In the age of the internet, the worlds information is simply at the tip of your fingers. A click away. Have a question? Need to fact check? The famous term “Google” it is now the go-to phrase when you’re unsure of most anything. Added to the Oxford English dictionary in 2006, it’s safe to say that using the power of the internet to expand ones knowledge is one the most popular methods of obtaining information.
With such a wealth of information available, the argument that it’s no longer necessary to attend a university in order to obtain a degree seems to be stronger than ever. Some of the worlds most successful and influential people (such as Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Michael Dell) all either dropped out or didn’t attend college at all. Of course, that’s not to say that they are the norm. For every drop out that succeeds, there many more who do not; however, the point remains: With so much information and such easy access to it, it is possible to learn almost anything (and achieve monumental success in any field) without college.
To that end, it seems that the future of education is slowly driving away from conventional teachings and moving towards the world wide web.
So the information is there, the only question is, how good is it?
Although you can find the dregs of humanity on the internet, you can also find some amazing sources. Case in point, MIT has recently made the worlds access to information, quality teachers, and lectures even more instant…and free.
Called the ‘Open Course Ware‘ publication, the website is a hosting of over 2,200 MIT courses from the past 15 years. Every course is categorized by topic, course number, department and offers an incredibly vast array of subjects to dive in to. From courses such as Relativistic Quantum Field Theory to Music Recording Techniques & Audio Production, you can watch lectures, read study materials, and take exams from pretty much every single course offered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
With an Ivy League education like this at the tip of your fingers, this begs the question…why attend college? Why should one pay and/or get into debt with student loans when it is possible to take the courses of your interest and learn from one of the top universities in the world for free (or the cost of a computer, internet connection…and maybe a little self motivation).
Well, broken down into simply the obtaining of knowledge, the better value would appear to be in learning on your own. Go to the OCW website, decide what you want to learn, create a structure for yourself to move through the course, buy any required text books from Amazon, and get to it. The lectures available are exactly what the mass of students sitting in that lecture hall are learning. The lecture notes and study materials are the same that they receive. The exams are the same exams that the MIT students take. If you have the right motivation and drive, you can learn at an Ivy league level essentially for free.
Now if we break down an education from a university such as MIT according to the guidance, connections, and the sheer value of having a degree that comes along with it…this becomes an entirely different conversation. The power of the connections you make attending a college of almost any standard is huge. From meeting friends who will eventually work in your industry to meeting people already in it—these connections will be extremely valuable when it comes to breaking into a field of work.
Beyond this, the amount of structure and guidance a proper university provides is something that would be incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to replicate by yourself. And of course, many job applications require a college degree, which is a major factor when it comes to obtaining a job in the United States and around the world. Of course, if more emphasis is put on the interview and knowledge rather than having attended college, a larger pool of qualified applicants might open up.
And honestly, that, at least, is already begging to happen.
Many forward thinking companies are beginning to remove the requirement for an official degree and are relying more on experience and well executed interviews to obtain qualified employees. The reason for this shift is exactly what’s been discussed above: the importance is the knowledge…and you can get that from many sources (including the internet).
This is not to discredit a college education and degree. As mentioned above, the value is still undeniable. This is only to say that the future of education isn’t solely reliant on universities anymore. With the access to information in today’s world and some self motivation, you can learn at an extremely high level. Certain individuals might even fair better on their own.
For more on MIT’s OCW program.