De-Institutionalization of Education

Updated 28-Jun-2024

This brief report could just as easily be called The Status of Education 2.0 but I think we are over this versioning. What is really at work is a de-institutionalization of education as an institution. What we are witnessing is the reorganization of learning outside of the organizing principles of the Medieval University.

The Education of Achilles

Institutional Decline

While still quite revered and heralded as a place of learning and innovation, there is serious institutional decline in the university in general. While one can always point to exceptions and exceptional institutions, the organizing principle of higher education (along with that of medicine and the modern hospital) has been in serious decline for perhaps 30 years. Without point to obvious actors involved in this kind of institutional malaise, suffice it to say that these institutions are incapable of meeting the increasingly dynamic needs of individuals and organizations. This is part and parcel of the increasingly information-intensive nature of work in general.

The Internet of Learning

At the same time as educational institutions have provided largely ineffective, if any, response to the increasing needs for learning in general, information and communication technology has proliferated. This has the salutary effect of providing a different kind of space for co-presence, collaboration, and the dissemination of information. The very nature of the medieval university is founded in a physical place where experts and apprentices were gathered together. The Internet and its various communication technologies can provide virtually the same space, but at a much reduced cost and with a much greater reach. With the decline of institutions and the increase in communication technology that is not tied to the institutions or to physical locations, learning and education will naturally leak out of institutions and into spaces forged with information and communication technologies.

Current Status of the De-institutionalized Education

There are several trends which will likely accelerate as quasi-institutions (organizations collaborating together to deliver learning and education) continue to develop these new learning spaces and develop functional education systems.

  • Professional schools that provide intensive training (at a high price) and deliver skilled and employment-ready graduates. Example Hack Reactor 12 weeks, full time, in-class, ~17,500 USD
  • So called Nano Degrees, essentially certificates which take a year or so to complete. Example Udacity 1 year, part time, online, ~2,500 USD
  • One week or less bootcamps which focus on a particular, somewhat narrow topic/skill. Example Coded Online 2 days, full time, online, ~500 USD
  • Online courses with content that free or premium with unlimited access or monthly. Examples Learning Indonesian unlimited, part time, online, ~150 USD; Udacity Web Development course Monthly (about two months, could be shorter), online, 150 USD/month; Real Python unlimited, self-paced, online, 60 USD for three courses or 25 USD each
  • MOOCs (massive online open courses) are still quite popular and are from a few weeks to a few months in length. These are generally free or inexpensive.
  • More open learning platforms such as Udemy which has found a good niche in enabling the creation of online courses by any expert (or so-called expert) and social ratings to help filter out low quality content. Note that by offering free courses, many people may improve their social reputation and help create additional revenue streams. Example Udemy a few days, weeks or months, part time, online, free to 500 USD.
  • Skill sharing sites, which tend to be the same as open learning platforms, but very low quality (for anyone with Seth Godin or Guy Kawasaki as premiere contributors, the 1990s are calling and want their bubble boys back). Some amount of money, some amount of time, best to ignore these.

The Return of Institutionalization

Of course, the great medieval institutions are not exactly sitting still. That is, some of the current Internet-driven education and learning spaces are partnering with these ancient beasts (mainly as a source of course content). EdX, Coursera and Academic Earth are such examples. In sum, there are quite a few trends in terms of delivery methods, prices, content, length and purpose of a deinstitutionalized education. As it should be. More will come.