The Future of Education is Online

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been pleased to see an increase in articles touching on the future of education. While there are many divergent opinions out there, the important point is: people are starting conversations around the efficacy of the conventional college education model. As many point out, traditional universities are expensive — according to StartClass, the historical aggregate student loan debt reached $1.32 trillion in Q4 of 2015! — and, frankly, they’re ineffective. It’s been evident to me, well before I started Treehouse in 2010, that the future of education is not in-person, it’s online.

Illustration by Michael B. Myers Jr., Motion Designer at Treehouse —

Old-school academia may tell you that it’s impossible to get the same caliber of education online. As Financial Times’ John Thornhill mentions in his recent article, The second renaissance will be digitised, “The online experience, they say, can never replace the personal relationships forged between teachers and students, and the networks of contacts that can be developed.” This simply isn’t true.

I haven’t spoken to a single teacher or fellow Computer Science student, since graduating from my 4-year college. I haven’t leveraged a single contact from that network to land me a job or a start a business deal. Had I gone to a prestigious school like Stanford, that probably wouldn’t be the case because top-tier schools have valuable networks that are respected. ‘Normal’ universities like Colorado State University? Not so much. But I couldn’t get into or afford a top-tier school, and I know I’m not the only one.

Compare this with the extremely active, supportive and helpful community I see in the Slack channel we have dedicated to our Techdegree students. They are helping, and getting help, 24 hours a day. They are encouraging and motivating each other constantly. And they don’t need to be face-to-face, in-person to do so.

You simply do not need to attend a 2-year or 4-year university to forge valuable relationships and networks. The world has changed.

As Victor Davis at National Review wrote in his piece, The Decline of College, “More than half of recent college graduates — who ultimately support the huge college industry — are either unemployed or working in jobs that don’t require bachelor’s degrees.”

Technology has proliferated every other area of our lives, so it only makes sense that education evolve to a more digitized form as well. When done properly, online schools can offer high-quality content that allows students to work at their own pace and, most importantly, can update curriculum in real-time to keep up with what hiring managers are looking for — giving students the real skills they need to secure the job they want. In fact, recent data from Triplebyte suggests that online bootcamp graduates were just as, if not more, qualified for entry-level programming jobs than those with traditional computer science degrees. The future of education is online, on-demand and doesn’t involve degrees from 2 or 4-year universities.

Let’s keep this conversation going, folks. There are more than 500,000 unfilled tech jobs across the United States and people don’t need to spend four years and tens of thousands of dollars on a degree in order to qualify for many of these roles. As our first cohort of students enter our intensive Techdegree program, we’ll continue to look into data that helps us answer the question: what’s the difference between a 4-year accredited degree and the new online alternative?