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Learning Relationship Management: A Glimpse into Colorado K-12 Future?

I am rightly wary of making big predictions about the world of education. The more this little mind takes in, the less sure I become that anything in particular will happen. People, processes, and institutions: Put them all together, and there’s just too much unpredictability.

There are some wiser and bolder than I out there making predictions — which is good, if for nothing else, to stir the conversation. Last week the Christensen Institute’s Michael Horn issued his 5 predictions for education in 2015. Fittingly, they all are related to the world of digital learning. But I found #2 (“The rise of the LRM”) particularly intriguing:

The LRM—learning relationship management software—akin to a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for sales—will rise as a new category to make online and blended learning, competency-based learning, and the unbundling of the university far more fruitful and productive for learners, educational institutions, and employers. The trend will grow fast in higher education this year, followed by corporate learning and then K–12 education in future years.

Learning Relationship Management: an idea that brings together the value of technology with the value of relationships in education. Sort of like blended learning itself, which makes it completely understandable why Michael Horn is writing about it.

The idea, if I can describe it, is to connect students (now in universities, soon maybe in middle and high school) with a network of capable mentors who can help students along the path they need to achieve their college and career objectives.

Kind of like a life coach, maybe. Just not this guy, please.

Sure, Horn notes that Learning Relationship Management Systems aren’t something he expects to see take off this year in the world of K-12 education. But how far behind can it be? I’m young enough that, even given a few years, this is the kind of development that could have a big impact for kids in my generation.

Horn particularly mentions the company Fidelis Education (to which he acknowledges his connection). And this is why it caught my attention. Last Friday, one of my Education Policy Center friends attended the Donnell-Kay Foundation Hot Lunch featuring Fidelis CEO Gunnar Counselman as guest speaker.

Fidelis isn’t alone. It looks like there are several entrepreneurs in this area dedicated to providing a student-focused service. Who is doing the best job? How well does LRM work in the current context? How well could it work in the realm of Colorado K-12 education? I don’t have the answer to these questions.

But the concept has great potential, especially for giving greater hope and direction to students from families and communities where it’s hard to know what’s possible, to see the goal, and thus to be fully engaged and motivated to succeed in the classroom. And it didn’t take a bureaucrat or a policymaker to come up with this idea.

Empowering students and families with more educational choices, and more information about those choices, is important. But in many cases, there’s also a need for help in setting goals, identifying pathways, and providing extra motivation. Let’s see whether and how a Learning Relationship Management System might best reach Colorado K-12 students to offer these benefits, regardless of their educational setting.

Even though I can be impatient, it should be worth the wait to see where this idea takes students when it finally comes.