Have college degrees become obsolete?
CreativeLive and Unwanted.com think so and they've created some alternatives
Thursday, December 13, 2012
A lot of times, once a child starts going to elementary school, parents already start thinking about their college future.
In previous generations, going to a college or university was something of a privilege, as oftentimes high school graduates needed to work and contribute to the household finances or they chose to start their own families and immediately joined the workforce.
But today going to college is often a complete no-brainer, whether a child really wants to attend or not. Usually, there’s pressure from parents, teachers, high schools and society in general to attend. In these cases, a person goes to college with no real game plan or real desire to attend, often wasting tuition costs and doing poorly academically.
Also, a lot of kids feel if they don’t go to college, they’ll have no future or won't become successful, which is not necessarily true.
But there's little debate that college isn’t for everybody, as college dropout rates make clear. It’s similar to a person who automatically gets married and has children just because they feel it’s the next logical phase after reaching a certain stage in life--only to find out later that marriage and raising a family isn’t want they really wanted.
Well, a couple of companies have recognized the need to offer services for the person who may not be interested in college but still wants to get an education, pursue their passion and eventually become successful.
CreativeLive is one of those companies, as it allows people to join college courses through streaming in any part of the world. Many classes are free, while there is a modest fee of a few hundred dollars or less for others.
Users can stream a class and have the ability to participate in classroom discussions and communicate with professors, or for a fee, they can download past courses. Some of the more popular lecturers also offer occasional in-person courses at CreativeLive's Seattle headquarters.
CreativeLive also gives users the option to view a company calendar and decide which courses they want to join and at which university. One can also choose a class that’s happening live and immediately join in.
There are no degrees involved with CreativeLive, as the company focuses more on a person receiving training and feedback from experts rather than a receiving a certificate or a degree.
Going it alone
CreativeLive and other companies like it have recognized that some individuals are capable of becoming successes without a college degree, and by focusing on a particular passion and developing a skill, one could find a job that’s pretty lucrative. These kinds of possibilities have grown right along with the growth of the Internet in recent years.
For example, if you have an interest in software development and are highly skilled, a company may be willing to hire you based on your talent and experience instead of your level of formal education.
Or if you have an Internet company that you want to get off the ground, and you can sell the idea to investors, they're more likely to look at how good your idea and business plan is, instead of checking your GPA and what type of degree you have.
CreativeLive offers a variety of courses you can take like film and video, business courses, photography, design classes and software development, and so far the company has over 1 million students who have already joined.
UnCollege.com is another company that provides an alternative route for those who want to pursue an education on their own.
The company pretty much serves as an education and resource hub, as it links users with workshops, forums, experts in a particular field and class information from various institutions.
Again, there’s no degree at UnCollege and students don’t receive a grade, as the site’s emphasis is strengthening a particular skill, so those interested in entrepreneurship or turning their art into a business will have access to mentors, useful information and other class enrollees to bounce ideas off of.
The founder of UnCollege, Dale Stephens, says most colleges haven’t updated their methods and they simply follow traditional teaching styles, which often don't relate to today’s competitive world and the new type of job opportunities that are out there.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the classical education model was designed during the Industrial Revolution, basically to train individuals to be factory workers,” said Stephens in a published interview. He might get some arguments on that, but it's his opinion.
“There was not an emphasis on creativity, independent thought or analytical thinking or any of those skills that today are required for success in a globalized environment,” Stephens asserted.
Users of UnCollege.com will, we're told, be able to join classes from several universities like, Stanford, Penn and Princeton free of charge from their computer or mobile device, and more educational websites are bound to pop up that choose to focus more on training rather than giving out degrees.
Whether students of UnCollege and CreativeLive will be able to financially and professionally prosper with no degree remains to be seen, but in today’s fast-paced world where the Internet is at the base of many great business ideas, its more possible these days than ever before.
Education is ongoing
While it's currently fashionable for people like Dale Stephens to declare traditional colleges obsolete, it misstates the case to say that colleges developed as training mills for factory workers.
The original academies existed to pursue education as a pure pursuit--one that is its own reward, sort of like "pure" science instead of technology. There are still many out there, including some of the most successful people on earth today, who would argue that picking up a few undergraduate and graduate degrees is something any reasonably intelligent person should do, not just to have a credential but to develop the analytical thinking skills and well-rounded knowledge base that enable them to pursue careers, ventures and pursuits in a number of fields.
Stephens and others like him would do well to examine their most loyal students, those who return to take course after course after course. They might find that those avid learners already have a couple of degrees and are basically on a lifelong quest for learning or simply working hard to keep up with changes in their profession.
Much of the smart money today is betting on what we used to call "distance learning" to be a big growth area. But it's not necessarily going to be at the expense of Stanford and UCLA. Most expect that the easy availability of online learning will make it possible for individuals who are already knock-outs in one field to achieve breakthroughs in new fields that strike their fancy.