By: Kevin Browne, Philosopher / Educator

It seems that not a week goes by anymore without another article on the coming, massive, disruptive changes in higher education.

The End of the University as we Know it and Will the Rich Abandon Four Year Degrees? are two examples. There is no shortage of others I could cite.

Now is the time for educators and students to learn about the changes and embrace them. There is always some discomfort in disruption, but there is also potential for more and better learning. Look at things from the point of view of students:

1. Knowledge is free: You can learn anything you want for free using the vast resources of the internet. Websites like TED.com, iTunes University, Academic Earth, and many, many more provide high-quality educational material through the use of video, audio, and text. Much of this material is provided by world-renowned scholars and experts in their fields. You could learn about most any subject in the general education course catalog with these resources.

2. The classroom experience is not worth the price:  Many continue to make the argument that the benefit of in-person college courses lies in the interaction of the classroom.  But, too often this interaction is simply not there.  The students who most need this interaction are ill-prepared to engage in it or benefit from it.  The ones who least need it for their education can get interaction elsewhere and for much less (or for free).

3. Documenting learning is easier than ever:  Another common argument for the college classroom and college credit is that they are the best ways to document learning.  But, this too is changing with the growth of badges, portfolios, and other methods of documenting learning.  As long as a student can demonstrate that they have skills necessary to succeed in a job or their life that is all anyone outside of the academy will require.

Websites like StackUp, Open Badges, LinkedIn, and many more will make it easy for students to showcase their skills and knowledge, interact with others, and successfully achieve their goals without college.

Now is also the time for employers to begin embracing these new models of learning and documenting. While it will continue to have its uses, the college degree fails to offer many features that are important to employers trying to assess the qualifications of prospective employees. College degrees are a time-delayed documentation of learning but the platforms I mentioned above, like Stackup, offer real-time documentation of learning. College degrees provide a broad overview of learning by indicating a student’s major but they don’t offer the detailed documentation that would really tell someone the specifics of a student’s learning.  College degrees are an accredited documentation of learning but that accreditation is part of what is driving up the cost and with alternatives to document learning now available the value of that “seal of approval” will decrease.

So, let’s embrace the changes that are coming in education, learn from them, and use them to improve our own learning as well as the learning of our students.

Kevin Browne

Philosopher / Educator

kevinjbrowne.com