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Veritably, deliberate lifelong learning is more critical now due to mal-employment (being employed without any use of the degree). For instance, 40% - 60% of recent graduates in the United States are mal-employed.40 Due to academic inflation (diminishing value of the degree, requiring higher qualification and credentials to compete over time) and the information age, the 39Blake, D. (n.d.). Interview with David Blake: The Future of the Degree. (ONLINE) Harvard College Tech Review. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from http://harvardcollegetechreview.com/2013/future-ofthe-degree/ 40Fogg, N., & Harrington, P. (n.d.). (ONLINE) Mal-Employment Problems among College-Educated Immigrants in the United States. Center for Labor Markets and Policy Drexel University. Retrieved October 11, 2012, from http://www.drexel.edu/provost/clmp/docs/clmpmal-employment-paper.pdf Abel, J., & Deitz, R. (2012, December 3). (ONLINE) Agglomeration and Job Matching among College Graduates. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.newyorkfed.org/research/staff_reports/sr587.pdf Accenture 2013 College Graduate Employment Survey. (ONLINE) (2013, January 1). Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.accenture.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/PDF/Accenture-2013-College-GraduateEmployment-Survey.pdf skills and the knowledge acquired through a university degree no longer last throughout an entire career.
Hence, the Open Loop University43 by the Strategic Foresight and Innovation team at Stanford. Here, students receive six years of access to residential learning opportunities to distribute across their lives as they deemed fit rather than a 4 year one during ages 18 – 22. This way, students could gain knowledge, skills and network while in college, get real-world exposure and come back to accelerate, pivot and redefine their career path while equipped with the experience and perspective they need to focus on studies. Older students could also share their 41 The Shift Index. (n.d.). The Shift Index. (ONLINE) Retrieved October 6, 2014, from http://www.deloitte.com/us/shiftindex 42 Frey, C., & Osborne, M. (n.d.). Oxford Martin. (ONLINE) The future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation?. Retrieved September 7, 2013, from http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/downloads/academic/The_Future_of_Employment.pdf 43Open Loop University. (2014). (ONLINE) Retrieved November 13, 2014, from http://www.stanford2025.com/open-loop-university/ wisdom and inspire younger students and reconnect with the community every time, making the campus more dynamic, balanced with youthful energy and wisdom. This approach breaks down the batches system, makes education more age-blind while de-stigmatizing a range of legitimate patterns of learning such as gap-years. Thus helping students make wise choices and better impact with their university investment.
All this leads us to a potential solution which is a spillover from a popular trend which software companies and the media are embracing; it is called Unbundling.
To Bundle or Not To Bundle Before the iTunes era, one had to purchase the entire album, even if the user liked only one song. iTunes forced a revolution in the business model causing the sales of recorded music to go down 50%44 over the last decade thanks to $0.99 songs replacing $20 albums and most recently music streaming portals. This has been replicated across other forms of media like print and television with the rise of RSS feeds and news aggregators like Flipboard and Pulse and on-demand television like Netflix. So why not mix and match learning modules over semesterlong university courses?
Bundling enabled universities to reach economies of scale and avoid the cost/benefit scrutiny that usually accompanies purchasing decisions. And just like 44UV Letters. (n.d.). University Ventures Letters. Retrieved August 15, 2012, from http://universityventuresfund.com/publications.php?title=the-great-unbundling with music, unbundling could shrink per-student income considerably but universities would merit from additional customers gained from the producer surplus.
Experts seem to agree that it’s a good idea. Clayton Christensen argues,45 “I bet what happens as [higher education] becomes more modular is that a credential occurs at the level of the course, not the university; so they can then offer degrees as collection of the best courses taught in the world. A barrier that historically kept people out of university [is] blown away by the modularization and the change in [course-by-course] accreditation.” In fact, MIT studied Unbundling or modularization of education in a major report46 where they explored 47 how they should innovate to these trends. “The very notion of a ‘class’ may be outdated,” the report claims while imagining a world where students can assemble courses themselves from different parts such as taking robotics at MIT, computer science from Stanford and innovation from Harvard. The reports also asserts that48 professors could collaborate better by teaching sections rather than the whole course. Moreover, updating modules Blake, D. (n.d.). Interview with David Blake: The Future of the Degree. (ONLINE) Harvard College Tech Review. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from http://harvardcollegetechreview.com/2013/future-ofthe-degree/ 46Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education. (n.d.).(ONLINE) MIT Task Force.
Retrieved July 28, 2014, from http://web.mit.edu/future-report/TaskForceFinal_July28.pdf 47 Thomason, A. (n.d.). The Ticker. MIT Releases Wide Ranging Report on Its Future Comments.
(ONLINE) Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/mit-releases-wideranging-report-on-its-future/83245 48 Young, J. (n.d.). Chronicle. Wired Campus Are Courses Outdated MIT Considers Offering Modules Instead Comments. Retrieved August 10, 2014, from http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/arecourses-outdated-mit-considers-offering-modules-instead/54257 continually would be easier than redesigning the entire course. And professors are receptive to the idea with a quarter of MIT professors suggested that their classes could benefit from a modular approach.
Where Do We Go From Here?
With distribution being either online, face to face, or a blended version of the two, the individual course could be the unit of content over the degree itself, forcing universities – the record labels of education to unbundle. This would reduce entry barriers and could spark the end of the dominant knowledge distribution system where new courses and programs launch not to strengthen the bundle, but rather because the product will support itself in an unbundled model. So, what would change if these advances were to happen?49 Universities will be masters of curation, working as talent agencies. They’ll draw royalties and license fees from the content professors create and curate. In many ways, the role of the best universities will become even more focused on identifying, investing in, and harvesting the returns from great talent and might increasingly compete as content creators against some of today’s large publishers.
And distribution platforms that curate content will do well, commanding both
49UV Letters. (n.d.). University Ventures Letters. Retrieved August 15, 2012, from http://universityventuresfund.com/publications.php?title=the-great-unbundling Decreased cost of content combined with increased competition among professors, and lower average ROI for universities per professor, will lead to lower tuition
Great professors with interdisciplinary knowledge—the great curators—will see license and royalty fees go up as they command economies of scale in distribution.
Meanwhile, average professors will find their incomes shrinking and their job insecurity growing unless they improve.
Courses due to their iterative nature could be more cutting-edge and could come from a multiplicity of knowledge establishments like libraries, museums and makerspaces based on feedback from cohorts of entrepreneurs, employers, global think-tanks among others. This is a pivotal moment, which will make higher education more iterative and age-blind (increasing the age differential between students) for students to gain new skills and refresh old ones, especially when linked to unemployment benefits like they are in Denmark and Switzerland. This will also bring more choice and diversity while leveraging instant feedback to facilitate new learning styles and focal interests.
With a plethora of content being available, the shift is still at the genesis. It will have its fair share of skepticism and opposition as “many stand to gain from protecting the status quo. But leveraging this wave to enact positive and permanent change is vital” argues David Blake50. But this creative destruction is necessary to unlock the dominion of knowledge.
Blake, D. (n.d.). Interview with David Blake: The Future of the Degree. (ONLINE) Harvard College Tech Review. Retrieved March 26, 2013, from http://harvardcollegetechreview.com/2013/future-ofthe-degree/
Our approach towards our careers has been fairly similar over the past few decades. The objective was to be highly trained specialists and work all the way to the top of the company or industry. But this approach may no longer be sustainable enough to tackle the trans-disciplinary nature of the problems we have today or the ambiguity it comes with. Undeniably, expertise in a vertical area is essential, but in a rapidly changing world, it is the highly specialized skills that become obsolete more quickly. So, instead of purely focussing on vertical growth, maybe the focus should be on an orbital approach to growth instead. An approach that comes with a certain level of expertise in an area and orbiting around to other areas of study to culminate in a unique combinations of insights.
Invariably diversity creates creativity and drives innovation; and this approach will bring breakthrough ideas, assorted interactions and insights through observing relationships between diverse disciplines. It could possibly even lead to new areas of study and a creative convergence between arts and science.
Heather Wilson from The Rhodes Scholarship concurs51 – “High-achieving students seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why. Universities are producing top students who have given very little thought to matters beyond their impressive grasp of an intense area of study. Sadly, it’s not a single, anomalous Wilson, H. (2011, January 23). (ONLINE) Heather Wilson - Our Superficial Scholars. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2011/01/21/AR2011012104554.html group of students but rather a trend. Perhaps our universities have yielded to the pressure of parents who pay high tuition and expect students, above all else, to be prepared for the jobs they will try to secure after graduation.” We seem to be living in silos while the world has become more multi-faceted. The notion of a specialist boasting the job security and reputation may merely be an illusion. So, how might one channel the system away from siloed thinking towards orbital thinking?
“We need to train our youth to be Hybrid Thinkers because if you want to innovate, you need to be one part humanist, one part technologist and one part capitalist" says Dev Pattnaik, Founder of Jump Associates52. Hybrid Thinking is using a human centered approach and merging experiences in different fields – contrary the increased specialization or the siloed Thinking system we have today. “We live in a society that prizes depth in a single field of research over breadth in multiple areas.
Innovation, however, demands that you see the world through multiple lenses at the same time, and draw meaning from seemingly disparate points of data", he continues. Therefore, Hybridity is much needed to break the siloed model, as the degree of complexity of the ‘wicked’ problems we’re facing in the world are too labyrinthine for any one skillset to handle. It requires multi-faceted and experiential teams of people or Hybrid Thinkers.
Multiple futurists have forecasted the need for breaking down these silos as well.
The Institute for the Future states that Transdisciplinary skills53 are one of the 52Pattnaik, D. (n.d.). (ONLINE) Forget Design Thinking and Try Hybrid Thinking. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://www.fastcodesign.com/1338960/forget-design-thinking-and-tryhybrid-thinking 53Anna Davies, Devin Fidler and Marina Gorbis. “Future Work Skills: 2020”. (ONLINE). Institute for the Future, 2010 most important skills that will reshape the landscape of work in 2020. Meanwhile, Arup’s report on the Future of Education asserts, “Institutions will need to focus on teaching transversal competences and on the provision of facilities and courses that support cross-pollination and a breakdown of silos. Holistic, inter-disciplinary learning will also be a key feature of future studies, as systemic thinking becomes standard practice in business and industry.” For all this, new higher education programs that bring diversity of perspectives and cross-disciplinary thinking into their communities need to emerge.
The Ingredients (Key Takeaways) A Major Problem
- A university major is not a sustainable option. Most students either switch their majors or end up working in fields completely unrelated to their
- Students may not be clear about what their future field is, but almost all of them have a problem or a life-question calling for their attention that they