Driving Change With Loren Brown, The CIO Of Capella Education Company



Welcome to Driving Change where we go for a drive with leading technology executives and dig deep into their beliefs, habits, routines, and influences. 

Today we take a ride with Loren Brown CIO of Capella Education Company and discuss a variety of topics from the role of the CIO, Passion, Taking Risks, Brazil, and Flying Airplanes.

Driving Change is produced and hosted by Jeff Martin CEO of Collective Genius in collaboration with TECHdotMN. For more episodes and Extended versions visit www.leadbychange.com





  • http://paulprins.net Paul Prins

    Really nice interview. Thanks for sharing Loren Brown.

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      Yeah a good interview in a great series! I liked what Loren had to say, he seems pretty keen and articulate.

      The only thing that would have made it better IMO would be to ask candidly about Capella’s languishing market status and any plans to revitalize the company. See:


      I do recognize that it’s hard to get a top exec of a publicly traded company to comment on sensitive stuff of such nature, but someone needs to start asking some questions about Capella.

      Capella has a great opportunity to do more of what they did with Sophia, given the vibrancy of the Edtech community near and far. I’m talking about more than sponsoring some events – actually developing a strategic incubation/venture strategy. Maybe they do this already in some way that I’m just not aware of, but beyond Sophia, what is there going back 5 years?

      Let’s watch and see if they do change to truly capitalize on the times and reinvent themselves going forward -or- if they become another bygone of yesterday like so many public companies here are.

      • Andrew Black

        Jeff, great question. I am a new poster here and do not know much about the site. (But I do know Paul Prins, and he is a great guy) I am also a Capella employee who rolls up to Loren, full disclosure.

        To answer your question, Capella is innovating in the competency-based learning space (CBL), with our first offerings hitting the market several years ago.

        Capella’s brand is FlexPath. I was part of launching the offering below and am proud of it. I’m a developmental editor, so I’m editing what you read when you’re doing your course.

        FlexPath is not for everyone; some learners still desire the guiderails of traditional, credit-based learning, for example, discussing topics with other learners and required readings. But for many, FlexPath allows them the most direct way forward. You set your own goals, and with Capella’s help, you meet them. Busy working professionals can block out a long weekend and finish a course in a few days, while meeting all their course competencies through direct assessments (rigorous and real-world are two of our guiding principles here) rather than seat-time tracking and credits. Unusual but not unprecedented. That’s the magic of FlexPath.

        If you want to see where higher ed is going, check out this video, which combines CBL ideas (Capella) with other guys who are innovating the microcredential route. Both are exciting prospects. I think both will have their place in the next few decades.


        • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

          Andrew, thanks for commenting. It makes sense to create and offer a new product thats faster and cheaper, the times they are a changin!

          “In 2010, the market began to change dramatically with demand becoming
          flat and not growing,” Gilligan said. “As a result, we needed to change
          our business model to compete.” – This sounds like a lagging reaction, not a proactive one, to me.

          “Kinney said it’s unclear how big the market is for the FlexPath concept…”

          I wonder how it’s working out financially?

          Can’t imagine that the scale + margins are nearly the same or will ever return to their glory days. I don’t expect you’ll be willing/able to comment, but naturally curious, again to the original query.

          Overall, it seems like there’s a lot of pressure on the company from the U.S. Department of Education, from the broke student market (no debt, do diploma) as well as the competive landscape (free anyone?). Proprietary knowledge is increasingly a thing of the past…it’s taking down the brick and mortars first though ( http://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/03/17/mnscu-enrollment-drop), and Capella has a chance considering their core digital compentencies to stay in the game through the revolution! But not if they don’t reinvest, innovate internally and externally.

          • Andrew Black

            Hi, Jeff,

            This is a tough market and you definitely make a lot of great points! I don’t know your background but you definitely get it. I’m not arguing that it’s not sink-or-swim time if you’re operating in for-profit higher ed. But I feel Capella is innovating really well for a
            multi-tiered org over twenty years removed from its infancy, and there are a ton of really smart and forward-thinking people still here, from the C-level to the trenches where I work. Although it’s now a “big brand,” FlexPath was very much the “incubator” project that spanned almost every level of the org but still was disruptive at its core.

            Company not as much as industry, is there pressure. Capella is doing stellar things with federal regulatory approval, hence, FlexPath, which was as much a regulatory triumph as an educational innovation.

            Mr. Kinney parted ways amicably with Capella late last year. Even then, I can’t comment on FlexPath’s viability (again, disclosure: I’m an employee), but it’s definitely a newer product and there’s a huge commitment on any company’s part to re-educate the market when said product is so disruptive. But the amount of companies behind us in line to get into the CBL space should say something about its desirability, if you get what I mean.


          • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

            Thanks for sharing your perspective Andrew, I can see what you’re saying.

            And found this is pertinent to the topic: http://tech.mn/news/2016/02/11/capella-forms-venture-with-careerbuilder-divests-arden-university/