…So I have been on a bit of a Dupress reading binge lately. Lots of great stuff. And to that point, this morning I read a great article on the site that told a compelling story about how the student of the future will obtain her post-high school education:
In two years, Laura developed foundational skills in critical thinking, communications, and ethics, among other areas, and sharpened her quantitative skills, earning her a competency-based degree. She then studied independently through massive open online courses (MOOCs), participated in a 12-week immersive boot camp, completed a university architectural certificate, and worked as an intern for a design firm. She did all this while attending frequent networking meet-ups to explore and pursue full-time job opportunities and spending most of her free time in a design studio where she interacted with peers and mentors.
You can read the full story (and larger article) here, but in short the authors suggests that students of the future will develop the skills and competencies they need to succeed in their chosen profession through a combination of independent learning, networking, on the job training, and partnerships with traditional education institutions. In essence, the authors suggest that the learning model of the future will stand in sharp contrast to the one most students experience today.
There is some wisdom to this idea. According to the piece, the average 4-year residential degree program costs $30,000 per year, and at the current cost trajectory this rate will rise to $62,000 annually by 2025. Furthermore, the majority of learning one needs to succeed in one’s chosen profession is taking place informally in the workplace, not the classroom. This suggests what most professionals already know: The majority of college degrees aren’t giving students the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.
…But yet the fact remains that college remains the right way to go for most. Check out the below Bureau of Labor Statistics chart contrasting median weekly earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment:
At the end of the day, the ROIC is there for going to college. And despite escalating costs, a college degree is if nothing else an excellent screening tool for base competencies that employers value. And good programs also help students develop technical skills that shorten their on-the-job learning curves.
…So we know that college itself is a good idea, but that the system – from both dollars and cents and practical skills/preparedness perspectives – is broken. It’s gotten bad enough that employers aren’t even hiring new grads anymore. Despite improving employment numbers, over a third of recent college grads are now underemployed (an escalating number from 08′), and even a majority of senior administrators at colleges seem to realize that there’s a problem.
…This brings me back to the new learning model advocated for by Dupress. One that marries independent learning and on-the-job-training with traditional education programs. It’s a wonderful idea… but my concern is that I don’t think most people develop the skills to effectively manage unstructured learning. For most working professionals, coming in at the end of a long day at work and continuing one’s education requires a level of discipline / focus that they’ve just never been taught.
The problem – I think – with entrusting people with their own learning is that most societies don’t start doing it early enough (if ever) in their student’s educational journeys for it to become a lifelong habit. Most students sit in classrooms and listen to teachers lecture from the time they are five or six years old. Education is something that happens to them as opposed to something they guide and direct.
If this is the case then the problem isn’t really how and what we teach students once they get to college – it’s how we teach them to learn before they get there, right?
Or maybe I have this wrong?
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments below.