New Age Education: Disruption or Innovation?

Looking at iPad

In the September/October online issue of the Washington Monthly, Kevin Carey took a closer look at the Silicon Valley start up companies and its impact on higher education institutions. For decades, the brick and mortar buildings that symbolize the pinnacle of academia have dictated who become the elite members of society.

But with the rising cost of education, coupled with an increasing amount of outraged intelligent young adults- tapped into the trending technological advances of the Internet- comes the biggest threat to the existing infrastructure of education to date.

With a laptop, a few dollars, an innovative idea, and some programming, online learning and software app developments are exploding in the global market.

So, do the Ivy League schools have the only pulse on what prepares an individual for success?
The growing evidence says no.

More and more students are dropping out of college to pursue start up companies with a relatively low risk investment. They produce a viable market product, offer it to the masses, track its success, and then decide whether to continue or scrap the project and move on. Sounds a lot like a science laboratory experiment in the classroom.

Except in this case, the entrepreneur is making money and offering valuable tools to the world.

Is a traditional degree the only way to measure intelligence?
Online study groups, e-textbook companies, and even developing an elite online university (with courses taught by experts all over the world), has blown open the doors of the traditional classroom.

What happens when a degree no longer becomes the only credential on which employers base their hiring practices? In fact, many of these companies (that are making millions) don’t have anyone working for them that have a college degree!

Some even lure students out of the university to put their innovation and creativity to work right away, without amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt.

Traditional institutions need to take notice

If the world of academia doesn’t catch up with the growing trend of online learning, many of these start ups will eat away at their monopoly by developing platforms that overtake the current system. The goal of higher education has always been about learning the right skills in order to sustain a successful job or career that impacts the world in some way.

More and more entrepreneurs are proving that this is not only possible through online learning, but also more advantageous.

The growing benefits of online learning

Online learning gives students access to the “experts” in their field, without having to travel to them. The cost of start up is significantly cheaper than the money-eating traditional classroom.

Social media allows students to connect and study together. Textbooks are available in digital format, saving precious resources. Students coming out of this educational system are performing as well as those from traditional institutions, with the added benefit of financial freedom and increased knowledge in navigating technology.

The question is not if online education will overtake traditional academia, but when?

Image by Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires


Julie DeNeen has her bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Haven. She spent several years working for a local Connecticut school at the district level, implementing new technologies to help students and teachers in the classroom. She also taught workshops to teachers about the importance of digital student management software, designed to keep students, parents, and teachers connected to the learning process.

You can find out more about her @jdeneen4 and Google+.

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