For the last several years, educators and students alike have experienced a disruption in the traditional path to higher education. An increasingly globalized network of students, coupled with the availability of knowledge across the web, is forcing higher education to reconsider its value propositions to its consumers. Whereas a traditional university degree and the occasional undergraduate research publication stood as valid proxies for assessing skills and aptitude, competencies today can be validated through a variety of other mediums such as digital portfolios, blog publications, and skills based online courses.
When Vermont-based womens’ liberal arts institution Sweet Briar College made headlines regarding its recent decision to shut its doors, questions swirled wondering how a school with an $84 million endowment could be going out of business. Despite tuition cuts and initiatives to attract more women interested in STEM fields, Sweet Briar’s enrollment continued to fall; ultimately putting it a financially precarious position that led to its dramatic decision. In today’s higher education economy, it’s important to understand how and why institutions like Sweet Briar failed to address the needs of its consumers. What is the value of a college degree and which of its components are being addressed elsewhere that has led to this disruption?
Inigral (aka Uversity) founder Michael P. Staton offers one framework for the great unbundling of education. He divides the value proposition of higher education into four major components that can be broken down further into twelve services.
The following four main components are the overarching reasons for seeking a degree:
1. Acquire knowledge
2. Access opportunities
3. Develop metacontent and skills
3. Undergo personal transformation
These four components provide twelves services and that, according to Staton, those within the knowledge acquisition and opportunities access are most at jeopardy for disruption via technology.
I’m going to begin with this framework to consider new technologies that are disrupting the higher education landscape. By identifying the value of a traditional university education versus that of today’s skills based and tech savvy paradigm, we can determine how to best address everyone’s educational needs.