, waiting for a new product release. The iPhone created an unprecedented demand among consumers. It was more than a digital device. It was an extension of ourselves. The iPhone made our lives easier. At our fingertips, we can make a reservation, deposit a check, read the latest political thriller, catch up on Game of Thrones, send out a few hundred emails, and call mom all before the six o’clock news.
Students today come from all walks of life. They are busy adult professionals. They are working single parents. They are aspiring entrepreneurs. They are you and me. We need education to be accessible and work on our schedule. We understand that education is important. We see the value. We just need access. Higher education has an opportunity to increase demand by offering flexible education that meets the lifestyle of a changing student population.
- Be App Happy: Apple engaged consumers, developers, and brands through its App Store. It built a community that fostered a mutually shared benefit while enhancing consumers’ interaction with the iPhone. Apple created options designed to promote its product while creating value.
Life throws us all curve balls. These diversions can make a traditional academic semester with specific attendance requirements difficult to manage. Technology offers a solution to traditional higher education pathways by providing a means for alternative solutions. Higher education has an opportunity to let students know that if the academic road they travel down develops too many potholes, there is a detour available to still allow them to achieve their goals.
- Pulling the Outfit Together: The iPhone also started the obsession with accessories. Consumers could purchase everything from functional iPhone cases (e.g. including bottle opener) to the quirky NES Controller case and everything in between. Accessories provided a way for the user to communicate their personality by personalizing their iPhone.
Students bring their own life experiences and perspectives with them when they enter a classroom or online learning environment. They also bring their own expectations, learning styles, and academic goals. One-size fits all education no longer meets the needs of a shifting student population. Students need to know that their educational institution cares about their individual success. Higher education has an opportunity to personalize education through analytic software, student-oriented support services, and relevant academic activities designed to develop students’ marketable skills.
- Playing Nice with Others: Apple developed WebKit, an open-source HTML5 rendering engine used in Safari and other applications. Apple could have easily maintained WebKit as a proprietary product, but instead it released it for open use. In doing so, WebKit set the standard for mobile web browsers.
Higher education has faced serious criticism when it comes to issues relating to credit transferability, demonstrating quality, and rising tuition costs. Students have freedom of choice when it comes to selecting an academic path that meets their needs. Ultimately, the success of higher education relies on student achievement and communicating recognized value. The pathway to earning a degree should be easy. Higher education has an opportunity to streamline the process which, in the end, benefits everyone. Institutions would see an increase in graduation rates, students would see a decrease in tuition costs by not repeating courses, and ultimately, collaboration raises quality expectations.
- User-friendly: There is no denying that Apple products are pretty. Steve Jobs was obsessed with sleek designs, clean edges, and monochromatic colors. Apple products appeal to the eye, but setting aside the aesthetics, it’s the iPhone’s functionality and usability that wins consumers over. Apple products are approachable. The friendly Apple greeters answer questions. Consumers can schedule appointments at the Genius Bar for one-on-one tutorials and product assistance. Apple delivers consistent, quality products that build brand loyalty.
Students expect clearly presented academic options offered with comprehensive support. Earning a degree is a commitment. Demands on students’ time can distract them from their academic goals. Higher education has an opportunity to remove the confusion and anxiety around pursuing a degree program. Students deserve a user-friendly education in return for their investment. Higher education should be approachable and offer a support system that anticipates students’ needs.
Apples’ success is not the result of an accident or the stars coming into alignment. Apple has a clearly defined mission. All of its products are designed with the consumer in mind. These are clear lessons higher education can use to demonstrate value, quality, and achieve its purpose, educating the leaders of tomorrow.
“What is Apple, after all? Apple is about people who think outside the box, people who want to use computers to help them change the world, to help them create things that make a difference, and not just to get a job done.” ~ Steve Jobs
So what is higher education, after all?
For our readers who have been with us since the beginning, we dedicate this 100th blog post to you. Thank you for your patience, humor, and loyalty. EduCred Services looks forward to continuing to share our passion for higher education over the next 100 blog posts.