Image courtesy of Jared Stein
Traditional classroom learning is losing a significant amount of its practical value. How do I know this? I already had a hunch it was true based on my observation that friends with work experience were getting decent jobs more readily than friends with advanced degrees. However, something that happened recently drove the point home from another perspective.
I was offered a freelance writing gig through a friend of a friend, and after some inquiry, discovered it was a position with an “academic writing” service. Translation: students who have to work multiple jobs to pay for their university education do not have time to do things like actually acquiring the education, so they pay academic writing services to do some or even most of the work for them. Shocking.
Also eye-opening: it’s not very difficult to find people who, for a fee, will disguise themselves to look enough like you and take an exam on your behalf. If the exam time conflicts with your schedule or you just don’t feel confident enough to take it, simply hire a stand-in. Many university classes are large enough that no one would notice.
Against university policies? Almost certainly. Unethical? Without a doubt. And employers aren’t stupid – what exactly is the value of a degree if there’s no way to determine whether or not the person holding the degree actually earned it?
As technology and the internet provide increasingly refined ways to cheat, I think we’ll definitely be seeing even more of a shift toward companies placing less emphasis on degrees, and more on the demonstration of skills and experience. Luckily, the internet also provides resources for those interested in learning these skills on their own. As a bonus, with self-learning, you also develop valuable meta knowledge (i.e. learning how to be your own teacher in the most effective way), which in itself is extremely useful.
While I still think there’s plenty of intrinsic value in a traditional education (after all, I’m currently looking into graduate programs myself), I think from a practical standpoint we need to start reassessing that value in a more modern way. Teachers and guides are useful, of course, and even necessary in many areas, but the focus now needs to be on education for its own sake, not on the degree certificate as the end-all-be-all.
After all, in a world where you can basically purchase a degree, the person who can actually demonstrate knowledge, regardless of how they acquired it, will be king.
What could you start learning today, on your own, that would enrich your life or job prospects down the road?