With the ever growing options for learning, have we gotten to the point of a true buffet of valid choices? What if we gave the power to the learner to truly choose their own degree path? Imagine a world where, from day 1, student desires and interests play a large role in setting their own learning path. Now imagine that extending to post secondary education and beyond. Instead of all the meaningless prerequisites and antiquated thoughts, what if we allowed learners to forge their own way? The time is now to choose your own degree.
I didn’t read a real book, cover to cover, until I was 25. Even then, it was a deep theological text and not a novel or something more traditional. One of the things I did devour in my youth was “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. The concept was extremely simple. You would read a page or two and arrive at a decision, almost like the reading equivalent of a first person shooter. Depending on what you decided, you would go to a different page to continue. At that point your choice had real consequences because it took you down separate paths and often effected your character’s health and survival.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve moved into the field of education. Several strains of thought I’ve had while working on my PhD relate to approaching education in that same manner. Give the learner true agency. Give them choices that matter and are almost entirely up to them. Allow people to be the adults they are and encourage them to find and pursue their passions. In short, allow them to choose their own degree.
Choose Your Own Degree
What do you want to learn about?
Everything is out there somewhere. Do you want to learn how to run? Maybe you want to learn how to cook. It could be that you want to study a language. Find what you are interested in learning about and learn it.
How much do you want to spend?
Free exists in a multitude of areas. Large platform options give you university level courses for free. Professionals from many fields have free options as well as pay options if you wish to proceed farther.
Pay levels are quite intriguing and varied. You can do coding bootcamps, in person or online, for roughly the cost of a year of college. You can do an instructional design “micromasters” degree for about $800. There are “nanodegrees” done using self-paced, competency-based learning. With those you pay a flat fee, learn as much or as little as you want, and are mostly left to choose your own courses and areas of study. New options seem to be appearing yearly.
What platform(s) do you prefer to use?
Coursera and edX use courses and degree tracks from major universities. Udacity partners with major tech companies for programming degrees. Udemy allows people to develop courses and “sell” them to prospective students for a fee. Individuals are now monetizing blogs on a variety of topics including writing, running, and finance.
I’ve discussed the following concept with one of the professors in my PhD program a time or two:
Why can’t we pick and choose any combination we want, at least within a single platform area like Coursera and edX? Is a degree from a single university more valuable than one cobbled together by a learner? If someone takes a few free classes from Harvard, a few more from Penn, and a smattering of others from whomever offers what fits best both with their schedule and their interests, why isn’t that as valid as a traditional degree provided they can show competency or mastery in their desired field?
So What Are You Going To Do About It?
What are your preferred avenues for learning? How much control have you taken in learning about the things that genuinely interest you? How much more do you think you would have enjoyed your education if you had been given more agency in choosing the topics and setting the goals?