Last night I went to an Education Innovation Meetup hosted by the Berkeley Startup Cluster, a coalition among UC Berkeley, the City of Berkeley, and a bunch of business orgs, to attract high-tech startups and keep them based in Berkeley. A panel of four innovators in education threw out some radical ideas, including the notion that getting institutional accreditation was a waste of time.
One panelist tossed out the proposition that students should take ownership of their educational institution. This proposal is already underway in the Oregon legislature, which would allow students to pay back tuition over the course of their careers and thus make them, in a sense, part-owners of the university or college they attended.
Two teachers mentioned that freebie programs on the Internet -- such as the Open Education Resources offered by ISKME.org, a client of mine -- are not good for small schools whose teachers lack the training needed to customize the resources for their curricula. Off-the-shelf programs usually need tweaking, and tweaking takes computer skills.
Training computer engineers is the goal of Dev Boot Camp, which offers a 9-week course for $12,000 and claims that 95 percent of its graduates get jobs right after graduation. Shereef Bishay, a cofounder, says accreditation isn't needed because it's not the degree but the skills the students acquire that gets them jobs.
Despite the hoopla about online education, particularly MOOCs, all the panelists downplayed the importance of Internet-based models of learning. Jake Samuelson with Learn Capital -- the world's largest education VC firm -- said the results for digital learning models are still not in, and it will take a few more years to determine what works and what doesn't.
Dev Boot Camp's Bishay went even further, saying, "Online education is an impoverished education." He thinks that the future model of higher education will be similar to that of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, where authority is decentralized and learning happens in person. He says the age of the "sage on the stage" is becoming extinct.
Steven Crane, a finance teacher at the Presidio Graduate School, thinks education will become more hands on and personalized, similar to the way education works in Germany (and did in previous centuries), with internships and apprenticeships making a vigorous comeback.
No one I talked to at this event was a high-school or even a college drop-out. Many had master's and Ph.D. degrees. And even though they often dropped out of college and graduate programs, most of the high-tech CEOs today went to elite schools like Harvard and Stanford. In their attempts to scale the Ivy League education experience, companies like EdX and Coursera seem to eviscerate the essence of a personalized and one-on-one approach these institutions foster.