A La Carte Education

By Jon Saints - 03 Aug 2011

Let me first say this… College was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I firmly believe that the 4 year journey we take through undergraduate colleges in America is one of the greatest rite of passage journeys that the world has ever known.

Now, let me say this: There have been many times, since I left college, where I wanted to gain a new skill to start a business or to expand my realm of possibility. Times where I wanted something a little cheaper than a graduate degree, a little more structured than teaching my self, and a lot more flexible than a semester. There are certainly times where going back to college for a another full blown rite of passage just is not a fit.

So what is? Is there a more a-la-carte journey out there? A way to get bursts of learning without a full degree?

A couple sources have inspired my thinking on the topic recently:

1) Khan Academy: Revolutionary. Access to high quality lectures on wide range of topics for anyone with an internet connection. Khan believes in flipping classroom. This means lectures by video at home and homework collaboratively in the classroom. See Flip This Classroom: Khan Academy Brings Lectures Home

2) Book: Reality is Broken by Jane Mcgonigal. McGonigal Explains the idea of Leveling Up in education. Rather than semesters and grades, subjects are given Levels and open time frames.

With Grades anything but an “A” means you fell short. A letter grade of “C” means the student only got about half as far as the teacher thought they should in a time frame (semester) that was set by the school.

Leveling up is different. Students progress at their own pace choosing their levels of expertise they want to obtain. Level 1 in chemistry might be “How not to blow yourself up in the kitchen”. Level 3 might be “Ace the AP Chem test”. Level 5 might be “wowzers… you just invented a new kind of compostable plastic”. You wear levels like you wear karate belts. There is no shame in any level. Some students have just journied farther than others.

My answer: A-la-Carte Education. Lab course series taught outside of colleges. Students pay per level and can come and go as they wish and continue from where they left off. Classes are all flipped: reading and lectures at home. Collaboartive problem solving (homework) in a weekly meeting with the teacher and other students.

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