I've been taking a very interesting MOOC (massive open online course) offered by a professor at Duke University called The History of Future of (Mostly) Higher Education. It is touching on a lot of issues I am very interested in both as a college professor and an unschooling dad. One way or another there are major changes in store for higher education in the next few decades. Parents with unschoolers may face a different environment for higher education than the one current college students are in. Here's more detail.
1. Knowledge is becoming more and more freely available. The internet offers a wealth of resources as most unschoolers know. There are so many options for good quality learning available for free from iTunes U, YouTube EDU, TED Talks, Coursera, Khan Academy. And that's just a small list of resources. More appear almost daily.
2. Accreditation is no longer the only game in town. Colleges have a powerful credibility due to the seal of approval from accreditation agencies. But, this form of credibility is no longer the only one available. Other options for certifying learning are coming online such as Mozilla's Open Badges Project which promise to disrupt higher education in a significant way.
These two points create an interesting dilemma for colleges and universities. How can they continue to charge high tuition in a world where knowledge is freely available and there are other options to certify one's learning?
3. DIY Degrees are gaining credibility. It is not technologically possible for a student to craft their own college education through various in person and online resources. Students can take a psychology course from a professor at Harvard online, a communications course from Duke online, their English course from a local community college, and so on. In this environment badges or online portfolios can help certify learning for prospective employers. Much of this can be done free or at very low cost.
4. Unschoolers are poised to take advantage of these changes. Most unschoolers have grown up in an environment of somewhat autonomous, interest-led learning. They have been freed from the constraints of conventional schooling and like that freedom.
That brings me to the deal and the question. Will unschoolers be open to leave their autonomy and interest-led learning behind to enroll in a conventional college to earn a conventional four-year degree and come out in debt and not necessarily better off in terms of job prospects? To the unschoolers who are reaching college age I ask you: Would you take that deal?
I think that as the cohort of unschoolers continues to grow they could be the trigger for major changes in how we do higher education in this country. This change will be brought about in one of several ways.
Unschoolers could force changes to occur within the academy because the academy realizes that unschoolers won't enroll without these changes being made.
Unschoolers could force changes by refusing to enroll and costing colleges a large amount of tuition money which will force change.
At this point, I'm betting on the second option. Skeptics will ask: But what about employers who demand a college degree. To that I think the college age unschoolers will have two great responses.
1. Look at the motivation and drive I have demonstrated in crafting my own DIY degree from scholars all around the country. I have created a strong coherent learning portfolio available online and certified by these badges and recommendations. I have helped run small businesses with my family, traveled to learn from others, volunteered extensively. Your other job candidates just graduated from a conventional four year college with a degree. How special is that?
2. OK. You don't want to hire me that's fine. I'll start my own business to compete with you! Thanks!
I can't wait to see what happens! What do you think?