For those who can afford to benefit from it, today's formal education system provides students with a structured path for excelling in their fields of interest. With clearly defined course objectives, content and academic support, students are able to prepare themselves for their futures, at least to a certain extent. However, there are some questions and concerns that arise from this current system:
- What about the students who can't afford to pay for college?
- Does this structure teach students valuable life skills such as leadership, personal finance, communication or networking?
- Students are expected to know what they want to do with their lives a year or less of going into college. Often times, students realize that their chosen career path is not something they want to pursue, and leaves them with switching majors. This takes away precious years of their lives and adds one or two years of college debt to their already thin pockets.
The idea that I would like to propose addresses these three questions and concerns.
My idea is the creation of a platform that allows for the free exchange of information within a community of self-directed learners. Students with or without college degrees, looking to learn about topics of interest can connect with members of their online community to assist them with learning these skills through sharing of content such as books, articles, videos, podcasts and research papers.
For illustrative purposes, let's take the example of Steve. Steve is a recent college graduate who pursued his Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering, with a minor in Psychology. Steve excelled academically in college and had a strong GPA, but failed to develop skills in leadership and communication, both essential to being successful in the workplace. Having graduated without a job, Steve is looking to fill this gap in his skill set.
Steve signs up on an online platform and creates a list of skills that he would like to further develop. Let's take the example of leadership. Soon after his post, one of his friends sends him a link to a TEDTalk she recently watched that taught her a thing or two about leadership. She tells her Dad, a university professor in Organizational Leadership, about Steve's search for success in leadership, and he recommends a few research papers that his team came across during their research.
Soon, Steve is receiving recommendations from his family members, his friends and their friends, who are provided Steve with a directed approach to filling his gap. As he continues to read books, listen to podcasts and read articles on leadership, he is becoming more and more informed on the topic. He now has 10 or 15 people who are invested in his goal of obtaining leadership expertise.
Additionally, Steve finds a couple of friends who are interested in learning with him. They add each other to their network and have weekly discussions where they share what they have learned in the past week.
To put his knowledge to practical use, Steve also signs up for a volunteer event where he will be leading a team of high school students to clean up a local community. Steve now has essentially created a leadership portfolio for himself and is able to present this to his future employers.
Let's take this scenario and look at how it can address the three concerns highlighted in the beginning.