I recently read the book End of College by Kevin Carey.
After graduating from college and beginning my career as a mechanical engineer I quickly realized that very little of what I learned in college was necessary for me to do my job. Instead, my co-workers taught me the new skills I needed to meet the company's expectations. In college I learned many concepts regarding motion (physics, and dynamics), heat transfer, chemistry and more. On the job I needed to design parts using 3D modeling software, call vendors, and analyze parts to ensure they could handle extreme vibrations. In addition, I needed to interact with adults. Although there was some cross over of information, it was very limited.
At work, before I began designing parts I attended a 2-3 week class which met 8 hours/day to learn to use special software for 3D modeling. In college, I had never even heard of ProEngineer. While learning to determine if parts could handle shock loads, I worked alongside a senior engineer and read reports on previous similar analyses. Calling vendors was completely new to me. We often needed information on parts we purchased but didn't have available to look at. I learned the best questions to ask and how to navigate through organizations. Calling vendors taught me my most valuable lesson: if you need a business service (manufacturing, design, samples, odd parts created...) just start making phone calls and searching the internet. In a nutshell, it taught me how to research and accomplish goals. Anything is possible.
So what was the purpose of those four years spent obtaining a mechanical engineering degree? That degree was my ticket to a job. It was a required document that employers knew meant I could set a goal and follow through. It meant I was reliable and capable of working, and smart enough to do the job. Four years seems like a long time that could have been better spent learning skills more applicable to my job. Apparently I'm not alone in my thoughts on this subject. The book End of College makes this point along with many others that leads to the conclusion that we have been and are continuing to pass through a revolution in education.
From high costs, to professors being more concerned with research than teaching, to lots of student free time spent partying; this book address many inefficiencies with our current university education system. Learning about the history of education and how it reached its current state was fascinating, but learning where we are headed was even better.
Have you heard of Mozilla Open Badges? It is a non-profit organization that tracks educational achievements. For example, if you take a free online course through a university, this site could be used to note your completion. It could track passing scores on examinations such as CLEP or track classes taken at stores or businesses. For example, my mother loves to take sewing and embroidery classes and sometimes brings my girls. Their achievements in these classes could be tracked on this site.
At the current time, this site and other similar sites are gaining momentum but in the very early design stages. Professionals, educators and businessmen throughout the world are beginning to explore them and determine how they could be used in their companies. In my mind, these sites could replace some degrees by replacing the degree with a different set of educational accomplishments. Although it isn't crystal clear what the future holds for college education, there is no question that it is changing.
My 14 year old daughter is a typical homeschool student in a lot of ways. Because she has had the opportunity to constantly learn at her level she is more advanced that a typical high school student. This efficiency is the reason many parents choose to home educate. Although I still feel qualified to educate her further, I question how she will receive credit for her knowledge since it will be at the college level.
Most universities accept some CLEP credits, but limit them so that students will be forced to take classes at the school. This increases revenues to the college, but ignores whether or not the student already knows the material. There are however, a small number of programs available where students receive degrees based on knowledge as opposed to time spent studying at the institution. I'm still researching and searching for the best solution for my children on this matter.
In the mean time, I would like to highly recommend the book End of College as I hope our future generations will be able to learn in a more efficient manner for everyone.
Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. Simplify Life