Burck Smith is the CEO and founder of StraighterLine. In 2009, ten years before launching StraighterLine, he co-founded SMARTHINKING, the largest online tutoring provider for schools and colleges. Smith has written chapters for two books on education policy for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and is working on a third. He is a member of the American Enterprise Institute's Higher Education Working Group. Prior to starting SMARTHINKING, Smith worked as an independent consultant who contracted with for-profit and non-profit educational organizations, including clients such as the Gates Foundation, Microsoft, Computer Curriculum Corporation, the CEO Forum on Education and Technology, the Milken Exchange on Education and Technology, Teaching Matters Inc., Converge Magazine, and others. Smith holds a Master's Degree in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a BA from Williams College.
“Disruption” is the theme of the moment in higher education policy. In 2008, StraighterLine was the first provider of ultra-affordable online courses outside of the traditional accreditation structure. This talk will outline why online learning is extremely profitable for most colleges and that “disruption” is a way to start driving these profits from colleges to students in the form of lower prices. Smith will also discuss why the existing organizational model of “college” and higher education regulatory and financing structures are ill-suited to the delivery of online courses. While this threat to college business models is real and dramatic, the market environment in which the threat is occurring is heavily regulated, heavily subsidized, and extremely political. Such forces will slow the adoption of new models.