Last week I wrote about universities looking to lead by letting go. Babson and the University of Texas, Austin are two examples of universities letting go of the idea that all faculty and students are to be found behind a specific university’s walls. I think their early moves are a signal of shifts to come. Where my office wall has a set of framed diplomas, it may be that future walls will look more like a mosaic of educational accomplishments. Non-profits, corporations, and for-profit online platforms all have a role in building this new model.

Non-Profit and Corporate Partnerships

In last week's post I mentioned IBM and TED-Ed as non-university partners in modern education. TED has recently created TED-Ed, where TED or other video can be built into learning modules and then those modules strung together into a series. There are many modules built by others (with included thought questions, additional content, and a discussion forum), or you can build your own using their formatting.

IBM’s Academic Initiative formalizes their long-term support of universities through access to technology and training. This is helpful both from an educational perspective as most universities cannot match the resources IBM brings to the party and in that the students are using technologies and techniques they will see in the workplace.

Can Education Become Less Lumpy?

The IBM initiative points to the tight relationships that universities need to have with the organizations that hire their students. From my perspective in the Silicon Valley, organizations move far faster than do universities. This needs to change to support the students we reach (I edited that last sentence as I’d initially written “to support our students” -- one of my earlier points is that we need to let go thinking of students as belonging to a single institution.) Yes, universities are still critical, but we need to find ways to create a mosaic of education that fit the needs of lifelong students.

General Degrees Becoming Less Popular?

The MBA degree is a likely place to watch for transformation. The image below comes from a talk I gave last year. It’s a Google trend search I’d done on the terms MOOC (massive open online course) and MBA. The downward trend on MBA was a wake up call for me.

The trend lines could be showing MBAs going out of favor. They could be showing online opportunities beginning to take a bigger mindshare. Or they could be a signal that people are looking for pin-point correspondence in educational programs meeting their current realworld needs. A general two-year MBA program may not provide that connection between current needs and the educational content. My own university has introduced two one-year masters programs (finance & entrepreneurship) this year.

A Mosaic

Perhaps my ideal mosaic of education is built out of shorter degrees, or perhaps it’s an even more fine-grained version of education created in partnership with individuals, organizations, and educational institutions.

From your perspective, where do you think we should be going? Shorter, more focused degrees? Certificates? Joint degrees/certificates with hiring organizations? An actual mosaic approach to signaling someone’s educational accomplishments across a wide variety of educational institutions?