Should Education be Open Source?

open-courseWe continue to challenge the relevance of the college “degree” as being an insufficient measurement for what “educated” is, or is not, in an innovation economy. With the cost of a college degree spiraling upward and the value of the degree spiraling downward, the market will tip in favor of the alternative education measurements.

It is important to note that we do not challenge the existence of institutes of higher education, only the “degree” as a unit of measurement. The four year Bachelor degree and two year Masters degree are irrelevant as a title (there is no legal title since the age of the guilds) and arbitrary in duration to respond to the diversity, speed, and scope at which new technologies become available for deployment.

Ray Barton writes: The UK House of Commons in its’ report on Re-skilling in January 2009 stated the useful life of a degree is five years. In high tech professions, the useful lifetime of knowledge can be as short as 1.5 years.

This alone disrupts the current paradigm of higher education in several ways.

1. Since the currency of the degree is almost the same as the duration of time required to earn the degree, the value of the asset depreciates substantially before the transaction is completed.
2. Interest on student loan increases while the value of the education decreases, resulting in a higher than disclosed real interest rate.
3. Market incentives are disrupted when an alternative knowledge asset such as HTML programming would return substantially greater benefit in both the long term and short term gains.
4. The delivery of higher education is archaic since it takes between 2-5 years to substantially change the curriculum at a university.
5. Accreditation is disrupted because commonality of course material cannot be properly assessed across a wide range of schools all reacting to different technological influences.
6. The correlation between college degree and entrepreneurial success is not bullet proof.

Historically, the “degree” is a basic foundation upon which a person can continue their education in the direction of market forces. The value of the college degree also includes the social network of friends and classmates as well as the social cues needed to assimilate into a corporate class. The problem in a modern innovation economy is that these market forces also change rapidly such that:

1. Education products that serve rapidly changing markets do not fall into the accreditation system of the “degree”.
2. Social networks outside college are becoming far more powerful, diverse and valuable that time is often better spent just building networks.
3. Traditional social cues such as appearance, manner of speech, and social etiquette favor diversity in a global innovation economy built on social media.

The great opportunity for the entrepreneurs of the next economic paradigm is to serve the education market with an open source educational value system compliant to a higher resolution taxonomy that includes a quality and quality as well as a “time” metric.

Only then can education behave like the financial instrument that it is touted to be.

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