Degree-based Education is doomed... and so are your degrees!

This is from my blog 

I am predicting right now that within ten to twenty-years the idea of degree based education years will become a thing of the 20th century broken educational model. How can I make such a claim? Well, simple we all know that a degree is really worthless in todays market and what is really wanted is EXPERIENCE. How do I know this... Well, currently I am looking to find Federal Enterprise Architects for a project for Dept of Homeland Security and it doesn't matter how much education, what school you attended or training they have, what is sought after is applied knowledge. They want someone with 5+ years of FEA. I drill top executives... How many years have you done FEA? Where? How many segments have they written etc... In what area? What technologies to you know? What specific kind and how much time in each? I'm  sorry but your $200k our masters degree from Harvard or MIT is absolutely worthless to me! Understand that debt is a economic driving force and the entire capitalistic market is all about who owns it and controls it. That's the real power... The other reality is that there is no guarantees in a degree either... their is really nothing tangible or measurable about it. However, experience has milestones, accomplishments and real outcomes.

So where is education headed? Education 3.0 or as I call it #e3o on twitter. E3o is the next evolution of education and it is going to be a really exciting reincarnation/reinvention. Its impact will be far greater than other Great Leaps humanity has undergone: speech, writing, the industrial revolution, the information revolution...and so on.  The turning point will be what I have named "the Education Singularity" or "eSingularity" event -- this is the moment when any 2 yr old on a smart device running autonomous learning software will playfully and entertainingly guide any child to an grade equivalent education in Math, Science and Language arts.   We are just years away from such technology coming out in the West (it wont be free initially...but it will be eventually). When eSingularity happen's a Pandora's Box will have been open that will set in motion the collapse of the Western Educational Complex that for 3000 years has monopolized and governed over Western education and the rest of the world (Probably at this point you are laughing like I am Don Quixote describing dragons and all you see are windmills... but that's okay. New paradigms are tough to swallow the first time :) The eSingularity Dragon is coming.  It is a Pandora's Box because taking the nest leap to universal free education in all subject matters will be relatively easy to step to make.  And when that happens... well, you can use your imagination.  The shit will hit the fan!

Some milestones... Opensource media platform Kaltura 2007, Development of smartphones and their dominance over PC 2010. Apple buying Siri on April 28th 2010. Siri is a very rudimentary autonomous platform that acts as an personal assistant. Using the imagination one could easily see Apple releasing "Siri app finder" and coming out and "Siri Ed" for powering iPhone apps learning with Siri and doing some very cool things with it. I can imagine a host of other simple autonomous apps too... when others see the power and usability of Siri other autonomous software apps start hitting the market.  And out of this will evolve the autonomous software industry.  What these apps will do is allow anyone to take content and turn it into learning modules that can be translated into any of the 6782 languages and autonomously delivered to any smart device... Learning Engines like the Cerego engine will track these modules and actually deliver them intelligently to an end-user. I will be able to tell my smart phone what I want to learn and it would not only train me but also provide me the skill challenges that we only traditionally learn by experience... maybe it will be VR or augmented delivered or in other problem solving method... the ways we will be able to deliver the challenges and experiences would be near infinite and completely up to the the imagination of the community builders using easy to use autonomous software tools.

The eventual outcome is what we know will not be displayed on a CV, but more like a bar-code that is unique to me and only me. It would tell you EVERYTHING I chose to release to you. Maybe "Active ID (tm)" would allow anyone to just scan me with another smart device and provide you with my life playlist of my actual accomplishment, activities, roi, learning ability and education... No lies more BS or silly meaningless degrees!

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good day Michael.
This is one of the issues which I will be covering at the World Future Society conference in Boston on 8 July. It is also a subject that was touched upon in the July 2 New York Times front page. We are starting to see, under the radar, the skill sets that you define as schools and universities move to a more Constructivist education with requirements like "service learning" and international experiences which may become almost mandatory. The EU under the Bologna Process is pushing this latter element, internally and focusing on the currently 3 million international students, globally.

Perhaps one of the prescient ideas to come out of the science fiction literature is Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age which centers around an interactive learning device, a mix of technology and human linkages for guiding a student's growth tailored to their specific needs at the moment.

The problem that exists is how does one measure and compare the level of knowledge. The operative term is "measure" which has resulted in a reductionist path created when the enlightenment philosophers, Saint Simon, Compte, and others, tried to map the 17th century, successful models of science into the social domain. What this essentially does is to define acquired knowledge narrowly, leave the determination of that knowledge acquired to the teachers and maintaining the hegemony of the current system.

There also exists another significant problem. As we move to self-learning/acquisition devices, we focus on the individual's skills. This would be fine if the human were basically a singular, functioning biocomputer. Unfortunately, one of the problems that the world of work and the world outside of work have is effective human relationships, hard to do with current "social networking" in the virtual universe with, perhaps, some possibilities in the MMORPG virtual worlds and variances thereof.

One does not reject the value of knowledge experts which we find in our faculty, preK->gray. What is difficult to imagine is the disruption of an entrenched infrastructure, an entire industry which moves students in grade-defined, lockstep paths through the education system. Part of this is due to the old "whoever has the gold makes the rules". Under the guise of protecting or maintaining the public trust, governments which pass out, at all levels, the majority of the funding believe they are charged with oversight. And, if the only tool they have is the current measure, grade advancement, test scores, etc, then change becomes difficult.

Unfortunately, the system is unraveling with the rise of distributed knowledge which is no longer locked inside the ivory tower or the little red school house. This leaves the only tool at the disposal of the current system as "certification" where the providers are also the certifiers. As the social networking world goes international, new criteria are developing and even the certification hegemony is weakening.
Hi Tom, thanks for taking your time to comment on this. I am going to answer your very insightful points. I had originally done this but then accidently deleted my post when I close the window... arg.

"The problem that exists is how does one measure and compare the level of knowledge." -- This really isn’t a problem. It is more of a construct that we have invented to justify pedagogical strategies. We have devices that monitor our every activity and we can look and see what we did and how long we did it. And in the near future they will be motoring our efficieny and performance at work (optionally of course... but if you wear one you can qualify for a $10K annual bonus! That will be awarded to the most productive employee). A CV is all about keeping an account of measurable outcomes. Your list of technology is your Knowledge. A list!! I have no idea what you really know. The reality is that our current models are useless and systems we currently use falls way short from doing it effectively.

Now take 15 minutes break and see what medicine technology is doing . Why could we not use this kind of ingenuity in Education? The fact is we will. These are all measuring thing far better then the 200+ year old technology that is just now getting replaced -- the stethoscope. The paperback book, paper, pencils and pens, the stupid multiple choice test (and all tests in general), the age specific classroom and the sage on the stage teacher ALL need to be replaced and be made obsolete. And they will be within the next 10-20 years. We fight change and "The day before something is truly a breakthrough it's a crazy idea" - Peter Diamantis . Founder of XPrize. My idea I am sure sound crazy to you... but I am 100% right and time will prove it. We need to move away from the post industrial "Sputnik" derived education system and move towards one that focuses purely on the joy of learning. EEG technology that currently exists (e.g. can do a far better job at determining whether a student is getting it, struggling with it or thinking about his girlfriend than ANY current knowledge measure. Our opportunity is to be proactive and not throw up silly obstacles like we love to do. Some opportunities are:
1. We need to turn EVERY high school and college in America into a place what nurtures and cultivates entrepreneurial (see my idea Entrepreneurialism is really the one thing that separates America from everyone else in the world. We need to cultivate it as early as we can and develop the next solutions that will fix China's and India's problems and have them spending pennies for the app that will be bigger in scope than Facebook and Google combined.
2. We need to establish a $100m eSingularity Prize for the development of autonomous learning software that can run on any smart device (iPhone, Android, Symbian, Linux,) or be able to turn such things as OLPC into one. These devices today are capable of running the software. We have done the hardest parts: we have the hardware, we have the connectivity, we have the talent and the capability to write the software and we are for medicine and DARPA

Returning to your points... to "measure" knowledge is really a silly idea. Let's look at my 3 year old... do I spend my time measuring his knowledge or do I spend my time teaching him to do things and does he spend one moment thinking about what he knows or does he spend his time playing and discovering knew and exciting abilities? If I have software that monitors me as I program and stores every action as I do it and suggests back to me how I could improve, wouldn't that be a far better measure of knowledge? The reality is we can write such an application now. We are doing it for medicine because their is money in it for doing it... So the solution is to establish the Autonomous Institute, raise the money and start developing free and autonomous software that can improve this knowledge measurement.

"As we move to self-learning/acquisition devices, we focus on the individual's skills." -- IMP this is further from the truth... all current education individual centric... I have to take the test, I have right my own paper, I have to take my own notes etc... Again the opportunity is there... IMO MMORPG is putting the cart in-front of the horse and until we have the autonomous software engine that I refer too, they are a complete waste of time and energy. I wrote a piece quite a while ago about it a year ago... Again look how a 3 year old learns, it is all about him competing with himself and interacting with others. I have been testing the iPhone and other technologies like in education for the last 5 years as a teacher in Japan. Their is a massive opportunity to super-change learning with smartphones and the ability to radically transform global learning and education with autonomous learning solutions (ALS).

You are right in the pre-technology disruptive age, that is ending as we speak, "who ever has the gold rights the rules." The problem lies in that technology change is happening at such a speed that those with the gold will be forces to let loose of the reins. We vote with our actions and as we have seen more and more parents are opting for home schooling and even though your local school board and teachers unions will fight with all their might to oppose ALS they will fail in the end. You see in most of our West educational paradigm we fail to recognize that what we see as a problem in education is a crisis everywhere else. India has a 50% illiteracy rate! Parts of it 80-90% but if you look at the UN statistics on global illiteracy levels are are fooled thinking "Wow, we nearly got his beat." India and China will want EVERY India family to have a smart device and some groups like Airtel (india's largest Telecom) or China Mobile with its $500m subscribers will within 10 year GIVE start devices away. Why, so folks will do their banking and shopping with them and they will want the financial transactions fees that goes with it. Free ALS will JUST become a way to get people to get the phones. And promised of education, one of the strongest driving forces, will have them signing up in the 10s of millions.

In conclusion, our short lived western gold age has concluded. The dragon has awoken and her desire is for ALL her people to be freely educated. The control and grip the Western Education complex has had is waining and is coming to an end... 3000 years is pretty good run. A new era of learning is upon us and eSingularity is knocking...

Thanks for taking the time to add your comments. I enjoyed reading them. I'm sorry for the typo's fragment and other errors... but ultimately my great challenge with dyslexia is probably why I'm here and you are there covering this very important topic at the World Future Society ;)
Hi Michael
Unfortuantely Ning is linear and thus makes it difficult to respond to your comments and integrate the ideas represented by both Daniel and Deborah immediately following this exchange. Also we are trying to unpack a number of intertwining ideas. We can tackle the elephant from many points and then try to see if the pieces fit. This is a start of a long conversation. Let's look at one vantage point:

Education is seen as key by two groups. The first of these is government and the larger commercial market (all areas) and the second includes individuals-parents, students and related "persons". The aims of the two groups are not congruent, and, in fact may be divergent at different points in time though they are tied at the hip through economic interests. They were much closer when a society was homogeneous or made more homogeneous by social norms which excluded, in many ways, for a variety of reasons, those individuals and groups which created dissonance, as we see in today's areas of conflict such as the Middle East and even here in the United States. Thus there are varying lack of congruences, globally and within the United States.

Here I would point out one interesting piece of data that has been teased out of the work of economists: Economic advancement has been attributed about 30% to education and 50+% to innovation (we might say technology). If one understands the emerging epistemology which is establishing information theory as a discipline in its own right, innovation, whether creative humanities, politicians and technology gurus, arises outside of the domain provided by education advancement, however measured, standards now used or biomedical monitoring that you suggest.

I would caution, here, that I am not suggesting that education is not important or critical to human life. What we need to understand that we are playing with a balance or imbalance between encouragement and support of creativity and disruptive innovation and the dissonance that it creates in the baseline educational needs of a society at the level of the individual and at the level of the society, assuming some cohesive societal vision. Also by definition a measure of any sort, blood pressure or math skills needs some norm which is based on history, the past. Innovation, by its very nature falls off the scale disrupting, positively or negatively, the status quo. We see this well parodied in Vonnegut's Harrision Bergeron.

Your ideas are interesting in one respect, they are bringing into convergence humans and intelligent bots. In today's world, teams of engineers are adding philosophers to their groups because there is a need to deal with the addition of heuristics which involve moral decisions, ones which lead to issues which fall outside of the domains of education in the traditional sense--decisions which affect life and death and where the time frame for action takes them into the realm of computers, well beyond human reaction time. HAL in Kubricks' film is but a faint glimps of today's bots and what is on the horizon. On the other hand, we have goggles which turn an individual into a mechanic able to disassemble an engine by supplying visuals and step-by-step instruction. And now we have turned a human into a bio/mechanical bot, not needing intelligence and education above a base level.

We must remember that a "singularity" may not be instantaneous. After all, it took centuries for the dinosaurs to see their final demise. For education as it has evolved over the centuries, that catastrophic moment is here, as you so forcefully have stated. How an embedded infrastructure adjusts is not known, only that it will radically be altered.
I agree with Michael that the current system will look much different in 20 to 50 years as a result of how people have access to on-line learning and an ever expanding amount of information. I think Tom's comment about "whoever has the gold makes the rules" is where the change will occur.

Right now many parents are already opting out of the existing public education system, either to send their kids to private schools, or to home school them. Many more are beginning to send their kids to the growing number of charter schools, funded with a combination of public and private dollars.

This is just putting the education choice into the hands of the consumer, who is the parent, and the student.

Right now public schools, private schools and charter schools are just different versions of "thinking inside the box" where there is structured curriculum where kids get some sort of credential (report card/diploma) that indicates they have mastered enough information to move to the next level. The credibility of these indicators can be part of a thousand other discussions.

So far, the signature on the report card/diploma for a K-12 student comes from the traditional school.

I think the first major change/breakthrough will come with the signature on the diploma comes from a local college/or a distant college/ that offers the curriculum through the Internet and contracts with a variety of traditional and non-traditional groups to mentor students into learning from this curriculum.

Such groups could be the current mix of public/private/charter schools, home school parents, or a new group of competitors, consisting of local parent networks, local church/business/parent groups, the Boys & Girls Clubs, or any place with access to the Internet where adults can help kids learn from the content provided by who every puts their name on the diploma.

As long as there is "credibility" in that institution, this can happen....IF, the purchasing decision is in the hands of the consumer (parent) and not the bureacracy (government/local schools system).

How this affects the institutions of higher education, with huge expense commitments for the buildings on their campuses, remains to be seen. However, I suspect there are task forces trying to figure ways to stay relevant, and competitive, in this new era.
While Michael's ideas are intriguing, I am skeptical about a "device" that is so narrowly defined (and powerful). More often, at least in an innovative world, individuals define the device. Look at how users have effected the implementation of everything from FaceBook to the iPad. Personal need and desire drive how these have been put to use AND modified by INDIVIDUALS, despite original intent or limitations. At the same time, systems (like schools) have tended to over-rely on original purposes of these devices and often use (abuse) them in the power struggle, rather than empower personal input. (Note: I would argue that the U.S. medical "system" often over-relies on it's diagnostic devices and more and more often fails to take the human factor into account.) I believe the over-reliance on the device (no matter how sophisicated it's capabilities) would be a fatal flaw in the "education" Michael's envision.

Daniel, I am interested in your comment that "the first major change/breakthrough will come with the signature on the diploma comes from a local college/or a distant college/ that offers the curriculum through the Internet and contracts with a variety of traditional and non-traditional groups to mentor students into learning from this curriculum." This has begun. However, I'd take it farther...and perhaps a bit closer to what Michael is leaning towards (in spirit, if not method). Michael wrote "We need to move away from the post industrial "Sputnik" derived education system and move towards one that focuses purely on the joy of learning. " What about a signature on that diploma from the student themselves...affirmation of growth through peer and self-assessment? If we are to achieve (or perhaps revive) personal love of learning, it seems that we must acknowledge that true learning occurs within personal experience/response to information and ideas. Libraries predated universities as intellecual meeting places, where thinkers not only accessed repositories of information, but also where they discussed and contributed. The university grew up around the library. I see the early internet as repository, but Web 2.0 has moved it towards something akin to the university. Only this time...the masses are literate and the access is universal (theoretically, anyway).
Hi Lora

As I mentioned, above, there are a number of "communities" with vested interests in the education system. The biggest player is The State which pays for this and it has certain goals and needs, of which being responsible for the public dollars and the parties who see, at least for preK-12 or above, the need to have individuals with competencies to participate in the economy. That includes corps, gov't and even parents and children

There are those in the above group which see the humanities as also being critical at many levels. There are few who see education as a self directed exploration and thirst for knowledge. The libraries at Alexandria had scholars as guides. Academic robes have pockets so that the scholars can accept payment for being guides, tutors and providing similar functions. Few scholars were independently wealthy and few that searched for knowledge could survive without some form of income.

Early institutions in the US were often affiliated with a religious group with agendas, also.

It seems to me that it is the rare student, today, who is able to go down the education assembly line while maintaining the ability to wander off the "belt" and can keep the joy of discovery alive. Be happy and learn your multiplication tables. Much of this "joy" and "learning" needs the support of the community in general and the parents in particular. When a parent can write to a college president to see if their child's preschool will be the start on the right path for admission to a selective institution, education has problems.

When knowledge is no longer confined within the Ivy covered walls but is freely accessible and when there are smart bots, like IBM's Watson, which can maintain a sense of humor while outplaying the champions of Jeopardy it raises serious questions as to what should be contained in an "education" and thus what is the role of those who are educators. When this is freely available, what do institutions have left other than certification?

On the other hand, when "heuristics" or value judgments are now being built into very fast adders (computers) that can respond faster to life/death decisions than humans, what indeed is the purpose of a human and thus what joyful learning experience will be most meaningful in the societal sense and in the purely economic sense?

These "fast adders" (an adder is the heart of a computer's life and also a highly toxic snake) are not here other than in the most simple form. But then the Japanese cars were not able to function well when they were first introduced. We are in an information society, a world where information is an economic factor the same as capital, labor, land, etc and it is not just an externality that can be seen as imbedded in our technologies.
OK, now we are on the same wave. I totally agree that unless the learner is enthused about what you want them to learn, you will not get the maximum learning experience.
There is an issue with education but it has nothing to do with degrees. Technology has transformed faster than education. You have an ego that is consuming you. There is more to a degree than what you are implying and the issues are not that simple. You mention experience. Well let me tell you how many people coast along as part of groups that are successful and yet they did very little to contribute to the group. It sounds as if you are in serious need of an anger management class.
Negative thinking and trashing people will not get you anywhere. It will possibly even get you relegated to the sidelines.
Change does not happen overnight. I find it curious that you work for homeland security and yet you speak of a CV. That is EU terminology. In USA we use resume's. So is this really about a hatred of the USA. If so, I want to know who hired you to sabotage our system?
Is it my ego or the stretching/confrontation of your personal paradigm that my words as scratching up against. The reality is when an idea is presented that conflicts with our paradigm we feel uncomfortable and then attack the source personally... is that whats going on? I think it might be called the straw-man defense mechanism.

Can you expound on "There is an issue with education but it has nothing to do with degrees." Why should a silly piece of paper be so important? Why should getting it put me in debt? Why should I pay thousands of dollars when I can get the same lecture online for free from Open Education Resources? How many people do you know as IT folks that are making over six figures without a degree... I know quite a few. Why do we sell hopes and promises on degrees? How many people are actually using their $100k degree in the work they intended... very few I know.

"Technology has transformed faster than education." Huh? I don't mean what you mean. Do you mean education cant keep up? The foundation of technology is education. Without it we have no technology... Our Higher Education institutions have had a stroke as a result of the economic crisis that crippled them financially and other alternative web 2.0 education tech that is luring away customers... They are hemorrhaging in a bad way and will NEVER retain their past glory without some massive shift in their mission and vision (might happen -- MIT OCW could become the 1st free university before some Chinese counterpart does). You will not see many offering 10 year positions anymore. The 10 year candidate going ballistic is some measure of the sickness in HE. However, ALS is an opportunity for HE to do more for way less... What I find humorous listening to my MIT academic friend saying OpenEd is not hurting MIT and that the real value of MIT is somehow the experience/opportunity of attending it... That crazy talk and it blows my mind... so attending university boils down to some kind of elitist country club? lol Okay...

Every time a professor put his lecture online he is basically throwing away his IP that a university has paid dearly for.

"Negative thinking and trashing people will not get you anywhere." -- I not trying to trash anyone... just telling you how I see it... luckily for me I live in a society where anyone can express any view. No matter how crazy they might seem.

"Change does not happen overnight." actually, it does.. and all there is is change. "You can never step in the same river twice..." The fact is, you might be personally blind to the change and the speed it is happening, but just because you are doesn't mean it isn't happening... Did you know that in just the last 2 years, what we have learned in medicine in more then the ENTIRE body of medicine up to that time? Pretty amazing...

Good luck and remember... Our true currency is our emotions, and not wealth, power, or knowledge, and what we chose to apply them too is a choice we make... "Negative thinking and feelings of being trashed" is our choice to self involve ourselves in our emotions. Same as getting worked up over silly fox news or someones bad driving... when we can recognize the moments and objects we directing our emotions and learn to smile when they are directed in a negative direction then you are on the path to self actualization and will find people like myself who right what they passionately feel and believe will not upset you. Peace be with you.
All of this has been visioned 100 yrs ago and written about by Sri Aurobindo (an Indian educationist and spiritual leader) in his educational literature. Google him! Will open a lot of doors, i assure you!
I am not the one being hostile here. You are the one that seems upset. In some ways we are seeing the same thing but we are dealing with what we observe differently.
One of the things we have not discussed is continuity. Is there any value in it? As I see it you are thinking of education only in terms of technology. In any population there will always be people who are capable of self-education. This is not the majority of people. Yes you can find many examples of people that have been successful without a college degree. It all depends on what you want to do. If you want to start your own business then what occurs is you either sell a product or service that people want and are successful or you play around for awhile and end up out of business at some point.
Now let us broaden the topic. Let us say you have just had an auto accident and you are hurt. Someone comes to get you in an ambulance and they take you to a warehouse. As they get ready to deliver you to the warehouse you ask "Where is the hospital?" They tell you they are taking you to a Doctor who learned on his own how to be a Doctor. So how do you know what he is qualified to do?
You see what I think you are really upset about is conformity and selection. In some cases people are turned away from college for reasons that have little to do with their ability but may have to do with an inferior education provided in the K-12 experience. The other mistake in current education is teaching with the expectation that all people learn at the same time in the same way and need to all learn the same thing. If this is not true in life then it need not be true in education.
Some jobs can be done alone and others require a team effort. In computer technology creativity is held in high esteem. In many other industries it is not. Our educational system has placed too much emphasis on conformity at the expense of creativity. So it is natural for someone that is creative to resist the institutions that stress conformity. Each organization that exists has a hierarchy and some system of who is in charge. The real truth here is that there is no such animal as one size fits all. If you do not want or feel you need a degree you may be right. If it works for you so do it. Do not presume that you then know what is right for all other people. Similarly, if you want to concentrate on designing video games that is fine but the entire world can not design video games. Who will build a road or a house? Who will grow food? We live in a very complex culture and it requires many ways to educate. I happen to love online education but I have know many people that it did not work for. They get something from being a part of a group, perhaps competition. I don't know but I believe it is the reason why some people will always want to go to college. Has the cost become extreme? Yes. If we are to successfully advance to the future we need to make many changes in the way we do things. All things have a price. Knowledge is only half the equation, the other half is wisdom.
I believe your predictions are right - the Singularity theory is a very compelling one and as we increasingly adopt a user pays approach to education (in Australia we now have this in our 'public' Vocational Education and Training Sector for the first time) the notion of pull versus push markets and hence education (as predicted in 1999 in the Cluetrain Manifesto is (rather than will be) a reality. Thank you Michael for a most elegant and articulate arguement :-)


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