Today, I found some notes about the future of education that I had scribbled down a few years back.
They were just random thoughts.
And there was no date on them, but they must be from at least 5 or so years ago.
Reading them now, they already feel old.
Internet time is a weird thing.
So – for the record – here they are with some commentary from now.
Hopefully, someone checks back in another 5 years and tells me where I was wrong.
1. The future of education is digital, but not completely
I’m old enough that I remember when handing in essays at university was done by printing out pieces of paper and physically stuffing them in a wooden box with a slot it in.
The digital future of education is something we take for granted now. But it wasn’t always the case. And that wasn’t so long ago.
And because of our biology – we are still biological creatures – I think we’ll always chafe against the non-physical nature of online and digital education.
Which leads me to number 2.
2. The analogue, human experience of education won’t go away any time soon
As humans we exist inside our bodies.
And because of this, or at least until we transcend our biology, the analogue experience of education isn’t going to go anywhere fast.
However, I do think that real-time, face-to-face education and training will become part of a premium pricing strategy mediated by evolving online business models.
This means that face-to-face training in a classroom – at least for adults – will become an expensive and potentially scarce commodity.
Perhaps, we’re already there now.
Another reason is because you’re a snob.
3. A near infinite amount of content will be “free” for the masses, but people will always pay a premium for something they think is better
I’m not picking on you in particular.
But this is just another version of why parents will pay more to sent their kids to a fancier kindergarten, school or college.
Also, the children of Silicon Valley tech giants send their own kids to special schools where the use of gadgets like smartphones and tablets are prohibited or severely restricted.
Think about that for a while.
4. Education businesses will become software companies and software companies will become education businesses
This is now.
All educational institutions, both public and private, must have not just an online presence, but some kind of software-based platform or eco-system for shilling their wares.
And the money is in the platforms not the content.
If you’re smart and rich you can build your own platform and rent it out to others.
Or if you’re smart and poor you can rent someone else’s platform and use it to boost your signal in a disproportionately loud way.
If you don’t have your own platform and you won’t rent someone else’s you’ll become irrelevant very quickly.
An exception, is unless you have government (or mafia) protection granting you protection.
And a variation on this would be government departments with some kind of state-sanctioned monopoly that might keep some very old servers and software patched up.
5. Educators will become media personalities and media personalities will become educators
We see this now.
One of the highest paid teachers in the world is a Korean ESOL teacher who earns USD$4 million per year.
He’s a private virtual instructor.
The flipside is someone like Tim Ferriss, a guy who literally invented himself as a personal brand with the Four Hour Work Week (which you should buy and read by the way) and who sees himself – now – primarily as a teacher.
6. People will choose access over ownership in education
What does this mean? Think about how you consume music now. You would rather rent your music as opposed to pay for it outright.
What kind of shift will take place when all of the best education courses in the world are available to you via a subscription model?
How will debt-ridden colleges and polytechnics with massive overheads due to buildings and bureaucracy cope when their competition is offering degrees for $19.95 per month.
We haven’t really seen the Netflix or Spotify of universities yet.
There are some experiments, but I’m sure it will happen.
7. The metaphors will shift from the Henry Ford production line and car, to the 3D printer and driverless car
Finally, there’s my favourite.
When the car was first invented, Henry Ford famously said something along the lines of “You can have any colour. As long as it’s black”.
It also had to be the same Model T.
It took a long time for the variations to happen.
Our traditional institutions of learning and education are still very much like Mr Ford’s factory production line.
And this was created at a time when we needed lots of workers (vocational pathway) and a few managers (academic pathway).
But the metaphors have already changed, and the institutions are in catch up mode.
It’s a lot more complicated now.
More complex than just workers and managers for sure.
Sebastian Thrun, who is only a few years older than me, invented the self-driving autonomous car at Google X, which also he founded.
A few years later he went on to found Udacity, one of the first movers in the world of for-profit online education.
This is not a coincidence.
The driverless car is a new metaphor for education.
And driverless cars can now be printed by 3D printers instead of big factories.
What does it all mean for you?
Are these changes positive or negative?
I have no idea, but let me know in the comments.