The job of yester years in this new age expects different and enhanced skills. A worker in an auto spare manufacturing firm needs to know basics of operating CNC machines, not just muscle strength and manage mechanical machines. A teacher in middle school is expected to at least know how to draft assignments, email study documents, manage email distribution lists, not just their subject of specialization like European history or plays of William Shakespeare. A doctor must know to use highly sophisticated machinery for diagnosis and treatment, just not hold scissors and tongs. A supervisor in a departmental store needs to know how to use a bar code scanner, hand held devices for inventory management and wireless communication devices, not just remembering items and numbers and managing unorganized workforce.
This begs for a few very important question:
- Is the traditional educational system which has been in existence for centuries good enough ?
- Is it imparting the adequate amount of skills required for someone to be successful in their chosen stream ?
- Will it survive unchanged because it is time tested this long ?
One basic model is access to coaches at their convenience and location alone where they come online and teach live. This just needs a good internet connection for a live session, rest can be done using traditional email, telephone, etc. It is very popular in cases like seeking training for art forms like playing musical instruments, singing, sewing and other vocational forms. Though this could disrupt some of the traditional 1:1 training, I see this as an extension of convenience only.
Other is professional platforms which are rapidly gaining popularity, both in terms of convenience and quality is the massive online education industry. There is already a good competition among a number of good ones. MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is one of the popular format which a Suresh from a southern corner of India can access and directly learn from a classroom that an ivy league professor records from the comfort of his University classroom in New York. which will be curated and packaged with other supporting subjects as a course curriculum and offered as a package. Again, this is a reality not a dream. There are other variants like custom courses run remote through satellite communication between any corners of the globe and students attending from any other parts LIVE.
I would like to credit Coursera as I understand who pioneered in this space and demonstrated large scale success as a pure online learning platform. More followed suit with success offering their own uniqueness like Udemy and KhanAcademy . These are just to name a few. They offer self-paced courses without certificates which are largely free and one will have to pay a fee if you opt to receive a certificate, electronic and printable forms from them recognizing your participation.
This, to me is like a massive meteor hitting the land of dinosaurs. Will have to wait and watch if it is huge enough to extinct them but I am very confident that it will trigger a climate change which will make the traditional business of education very uncomfortable. We can already see the tremors felt. Many of top universities are skeltering around to enter this space too and gain some market share, having recognized the potential. Their legacy of delivering quality education and a long history of specialization in many faculties could give them a great edge which new age platforms could face as a challenge. To name a few in this space: Open Yale offering their own, MIT Sloan and Harvard who tie up with platforms like edx and Emeritus to reach out to the market.
I may sound like howling Armageddon but think of it, if it is not such a serious disruption, why would the ivy leagues venture away from their prestigious campuses where people until just a decade ago were competing till death to enter in ?
The paradigm shift will be realized when recognized corporations and mass recruiting corporations stop looking for formal degrees from traditional universities. When they rely on their selection process and trusting the specialization courses done by the candidate in one of the disrupting medium. In some way, it makes sense to seek detailed knowledge of software design, architecture or coding than looking at a CGPA that is influenced by grades in unrelated subjects like psychology, analog circuits or fluid mechanics. If I am not wrong, this trend has already started. Many big companies have started thinking in this direction though it remains a exception. It may not take long for this to turn into the norm. When that happens, it will accelerate the trend for more demand driven learning that open online formats are suited than traditional campus curriculum.
Sitting at this juncture and imagining a world where the majority gets educated online at their leisure and just a minority going to traditional schools is like imagining a world driving cars during the age of horse drawn carts. If and when that happens, how much would the students lose. All the sense of camaraderie, friendship, romance, college campus fun and frolic, nostalgic moments as they grow older, respect for teachers, … The list can be never ending.
When it comes to the sprawling real estate of current college campuses. Will they reduce to space sharing and co-working businesses where competing schools of today work together tomorrow to stay afloat in business ?
Interesting times ahead… and only time can answer these questions.
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