Education has been undergoing a sea change since the first intrepid entrepreneurs and educators began exploring the possibilities of online learning.
Covid-19, of course, has accelerated the online education trend exponentially. There isn't a single student, parent or teacher in 2020 who isn't aware that education is markedly different now than it was even seven months ago.
But because of the extreme visibility of this particular change, most of us who are not entrenched in the education space may have missed some that are actually more consequential, and much more long-term.
A shift toward more democratized, accessible higher education.
Cultural and workplace changes in terms of what types of educational experiences are most valued.
There are plenty other changes occurring, but these are the ones I'll be focusing on here.
The shift toward more democratized, accessible higher education
The traditional MBA program--with the attendant student debt that most students must take out to afford it--is hardly democratic, or accessible to most of the country or the world.
The rigid application process, the required test scores and recommendations, essays and interviews have been lauded as a way to ensure that the right people make it into the institution.
But in reality, of course, these processes are much more effective at keeping people out.
Where's the value in that? Other than conferring status on those who do make the cut, there's little to be said for keeping education out of the hands of people who want it.
ThePowerMBA, a global program that began in Spain, is an unaccredited business education alternative that offers short--really short, just 15 minutes each--video learnings from some of the world's most successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople. The founders and CEOs of companies including Netflix, Airbnb, Rent the Runway, and Waze, among many others, are among the program's "faculty."
It cost significantly less than even a single semester at most business schools. The program covers all traditional (and non-traditional) business areas, but focuses on actionable education, rather than diving into the theoretical aspects that many programs cover.
Opening up this kind of education to the masses is part of ThePowerMBA's stated mission: "to open up access to key knowledge, tools, and inspiration to all that want to learn, wherever they may be in the world."
And ThePowerMBA isn't the only example. Think of the professional certifications, also unaccredited, that are being offered by companies like Google and Hubspot. These are less expensive, faster, and more adaptable than the certificates offered by most educational institutions, and therefore more accessible to more people.
The bottom line? Accreditation is no longer critical when it comes to earning an education.
Cultural and workplace changes in terms of what types of educational experiences are most valued
None of these changes would be possible if employers weren't also buying into the idea that there's more to education than a typical higher-ed degree.
But we're seeing that they are.
Back in the early 2000s when we saw the advent of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, and free online educational resources like Khan Academy, many leaders across industries and sectors started questioning why education was treated like something to be hoarded and protected, rather than offered freely to anyone who wanted one.
That, along with the fact that the digital revolution was changing things faster than college and university courses could keep up, made it gradually more acceptable to learn from the institutions that were making some of these changes, like Google, or Moz. Where better to learn professional skills than from other professionals, after all?
Likewise, if your goal is to run your own business or run someone else's, where better to learn what you need to know than from people who have actually made that journey?
Now, you'll be hard-pressed to find a company that won't accept a professional certificate from a non-traditional source. Lambda School, for example, trains students remotely to become a web developer or a data scientist and let's them pay no tuition until they are hired.
Grow with Google's professional program, for example, not only offers education and certification in a number of tech-focused areas, but also connects graduates directly with employers who are hiring for the roles that those graduates are now qualified for.
The same is true of ThePowerMBA--just like traditional MBAs, which offer their alumni network as one of their most attractive perks, ThePowerMBA also connects students with a global and multicultural network of leaders from some of the world's most successful companies.
Education is undergoing a transformation, and it's not just because more of it is taking place on screens, in our homes, than the classroom. We're seeing education open up in meaningful ways to countless more people--and that's going to have a real impact on everything from who has access to capital in the U.S., to who controls wealth.
I, for one, am thrilled for this next chapter.