Thanks to a little free time this weekend, and a perusal of the Ars Technica “Editor’s Picks,” I stumbled across a terrific article by Kevin Carey from the September/October 2012 issue of Washington Monthly magazine entitled “The Siege of Academe.” The basic thesis of this story is that online technology is enabling non-traditional institutions to compete ever more effectively and to perhaps even supplant the ivy towers of academia. As I read the article, the definition of non-traditional institutions might be stated as “online, virtual, and available to any or many at less, little, or no cost than traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and universities, depending on the kinds of educational options offered, and the presence or absence of degree plans — as well as the value that purveyors seek to associate with degrees they may choose to confer on their graduates” [my definition, not a quote from Carey’s article. –Ed–]
In and of itself, this article is well worth the read. Even though it is long and detailed, it reviews some fascinating start-ups and educational technology tools and efforts, and suggests that a radical reshuffling of higher education as we know it today is not only inevitable but even predictable. In fact, as with other disruptive technology adoptions — think smartphones and wireless telephony outside the First World — it is likely to be led from markets that have little or no access to traditional higher education in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Rim, and Latin America but where demand is strong and the liberating and empowering capabilities of such education particularly powerful and potentially transformative.
But what I took away from this article resonates equally strongly for IT training and career development, particularly those online communities and presences where study groups are easy to put together, endow with communication and content, and bring the benefits of widely available insights, content, and material to very large audiences. In particular, I’m talking about organizations like Open Study, Quizlet, Udacity, Udemy, Kno, and Chegg — which Carey lumps together and says about them that they “…will provide all manner of supportive services — study groups, e-books, flash cards, course notes, and many other fabulous as-yet un-invented things.” Surely I’m not the only reader of these words — especially among those who read this blog — that can see manifold ramifications for the IT certification world as well. As surely as these companies and the kinds of information creation and flow they foster can change the face and functions of higher education, they can do likewise for IT certification as well.
This is exciting, empowering, and perhaps even revolutionary stuff. I’m going to be chewing on this hard and thinking about ways to put new training and learning models together atop this kind of framework. Rest assured you haven’t heart the last on this topic from me! In the meantime, be sure to check out Carey’s story : it’s a real page-turner, for all the best reasons imaginable.