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Innovation in online higher-education services: building complex systems

David A. Harper, Félix-Fernando Muñoz and Francisco J. Vázquez

Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 2021, vol. 30, issue 4, 412-431

Abstract: Digitization is increasing the complexity and variety of educational services supplied and demanded. However, there is a lack of a systematic treatment of this phenomenon from the perspective of innovation and entrepreneurship. This paper employs the complex adaptive systems approach to explore how digitization changes the characteristics, generativity (combinatorial possibilities) and architecture of online educational services. Our main claims are that: (a) online courses (OCs) are modular complex hierarchical systems; (b) the development of new OCs is a significant type of innovation (not limited merely to technological change) brought about by entrepreneurial reconfiguration of modules that create new combinations in the design space of new educational services; (c) these new combinations generate new OC systems; and (d) OCs are embedded in broader institutional and social structures (e.g. universities) that co-evolve with technological change. By means of a formal combinatorial model, we examine the computational mechanism and the principles of connection-making that govern how new OCs are created and adapted.

Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1080/10438599.2020.1716508

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