Is it more valuable to teach people how to find and use information to build and create the skills they need or is more valuable to teach people a skill? Put another way, is it more valuable to go to a college or to learn how to find and use the information that a college would give you on your own?
The internet has changed education…
My brother Josh just turned 20 and I mention him in my presentations quite a bit. What’s interesting about Josh is that he has built a career for himself around videography (filming and editing) without ever going to college for it. Now, Josh does go to school but he studies other things (he knows he won’t get a job without a degree). He created this career for himself and has some of the top of the line cameras, green screens, microphones, and studio lighting that a person can own. He bought all of this by himself. So if he didn’t go to college for this how did he learn how to film and edit? Through the web. He joined in discussion forums, watched Youtube tutorials, shared questions and ideas via social media, and read review sites to find the best equipment. At a university (such as a UC) this would be a 4 year degree with a major in film and would probably cost anywhere from $60-100k. Not only that but Josh would probably also have to learn about many things that he is not interested in. Instead he was able to learn all of this on his own, for free, in a shorter amount of time.
I’m not saying that colleges are useless, they teach us a lot of valuable things such as social skills, core competencies, and can help us hone our passions and interests. We build networks, make friends (but even these can made on our own), and learn about a wide array of subjects to help us expand our minds. What I am saying is that the way we are teaching should evolve and change with the way that students today are creating and consuming information and communicating with one another. Every time I go to a conference I ask people “how many of you went to school for what it is you are doing today,” only a small handful of people raise their hands (around 5% of the audience of hundreds). Why is this? We are trying to educate students and train them for jobs which haven’t even been invented yet. When I went to school there were no classes around social media, collaboration, social business, or really anything that relevant to the internet at all (I went to UCSC to study economics and psychology). Now these are demanded jobs which organizations around the world are seeking to fill. Unfortunately much of what we learn is later lost since we don’t use much of what we learn in our jobs.
Skills are great to have and teach but the ability to adapt, evolve, and grow your skills independently is a far greater asset. The reality is that we don’t usually follow the career paths based on what we study. Many people go to college because they have to, they know that they can’t get a job without that diploma.
This poses an interesting problem but also a great opportunity for today’s universities in how students are taught. We have new technologies and our behaviors have changed yet it’s not just organizations that need to adapt to these changes. Universities and educational institutions need to adapt as well because these are supposed to be the places that groom the future workforce. Recently I heard about a program that offers incentives for entrepreneurs to drop out of school to pursue their ideas, with funding!
Some colleges are evolving the way they teach and what they teach but most are not. Traditionally we relied on teachers to provide us with information we needed around a particular topic. This is no longer the case. We can now learn independently of the classroom and can do so at a much more rapid pace, far more accelerated then what we would get in a college. We no longer need to wait for a professor to explain supply chain management, Freud’s theories on psychology, how to solve complex equations, or how the universe was formed. We have access to millions of teachers and pieces of content that can give us everything we need to learn about a topic, not only that but many of us can access this information anytime from our phones.
We need to acknowledge that colleges are one of the oldest institutions we have and that they need to change just like everything else.
This makes me wonder, do many of us to go college just because we have to? Because we know we need that diploma to get our first job? If you didn’t have to go to college and could still get the same type of job as someone else who did go to college, would you still go?
Is the value of colleges declining?