Jeff Jarvis riffed yesterday on “Google U,” the idea that there are all sorts of new ways to think about a college education aside from the 4-year, right outta high school model that most kids go through. Jeff and I both have kids and are staring the college decision game (and the subsequent payouts) in the face, so his post caught my attention. Reminded me on some level of my “Dear Kids, You Don’t Have to Go to College” post from a couple of years back. (Funny to think how much things have advanced even since then…)

So, seriously, as Jeff asks, “Why should my son or daughter have to pick a single college and with it only the teachers and courses offered there?” In eight years when my daughter gets to this point (if I haven’t convinced her to travel the world and “find herself” first, or, if she hasn’t started her own business), I’m hoping she’ll be able to cobble together her own coursework from whatever the “best” options are at that point. And, as Jeff asks, why shouldn’t professors be able to pick their own students from among the best of the bunch, not just those from his or her institution?

Which leads us to the nub of all of this disruption:

Once you put all this together, students can self-organize with teachers and fellow students to learn what they want how and where they want. My hope is that this could finally lead to the lifelong education we keep nattering about but do little to actually support. And why don’t we? Because it doesn’t fit into the degree structure. And because self-organizing classes and education could cut academic institutions out of the their exclusive role in education.

I know, I know. There is more to college than classes. I’m a poster child for that. And accreditation is a huge issue. (I’m sure Gary will be along shortly.) But I just see this more and more as a coming reality. As Jeff says, the “internet is unforgiving of needs to preserve old models and methods. It disaggregates ruthlessly.” The whole idea of scholarship and expertise is changing. (Watch Sir Ken Robinson on that concept.)

Not saying I know what the answer is. But I am saying that whether we like it or not, these structures, both higher ed and K-12, are starting to bend as the alternatives are becoming more and more pervasive. We’re modeling that every day in this network, those of us who are learning just as much if not more about the things we are interested in without signing up for a program. That’s not anti-intellectual as much as it is shifted-intellectual, if that makes sense.

(Photo Castle/Undergrad Stronghold by CarbonNYC)

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