Why do you believe colleges will become obsolete sooner rather than later? What will the new system do a better job at solving?
The current college system doesn’t prevent those new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality from being incorporated, and chances are they will embrace those technologies. They would even allow the college system to persist further as it will enable virtual classroom experiences from your bedroom. However, I completely agree that customizable education is the future and will disrupt colleges as we know it today.
Here are my thoughts on why the college system doesn’t work for the modern day and age coupled with some historical background. At first there were apprenticeships which excelled at giving people practical experience and a job. This system lacked in providing professional mobility. On the other hand, the rich created the university system for fields such as Language, Philosophy, and eventually Science, but it wasn’t made with the aim of professional development. Rather, it served as an indication of social standing. Within this system research found its way into academia and became the measure of academic standing. This element has persisted into the current system such that some researchers become professors because they must and not because they desire to educate.
The apprentice system didn’t hold up during the industrial revolution and the increase in technology. To fill this void schools were created to teach workers, similar to vocational schools. More knowledge was required for new types of profession where were created during this time. With the continual progress of technology employers desired workers with broader skillsets and more years of training. With the increase in social justice movements and the aim to create meritocracies the average person searched for greater professional mobility. The two education systems eventually merged and give us the system we have today which temporarily solved those problems. It served to both educate to the required degree and provide the social standing such that graduates were still of a select group and thus able to find better work. It also gave people a wide exposure to knowledge which they could not previously obtain on their own.
With even further increases in technology many professions require a higher level of knowledge that the average college degree does not provide and thus graduate schools have become more popular and necessary to distinguish oneself from the crowd. At the same time the internet has made general knowledge accessible and the obtainment of specific facts much less valuable. Most college systems are still trying to advertise the entire package to everyone. Not everyone is looking to fully expand their mind, I believe most would rather a good paying job. Additionally, grading systems can be a detrimental distraction for truly motivated student who would naturally attempt to push the frontiers of science. Researchers get confused with educators, people who ‘really’ want to learn go on to graduate school, and every aspect of this one package deal is competing with more specialized systems. College experiences rarely have a clear way of distinguishing themselves and they must compete in every aspect so the price skyrockets and many students end up walking away with only a debt and diploma and neither a job nor and truly critical mind.
So to summarize, the currents system has these two elements: learning/exploration for the purpose of expanding the mind, and learning to build expertise to gain professional mobility. I think that is why there are two popular alternatives to the current system. Quick training schools like coding boot camps, that provide expertise, experience, and job mobility and online classes that primarily provide mind expanding opportunities with almost inconsequential impact on one’s job mobility. It is when the distinction between these two outcomes is unclear and meshed into one big system that the problems of our current system arise. I believe through customizable education you could create a system that offers the upsides of both these pieces without all the downsides of college. We could help students pinpoint their priorities and offer them a matching experience.
The biggest challenge is that with a customized experience it is more difficult to compare people and so within a capitalistic society (neither for nor strongly against) companies would have a hard time distinguishing candidates and evaluating desirable skillsets, but I have other ideas on that problem.