A Brief Glimpse into the Future of Education

I have been writing this article for the past 10 years in my head and now I will send it out to the world. Ten years has been the amount of time that I have been in the Ed-Tech space. I plunged into this world by initially architecting a Learning Management System to deliver a course to teach people how to build effective business plans. That course eventually developed into a school, accredited by the Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC) and later the NWAC region was acquired by AdvancED. It has been an incredible journey with three external reviews resulting in about 4 years of my life. I have learned a lot along the way and I want to share those points today.

 

  • Accreditation is too long of a process. Recently, we created a Computer Science degree for a partner. I say recently, but honestly it was 1 year ago that we started this process. What has been the holdup you ask? Accreditation. In the last year, we saw significant updates to software technology, frameworks, languages, and if not updated; the curriculum is already facing questions of relevancy and eventual extinction. By the time these courses are taught, more significant changes will come and we will see the curriculum shelf life shortened even more. Most education has a shelf life and must be updated frequently. Accreditation generally takes between 1-2 years and stiffens the ability in many cases to have updated curriculum.

The way our technology program, Bottega, chose to solve this problem is to create partnerships with Universities to build, maintain, and keep curriculum up to date for them. We provide this both during the 1 year + accreditation review and for the life of the program. We also follow the very same standards of creating curriculum by using the blooms taxonomy methodology and letting Carnegie units provide our guide for course creation. The truth is, all Universities should have a partner who helps them with curriculum, not just an advisory board, which many programs only have. They also need a designated core of curriculum developers who both build industry specific courses, but understand that technology enhances delivery and provides a blended learning experience for users and students.

 

  • Technology is my next point. Ten years ago, everyone wanted to talk about MOOC platforms and Learning Management systems that provide interactive learning. Education has progressed slightly with the adoption of the LMS, online programs, online portals, forums, social components, etc. Though we have seen the needle advance forward, we are missing the mark in so many ways. Mainly because we miss the very nature of progressive learning because of the linear mindset. Currently, the path begins and ends only after years of engagement without flex and freedom within a degree or program, thus being linear.

Essentially, we lock the core learning away until pre-requisites, and other rite of passage activities have been completed. The world of technology gives us access to anything, anytime, and anywhere, but we are not always incorporating that into the classroom, and even when we do, it is generally not considered curriculum. Technology helps us drive decision making based on data, which can aid the individual learning path of the student. With so many learning modalities and preferences, how is it that we continually put everyone in the same path towards completion? In a world of technology, we must embrace more learning options and pair technology with recognized credentials for the student of the future. We must invest in machine learning and curriculum that is constantly updated and includes data driven decision making. Learning Management Systems offer great tools, but many times the adoption of the system solves how to scale, but fails the individuals learning.

 

  • With technology, we must also include credentialing so many learning options stack into a clear pathway. We do not have clear trails within an educational model that provide world class learning for students of all ages, backgrounds, socio economic conditions, and learning preferences. Our countries focus has been that there are some who will go to college, some who will do vocational programs, and others who will pursue a path directly into industry. However, what happens when the economy changes, industry changes, and people generally want something new in life? The current answer is, they start over! For far too long, we have tried to keep Higher Education and  non traditional learning separate. It is time to map curriculum, learning, and the obtainment of knowledge towards career opportunities.

When looking at the landscape of higher education and learning, I do not see a fully integrated solution for the pairing of non-matriculated and matriculated learning. Essentially, we put certificates, badges, and even continued education in one basket, but have not figured out a reasonable way to create a trail for learners to transcend into a degree or Higher Education. Bottega, is solving this problem by developing and granting certificates recognized by a regionally accreditation body and will also carry the weight of CREDIT through The American Council on Education. Recently Bottega completed a 1 year process of review to obtain credit recognition for students. This will allow all students to both receive their certification and credits towards a computer science degree.

 

As a review, the future of education is the one aspect we must solve. Rather than creating road blocks, lets create trails. I am not suggesting we abandon structure that works, but let us adopt freedom and specifically stackable credentialing models. There must be more groups willing to seek accreditation to understand the model currently in place, and combine with industry to represent a clear path for the future of curriculum- the future of education.

Scott Schwab

Author Scott Schwab

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