The more it changes, the more it stays the same

This article about the growing skills gaps provides some hard-hitting statistics.  What the data show is something we already knew.

First, we know that the students and employers are unhappy with what the education providers dish out, but the providers believe they do a swell job!  Now we know the %’s.

Second, we know that we learn the best while working under the pressure of a job and by doing things.  But, the education providers ignore both these avenues of learning in most curricula.

Third, a bitter truth – while we know that job-related training has more impact, the social as well as professional pecking orders place vocational training below academic training!

These three facts have traditionally led good companies to “invest” in training significantly.  However, under cost and time-to-market pressures, companies have started looking at this investment as “cost” and are now expecting a finished product (a productive worker) right out of college.

That’s where the trouble starts.

Companies do not want to invest and colleges believe they are doing fine.  As a result, today’s graduating student is more stressed – increasingly poor experience in colleges and increasingly higher productivity pressure at work!

Thankfully, rays of hope are appearing in the form of alternate education methods: massively online open courses a.k.a. MOOCs (like Stanford’s Coursera and MIT’s OCW), Do-it-yourself (DIY) content, and peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing.

Out of these, MOOCs are getting the most press and hype, but in reality DIY and P2P actually have a higher impact; they are actually making a difference in how the world learns.  The plethora of interactivity and communication mechanisms unleashed by the Internet are fueling all of them.

But guess what?  Even when the Internet was not around (i.e., when I was attending college), I learnt the most – not in my classrooms but – using DIY and P2P in the physical world.

That’s why I think the more things change, the more they remain the same!  Communication technologies used in education over the internet are finally starting to support the basic human behaviors.

Experts and good teachers will have their value that will never go away.  MOOCs meet that need.  For the interested student, DIY and P2P make the best kind of eco-system available.

I expect that the high-priced campuses will soon lose their sheen and the students will eventually benefit.  And therefore, the companies will benefit too.


The Crisis in Higher Education

Nicolas Carr has an interesting article on massively online open courses (or MOOCs), which are attracting hundreds of thousands of students, millions of dollars in funding, and accolades from college administrators. He wonders whether this is a fad or the very overhaul higher education needs?

These “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, are earning praise for bringing outstanding college teaching to multitudes of students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it, including those in remote places and those in the middle of their careers. The online classes are also being promoted as a way to bolster the quality and productivity of teaching in general-for students on campus as well as off. Former U.S. secretary of education William Bennett has written that he senses “an Athens-like renaissance” in the making. Stanford president John Hennessy told the New Yorker he sees “a tsunami coming.”