This comic is several weeks old, but I keep pulling it back up again and again. In just three small panels and in about 30 words, the strip speaks a pretty clear message of how the idea of education is shifting.
The more I thought about the comic, though, the more I realized we can actually read it two different ways:
- The interviewee is trying desperately to use the appropriate (yet empty) buzzwords that give him the credibility he needs. But to the Boss, it’s being translated into a completely different message: I’m a high school drop-out who failed three times at starting my own business. I’m not competent enough to make it through the formal education process, so I just try patch together the skills I need here and there. Instead of going to school, I went online and signed up for a few free courses, and printed off the completion certificates myself.
- Or, we can take what the interviewee is saying at face value: I was bored with high school and found it irrelevant because I spent all my time outside of class reading and learning about the things that actually interested me. I skipped my last year of high school and started not one but three successful start-up companies with a few of my buddies. Although much of my knowledge is self-learned, the online course I’ve completed are designed and taught by ivy-league instructors from institutions like Stanford, Yale, and Duke. The technology field is constantly changing, so I continue to work and learn, diving into projects and learning the skills I need to be successful with those projects.
Here are just a few of the points they hit:
- Our current higher education system’s lack of sustainability–paying too much without enough returns (Businessweek published some interesting numbers about the return on college degrees from over 800 private and public universities.)
- “Micro-credentialing”–re-visioning our traditional system of degree-holding credentialing and validation by offering certifications and badges in specific skill areas
- Rethinking how we evaluate proficiency and skill level
- The problem of students beginning degrees but never completing them (I saw this morning that the Chronicle is actually doing an interesting study on college completion rates.)
- Opportunities to use technology and open-source education models to improve education productivity
- Customized learning experiences that let students learn at their own pace
- Rethinking assessment/grading to support open education environments by making it more of a learning community effort
Go watch the video of the conversation highlights. It’s worth 18 minutes of your time, I promise.
Am I trying to devalue degrees or question the importance of higher education? Well, that would be silly of me… I’ve spent the past seven years of my life in a university. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t see it holding any value. But I also realize that people are motivated to learn for different reasons, and I am happy to see that we are starting to really reconsider our learning models and our standards for what we consider “educated.”