An Internet friend of mine, John Saddington, created a blog post about College that really got me thinking. The purpose of this post is to share some of those thoughts.
I spent 8 years, off-and-on getting my Bachelor of Science degree. I hopped around a few schools and could never really find my groove until 2013 when I landed at Western Governor’s University. Looking back on it, I wish I had done things a lot differently. Namely, just getting a basic Associates degree and transferring would have saved me a lot of time and money.
Getting my degree from an online not-for-profit, I feel like I missed out on some of the interactivity and community-building. You hear stories about how someone spent time in a fraternity/sorority, was a part of X, Y, and Z clubs, and did all these cool things with people they shared dorm buildings with. Would I have been super active in all that? Probably not, but there’s a definite networking aspect to college that one might not ever get by taking alternative paths, depending on the alternative path they take. As much as we don’t want this to be the case, some recruiters and hiring managers see degrees as an indicator that this person was able to complete a long-term project/commitment successfully.
Putting all the fluffy parts aside, there’s a part I still struggle with when thinking about the amount of time I spent on my education. I can’t help but wonder if it’ll make a difference at this point. My degree is in Information Technology. It came with a handful of industry certifications that say on pieces of paper that I know enough about a list of topics to qualify for said pieces of paper. I learned most of that information not from my college studies, but from the real world. Learning as I went. Doing. Getting things wrong. Fixing them. Getting things right. Repeat.
That’s not to say the education I received would not have been valuable to someone. I know for a fact that some find it entirely useful, though I imagine that’s more because of the material than how it was delivered. There’s nothing unique about the delivery method. Alternative forms of education exist and should be encouraged. The idea that a college is the only way to learn a certain set of skills is a tired one, even considering hands-on training.
This thought process creates a very fine line, though. No one paid close enough attention and “schools” like DeVry and ITT Tech popped up, promising quality educations. Most of the time, the only thing that happened was the student ended up being out of way too much money for an education that didn’t mean anything.
How do we find a solution to this that involves both breaking the mold and maintaining quality, trustable educational pathways?
Are coding bootcamps the answer? Probably not. There’s no good set of standards for ensuring it’s not just a $10 Udemy course wrapped in a $14,000 tuition price tag. We just trust that because they have a building and teachers and dedicated learning times that it’ll be something that just works. We’re trading one set of problems for another.
Most of this got John and I talking about the hard requirement aspect of some careers. Right now, in order to become a lawyer, you have to go to school, take a test, go to another school, and become a member of the Bar Association. Without that, no lawyering for you. Are we sure that’s still the best way to make such a career happen for someone? Obviously everything up to the Bar Association admission is useless without said admission if the goal is to be lawyering your way around a court room, so what if we could change some of that? Why is it important for someone to go to Harvard if they want to work for a quality firm? (This is part rhetorical, part genuine question).
Technology has the power to change the way we learn and establish ourselves. There’s nothing that says the way things are will stay the same forever–literally all of society is a great example of that. Innovation and disruption are a required component of moving forward as a society and sometimes (a lot of times) it also comes with some discomfort. There are always individuals who wish to keep the status quo. It’s a comfortable position to take. I’m guilty of this sometimes, too.
There isn’t one right answer, here, and whatever form this disruption takes, my generation won’t likely be around to see it. I hope my children are offered more unique and high quality opportunities than I had. In fact, if they exist, I want to encourage them. One should be able to do whatever they so desire and establish themselves along the way in the manner and format they see fit. If that means spending time in a classroom, learning from pre-defined sets of materials in a certain order or if that means a virtual environment that includes hands-on training at an affiliated location, it all sounds good to me. If 100% of it was real-world, apprenticeship-style learning right next to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, that’s also fantastic!
I say yes to all of it! Put those who wish to excel in business next to those who have actually excelled in business, not just in a classroom. if someone wants to become an expert in animal husbandry, they should learn from the experts themselves.
Education is education and education is valuable. We should be finding as many ways to enhance that value as possible.