Hugh Campbell of tech-focused investment bank GP Bullhound believes that the BBC is hindering educational technology innovation in the United Kingdom by giving away too much for free. Campbell came to this conclusion after reviewing the success of the firm’s predictions for 2013. He was disappointed at the firm’s lack of new ideas, in particular the fact that the pace of education disruption would increase over the year.
“Innovation in this space seems very challenging,” he told an audience at London’s May Fair Hotel. “And the BBC are stifling a lot of innovation here, especially because the content they give away is free.”
He cites his experience based on research into GP Bullhound and serving on the board of his family’s e-learning business, PasTest Limited.
Bullhound does agree that 2013 was a strong year for educational technology. For example, MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) have a potential customer base of 2 billion people. Supported by brands like Google, LinkedIn and Bank of America, the courses involve prerecorded lecture material and students mark each others’ work. The classes are popular, but Bullhound cautions that the completion rates are less than 10%.
Bitesize, which provides revision aides, is the BBC’s biggest digital education service and is aimed at secondary students.
A spokesperson from the corporation says that “The BBC has a long history in education and learning going back to the first schools radio broadcast. We continue to create educational content, now across TV, radio and online. We are always mindful of the market impact of what we do, and share our plans for online with other educational providers.”
The BBC has also been accused of “consistently treating [local newspapers] as a competitor.” Geraldine Allinson, chief executive of Kentish local newspaper publishers KM group, summarized:
“They consistently promote Facebook and Twitter,” she told an event in May 2013, “but when it comes to one of our local papers they say ‘a local councilor spoke to a local paper’. Why can’t they even say our name?”
Campbell’s 2014 predictions for the sector are based on the improved handling of data. He includes the claim that in 2014 we will see:
“Indoor mobile location determination” break through, thanks to technology such as Apple’s iBeacon, and the prediction that the battle over mapping technologies, long dormant in the face of Google’s domination, will heat up again.
Other technology predictions include eye tracking, which allows users to control their devices using only their gaze. The technology is already available from Samsung and Israel’s Umoove.
Not every prediction was positive, however. Bullhound singled out curved smart phones as the tech flop of 2014, saying that “curved mobile phones seem to make little sense to … we think it’s a fad that may well be gone by the time we write this report next year.”