By Dr. Jonathan Blake Huer, Chief Learning Officer
Where are schools positioned in terms of learning?
It comes as no surprise that I love education serving as the Chief Learning Officer at Eleven Fifty. More specifically, I love higher education. I believe in it, and I can attest it is important, but I’ve also noticed something else. Over time, I’ve noticed that a lot of higher education institutions are spending more time trying to differentiate themselves from the next institution. Everyone loves a school that is popular for having fun aesthetics in their branding or a storied history, but shouldn’t there be more substance than that? The somewhat harsh reality is prospective students are starting to catch on to the trend: higher education has not fully transformed like every other sector in terms of accessibility, technology, and skill development.
What does it mean for higher education to be accessible?
What I mean by accessibility here is in addition to generally falling behind the curve of keeping up with trends, higher education institutions also tend to harbor the idea that their four-year college degree possesses a level of rigor that cannot be found at any other institution. I’d have to disagree with that thought process. Let’s take MIT, Harvard, or Stanford for a brief example. I find it difficult to imagine their introductory statistics classes are substantially different than those taken at a local community college. The foundational skills have to be the same since they are the common language of science. Your local community college may be more accessible than an Ivy League, but that does not substantially change the course material. So is exclusivity the only differentiator?
The metaphorical dam is about to break.
Students can Google anything and can find answers to the questions that universities around the world are charging top dollar to answer. Prospective students are now more intuitive and can detect genuine differentiation, or a lack thereof. Gen Z is smarter about debt and value. However, the problem is there is not as much genuine differentiation within higher education institutions as they want you to believe. The basics of their course offerings can be found online, which makes offerings across hundreds of institutions virtually identical with lectures, lab classes, et cetera. So what’s the difference? Or more so, what should the differences be?
Luckily, there are places that are genuinely doing different things to engage returning and prospective students. They are living up to the idea of lifelong learning. The only issue is these new ideas haven’t broken out into the public consciousness yet. One concept is customization-at-scale. With this notion comes the idea that every student has an individualized experience and doesn’t necessarily require a person to adjust his or her life around that experience. Yet, the student still gets the important benefits from the community of learners. Shared experiences are essential. But, they must be realistic in our current world.
Let’s look at this from a different perspective. You’re a professor who teaches at 8:00am. To the average 18-year-old student, your morning class is the only event of the day that remains static. Every other experience around them is adjustable from their favorite TV show time to the next pair of shoes, which can also be customized online before purchasing. Technology has made everything customization at scale except for learning because it has not yet fully realized the technological transformation impacting every other sector of daily life.
Institutions that don’t prioritize modern student experiences are going to be left in the dust. And it’s not just about pleasing students: customized learning experiences are also more effective.
What is Eleven Fifty Academy doing to contribute to the future of learning?
Skill development is something a lot of schools talk about but don’t specialize in. Eleven Fifty does a fantastic job of not only providing the rigor that is needed to learn the skills , but we also teach our coding, UX/UI design, and cybersecurity concepts with broad real-world application in mind. Eleven Fifty and other institutions with similar learning models will genuinely attain the lifelong learning advantages higher education institutions have aspired to achieve by providing shorter, focused experiences delivered when most impactful in one’s career.
Higher education institutions, however, tend to fall short because of their messaging: ‘Spend four years with us, and then we’ll kick you out and ask for donations.’ The fact is that the personable, customizable, and skill development route is the way to go for true lifelong learning in our tech enabled world. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional higher education model. It just needs to be modernized or it will be the next Blockbuster video. It is ripe for disruption, but as a foundational part of our society must also survive.
As Chief Learning Officer at Eleven Fifty Academy, I stand for providing an equitable, accessible learning experience for all students regardless of background. Our immersive tech bootcamps not only equip students with competitive skill advantages, but we also teach students how said skills can provide a more sustainable career. We contribute a much needed piece of the education ecosystem and find our skills valuable to college graduates and non-college graduates alike.
If you want a taste of that kind of education, I highly encourage you to check out one of our free introductory courses.