February 17, 2009

Disintermediating Education

Filed under: Ideas, School — Robert John Ed @ 3:41 pm

Recently in my information decision sciences class, I jokingly made the comment that I could disintermediate my teacher because all or near all information today is accessible to many.  This was a half truth.  The teacher shrugged it off and said, paraphrased, “It’s cool with me, I’ll just work on my research.”  I’m sure this is what drives most professors anyway, there are far too many students who don’t really care to make teaching a really stimulating profession.  This is, after all, a mandated class; but it’s a mandated class about technology that I really love.  So I  have actually spent a great deal of my own time having studied it and attempted to understand what is happening in the markets.  Due to that fact, I made a joke about disintermediating the prof, which he understood as a joke, but a lot of truth is said in jest.

Now this particular professor is actually quite good, but I stand by the point that most of the information could be acquired on my own.  There are some difficulties with this as an employment strategy.  My reasoning in class was that though the knowledge is available for procurement, no one in the market (employers) would believe the fact that I’d acquired it on my own.  There are additional problems with actually educating yourself as well as a professor could.  Chances are, I’ll never reach the level of intellectual understanding regarding this subject as the prof.  What’s more, I might not understand how to actually assess what information is truly valuable and necessary for making the subject a viable piece of my intellect in the free market.  The profs do.  Schools and traditional education systems also offer a degree, which is necessary to build credibility.  So despite my joke, it’s obvious that there are reasons we have institutions and that not everything is soluble in terms of education.

Yet these things also pose hurdles to education.  For instance, some people will only take these classes as they are mandated and not truly want to put forth effort.  As such, students who are truly interested in the subject matter will consistently overperform and others may occasionally freeride.  In such instances, it’s possible that lone study would be preferable.  Also, when the system is set to provide certain credibility, many will milk that system instead of focusing on what the real reason for attendance, knowledge procurement.  Essentially this means that some people will be in school to get a degree, not to get the knowledge needed to perform in a vocational situation.  This is how ineffectual people get into positions where they aren’t qualified.

To sum, there are so many things today that can be learned on your own it’s mind blowing.  Languages, advanced sciences, literature, IT, mechanical endeavors, engineering (!), etc.  The knowledge was their before, but not nearly so accessible.  On the other hand, there are a great deal of intangibles that profs and institutions alike offer.  The profs at this school have thus far proven to be the most intelligent people I’ve ever met; I’m not attempting to devalue their practice.  Still, the availability of education online and in other new formats is sure to alter the model.  You could argue it already has in that degrees are now offered online in many places and that degrees of all kinds have proliferated in their number and availaibility.  Education may well disintermediate significantly in the future.


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