Education – Now Free and About to be Flipped

There’s been a very interesting trend appear within the secondary educational marketplace over the last year – it’s becoming free. It also looks like it’s about to be flipped (on its head) as the existing monopolies that today run higher education either cooperate or are pushed aside.

For the history of the world, higher education has either been held exclusively for the chosen few, or the wealthy. That monopoly is swiftly, and surely, being broken as everyone from startups to Stanford are putting their content on line (and yes, it’s for free). While it will take surely take some reordering of our perception as to just what this means, the inevitable march will be towards those with the knowledge not just the degrees.

So let’s take a look at two major trends to see where things are likely to end up 10 years from now and what you can and should be doing about it today.

The first is free. The internet is driving free education. Just years ago, if you wanted a Harvard education, you had to go to, well, Harvard. Along with that came either the ludicrous cost of joining the privileged few (Unless your grades that were stratospheric enabling a scholarship).

Today, Harvard’s, lectures are available online.  So are Stanford’s and MIT’s.  That means anybody from Kamloops to Kigali can learn online the very same material that is being taught on campus.

How this is going to affect their business models is hard to say but what is not in doubt is that the popularity of such an education will be well utilized and work to drive up both knowledge and competition dramatically over the next decade.

The respected universities are hardly alone however. In the last couple of years courses in everything to business MBA’s to online marketing have hit the internet, leveling the playing field for all.

The conference provider TED really is a must to see. They really got much of the ‘free’ model rolling by giving away the material for the world’s most expensive conference back in 1984. At the time, the idea of charging people $25,000 to attend a conference and giving it away for free was radical. Today, TED conferences are amongst the best knows and most highly respected educational events in the world.

The second emerging trend is something people are referring to as the flipped model. You may have heard of something called the Khan Academy and their story. It illustrates this principle well.

In 2006, a math teacher with a gift for putting together easy to understand videos started creating and posting YouTube videos for his niece to help her math grades. They became wildly popular. So popular that certain leading edge teachers started to replace the curriculum that they were using with the online videos. Each day, instead of assigning home work, they’d assign some videos which the class would discuss in detail the next day.

Dramatic results followed. In each case, the classes overall grade point average shot up remarkably. When examined in detail, the process was common sense. Instead of having a mediocre lecturer lead from a dry text book, give the teaching to a dynamic presenter with a flare for making the complex easy. Then spend the class time reviewing and solidifying the results.

In other words, they flipped the educational equation to get the best teacher in front of the class while using the in house teacher to nurture the learning. As mentioned, the results were spectacular -so much so, that the Bill Gates Foundation funded the program to the tune of several million dollars.

Today that concept is being further developed. Once again, TED is on the leading edge with their new TEDEd. The program allows teachers or anyone to access any video from the site, or even YouTube video, and quickly chop it up to use which parts are most appropriate for their audience.

Additional tools allow for the facilitator to thereafter quiz participants and see quickly who has completed what.

Just how the entrenched players in education deal with this disruption to traditional educational market remains to be seen. Bureaucratic institutions such as unionized education are typically not on the leading edge and quite often feel threatened by change.

The trend is clear however and it’s unstoppable. Today’s world is giving way to a meritocracy and today’s monopolies are highly unlikely to last.

To compete in today’s hyper connected world you’ll need to embrace the change yourself and family and above all, become a self starter. It’s hard to imagine a less competitive world a decade from now where employers actually want to pay more than they have to for employees with degrees. Like it or not, the kids from Kigali are on your tail.

E.O. & E.

About The Author

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Mark Schneider
Mark Schneider is one of Canada's leading Chartered Financial Planners. For over 30 years he has helped hundreds of regular Canadian families grow small fortunes through consistent planning and wise advice. He holds the following designations: CFP, CLU, CHFC, CFSB