I recently attended a dinner for ed tech entrepreneurs and higher ed administrators in the Boston area. The dinner was hosted by Xconomy and was designed to facilitate a conversation about the emerging trends in education technology, and where leaders in the industry see changes on the horizon.
One comment made by Jeff Whatcott, former CMO of Brightcove, had my mind racing on the drive home. As the moderator asked about the different ways delivering educational content has evolved, Jeff chimed in and hypothesized that before we know it, traditional brick-and-mortar higher education institutions will simply be a distribution channel for students to learn, rather than the distribution channel for students to learn.
That comment was particularly well received by Reed Sturtevant, Co-Founder of the Startup Institute, a well-publicized ‘alternative’ to traditional college experience. I don’t know if he’s right or not, but I do know that as traditional education becomes more difficult to afford and rich educational content becomes easier to consume, students will begin looking at alternatives. Peter Thiel has been leading this charge for years, offering the best and brightest high school students $100,000 to pursue an idea,start-up, or project in lieu of college. His claim is that there are several ways to launch a successful career and a path to a happy life and college might not be the answer for everyone.
As specialty programs like the Start-up Institute and The Thiel Fellowship continue to pop up, students will be compelled to choose different ways to pursue education. In my opinion, however, one thing will remain constant. Most students are motivated to pursue higher or continuing education to either launch or advance their careers.
There are many things that traditional colleges and universities can and should do to continue to attract the best high school students. However, the most important is to continue to push innovation in career services and help students prepare for the transition from being a student to becoming a professional. Helping students explore career opportunities, network with interesting and successful alumni, and understand what career success could mean to them is critical and a lesson that will stay with students for many years after they graduate.