Sunday, September 06, 2009

More on Disrupting Higher Ed

On the institutions of higher learning, in the words of Cringley - "Burn baby burn":

We’re on the cusp of a new era where the marginal cost of insight is low enough to create new kinds of virtual education institutions. The important concept here is insight, which means more than fact, more than knowledge. It is the link between facts and knowledge, a true act of understanding that enables thinking people to create something completely new. Without insight you don’t know jack. But insight generally comes through personal connections — connections that to this point we’ve typically had to create campuses and pay $50,000 per year to enjoy.
How? "What’s missing here is the higher education equivalent of a GED. Someone will come up with one, or they should, because all the other parts of the system are ready to go." Read more here.

While I agree that change is coming, and maybe certifications/GED-equivalents will fill part of the void, the one thing as an employer that I realize is that there is a large gap between how those who have completed university and those who haven't approach problems and think. This may end up being a gross generalization based on a rather poor sample size, but I suspect universities and the time spent often engrain a greater level of curiosity and also a structured approach to problem solving.

There are obviously exceptions. On the other hand, I also don't know if university degrees are the cause or merely indicators of the quality that existed already. This is not to say that I don't believe we can either build critical thinking skills in other ways, or find better ways to identify it for those who have them - because I believe we can. I think the segmentation and reconstitution of the value in higher education will happen - it's just a matter of when and how and we're already reaching a tipping point where the technology exists and the pressure (ie economic incentives/need) for it to happen is only continuing to build.

Update: On the effectiveness of online schooling K-12 (ReadWriteWeb) - "A key finding of the report is that students doing partial or all course work online rank, on average, in the 59th percentile, meaning better than 59% of all those who were scored; whereas students in traditional classrooms ranked in the 50th percentile."

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