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Colleges as education service providers

Why should we buy a pre-fixed 4-year package from a single vendor?

Photo of Niandong Wang
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I used to hang out a lot at Fry's Electronics in Palo Alto.  Most of the time, I walked out with a bag of gadgets and would come back again soon.  Until I realized Amazon offered many same items from many vendors and at lower price.

I haven't set my feet in any electronic store for years and I am not looking back. 

But parents/students still look at a (one, singular) 4-year college as the only option and are (reluctantly) willing to pay for everything from that particular "vendor".  

Why are we accepting this 400+ years of higher education model which was built for small class size of students who came from mostly affluent families who just could afford it?

We shouldn't be.  Just like I shouldn't getting all my 4-year electronic supplies from Fry's.

I have some ideas on how the models could be,  and I am finding teammates here (please feel free to ping me directly or leave a comment).

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Break the "4 year education all from one vendor" mindset.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Xiaofan Liang

I like this idea and I can see where you come from, but I am curious about what does education mean to you because to me, it's greater than learning knowledge and that's why I think it's hard to be broken into pieces. I had imagined several ways that it can work: the whole higher education experience is self-centered and students find pieces of resources themselves through various channels; Students can jump from one college to another all around the world to take classes that they are interested in and it will be very interesting if combined with the idea of open-loop university to mitigate (Stanford) the effect of diploma or having some student cohorts all around the world and you can join the cohort if you decide to take classes at a local university which will mitigate the effect of lack of community.

The biggest barrier is realize it is lack of a strong infrastructure system to support this. How to support students to find their own interests and structure their own learning path? How to get so many colleges on board with this plan? How to manage such a global system? Who pay people to manage the system?

Photo of Niandong Wang

Hi Xiaofan,

Thank you for sharing with me your thoughts. I agree with you with the promising (and exciting!) options if the CaaS (College-as-a-service) can become true and the unsolved challenges (all great questions) that you pointed out.

I can answer your questions from two different angles:

- From students/parents perspective: They can and would vote by feet. With the ever-increasing cost of college tuition - hence this very OpenIDEO challenge to make it more "affordable" - students have not many choices but to consider their ROI for a 4-year formal/traditional college program vs. "alternative" ways. More students will probably take online courses, work first then go to colleges, or even skip the traditional path all together.

- From employers perspective: Increasingly they are facing the challenges that 1) new college grads are not adequately prepared for the jobs even though they might have double majors; 2) shortage of skilled workers mean they can easily switch jobs and/or ask for higher pay, resulting in less employee/employer loyalty. So why should they invest time/money to retrain new college grads only to let them leave after a few years of on-the-job training? They shouldn't be. So what are the choices for them? One of the options could be like this post I wrote:

In summary (and to answer your question): Education doesn't and shouldn't be happened only in the classroom or in the Ivy Towers. It's everywhere and lifelong.