Tuesday, September 18

The Future of Education


In the very near future learning at all levels (even higher ed) will be radically, irreversibly altered.  Huge changes will happen such that many people cannot yet even imagine, and it's going to be capital M, Messy!

Here's some of what I'm guessing:

1) Learning will be increasingly modularized.  We won't be dealing in degrees but rather fine grains of learning gathered from various sources.  Once the education bubble is fully deflated (and it will probably deflate rather than burst) more people will reject spending huge amounts of money on a prescribed set of courses, which often feature only a small handful of awesome learning facilitators (professors) along with a lot of mediocre teachers and learning opportunities.


2) Universities will be radically, unrecognizably altered.  Don't get me wrong; the few at the top won't be as effected...Stanford, Harvard and other upper echelon universities will remain unchanged for longer (unless they are very smart) .  I'm often in rooms where people love to argue about the future of B&M universities and whether or not they'll continue to exist.  The best line I've heard recently was "universities will exist like orchestras exist".  In other words there will be a few, elite, expensive, high quality examples but most of the population won't relate to or benefit from their existence.  The rest of them will be enormously altered.

3) Learning will be much more learner-empowered and autodidactic.

4) There will be many more learning path options and the current "must-do" of university will no longer be regarded as the only way or even the best way.  There will be a flip in validity perception so autodidactism and self-directed learning at all levels will be more highly valued and rewarded.  EVEN by employers!  

5) The biggest change game in the edu space, the Holy Grail, so to speak, is the creation and establishment of an alternative credentialing system.  Currently, the institutions have a firm grasp on their remaining "brass ring", the degree.  They won't let go easily but it will be forced out of their hands.  This is the opinion where I get the most push-back; SO many people can't believe this could ever change but I'm very confident that it will and I think it's going to happen sooner than people think.  I've been advising start-ups in the edu space and I know many people who are working on alternative signaling systems.  It's a huge problem but once it's solved in a way that allows for adoption, and once more and more people decide to consider competence over signals, much will change.


Basically, the old system had a stronghold on three primary spokes: content, community, credentialing.  Tech innovation has made content and community creation much more widely accessible!  Once the last remaining leg is replaced, so much will change incredibly quickly.  So, from a futurist perspective I'm pretty convinced that a university degree won't be nearly as important as it has been in the past, or even as important as it currently remains.  On a personal level, my goal is to give my kids the meta-skills that I believe are necessary for university success because they are the same skills that will serve them should they choose to go a more independent route.  And in the meantime, I'm doing what I can to make sure there's a lot more choice in the matter.


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