IT organizations are under a huge strain to implement value and creativity into their parent organizations on an ongoing basis today. New business paradigms are demanding new IT models to support the degree of elasticity demanded today as well as the relentless pace of innovation. The question is, can the education field keep pace with the speed of business today?
The Divergence Between the Business World and Higher Education
“Time to Value” (TtV) has become an often-used catchphrase when discussing today’s globally competitive environment. Time to value denotes the duration of time from the birth and creation of an idea to the time that its fruition brings value to the organization. Every business entity today is, or should be, in a race to realize value as quickly as possible. Thanks to technologies such as cloud computing and mobile communications, TtV is ever contracting as these new technologies enable companies to be highly flexible and adaptable in response to constantly changing environments today. With the growing challenge of eclipsing product cycles and industry disruptors, this shortening of the TtV will continue.
And then there is higher education. According to a Time Magazine article, "The Myth of the Four-Year College Degree," fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college each year graduate within four years. When looking at only public schools, less than a third graduate on time. A five-year degree has been the new four-year degree for some time, but even that benchmark has been breached. According to the department of education, students who enrolled in a four-year institution within a year of graduating high school are taking five years and eight months to graduate on average.
This means that the time to value for a newly enrolled college freshman is now over 5.67 years at the earliest. Value of course cannot be derived monetarily until a ROI has been experienced so some type of income-generating opportunity must come as a result of that investment. When scrutinized like this, TtV for the business world is swiftly contracting while the TtV for higher education is perpetually increasing. This would point to the fact that higher education is out of step with the times. (To learn about how modern tech is impacting education, see How Big Data Can Revolutionize Education.)
An Antiquated Model
Consider your favorite college or university. Think of the millions of dollars that are spent annually per school on beautiful landscaping, workout facilities, student union centers, dormitories, etc., all in the hope of attracting ten to fifty thousand students and congregating them in a single geographic location for nearly six years.
Now contemplate the incredible mobile world in which we live today. Think about social media and the ability to share our daily lives with anyone in the world. Look at how we use today’s communicative technologies such as Skype or WebEx which enable us to communicate and interact with virtually anyone in the world for free. Now contemplate the ease in which we can work in virtual teams made up of people from across the world and share resources amongst each other in real time with cloud computing. Think about the last time you went to Youtube.com to find out how to change your oil filter, configure a Word document or fix a leaky faucet.
Doesn’t college seem totally antiquated today? In a world in which the rest of the world is running at a hastening pace that is accelerating on a seemingly limitless basis, College today seems to be more of a shelter from the world of reality rather than a preparation for it. It is no surprise, then, that in a recent study on colleges and their current graduation rates, the non-for-profit group, Complete College America, stated, “The reality is that our system of higher education costs too much, takes too long and graduates too few.”
The Age of the Entrepreneur
In a recent interview with CNBC, Frank Klesitz, CEO and founder of Vyral Marketing stated, “Schools are not preparing students to understand that everyone is basically going to be their own business.” The fact is, the days in which one could depend on obtaining a stable job upon graduation are over. However, the same thesis applies to adults who are working towards acquiring a higher degree in the hopes of a better position as well.
One of the reasons for the lackluster hiring level of college students has been the increased dependence on freelancing due to the ease at which freelancers can be obtained through technology. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, contract labor costs accounted for 38 percent of total labor spending in 2013, up from 20 percent in 2003. This ability to quickly integrate freelancers in and out of team environments allows organizations to take advantage of the most up-to-date skill sets and knowledge bases. Unfortunately many technology graduates find themselves supplementing their education with additional learning in order to master the latest technology.
The Learning Tools of Today
The most recently touted site today is Udemy.com. An online educational marketplace with a breathtaking 7 million students and 30,000 courses, Udemy is a one-stop shop for an endless number of subjects, especially in the technology area. Their courses are video driven with a single course broken down into dozens of five- to ten-minute lessons led by an instructor. The courses are prerecorded, although in most cases you can interact with the instructor at through email or chat while you are enrolled. There are also specialty sites such as codeacademy.com, a global site where people can subscribe for free and learn how to code. Another specialized site is Bloc.io, a highly extensive and content-rich site dedicated to web development and web applications development. (For more on keeping up in an ever-changing tech environment, see As Technology Changes, How To Avoid Becoming Obsolete.)
Udemy, however, requires a lot of self-discipline to finish the course, which not everyone has. For those students who need a more structured classroom environment, there are a growing number of state programs such as the Employment Training Panel or ETP program offered by the State of California. This program offers free IT training for all California State workers, giving them an opportunity to update their skills. In addition, MIT offers nearly all of their courseware online for free on an auditing basis (no credit is allocated for the courses).
Cloud-based disruptors such as Uber.com and AirBnB have taught us that it pays to think outside of the box. It is time for both higher education and students to begin thinking outside of the box as well and turn to the cloud. The content is there.