• Flux Magazine

"Home Schooled" by Jeffrey Aviña

When coronavirus initially hit the United States, Colleges and Universities were among the first places to close with the promise that they would be up and running by the fall semester. The CSU system was one of the first to announce that students would be strictly going online this semester. They also announced that tuition would remain the same after numerous lawsuits to other universities were filed saying that colleges should lower the price of tuition. Classes are now equitable to what someone would get by enrolling in the University of Phoenix Online. Now that we are well on our way into the first fully remote academic year, individuals in higher education have begun to ask; "Where do we go from here."

History has shown us that when calamity strikes a society, the innovations that rise from the wake of said calamity aren’t innovations at all. Instead, they are current trends that are fast-tracked into the mainstream. What would've taken almost ten or fifteen years, has happened in a matter of months thanks to COVID-19. For example, according to an MIT survey of 25,000, roughly 15% of people worked at home before the pandemic. Now that we are fully remote, Facebook announced that they might never go back to a mandatory in-person workday, employees will have the choice to work strictly from home if they choose to.

But what does where and how we work have to do with how we learn? Recently, Google has announced that they would begin instructing individuals in high demand areas such as Data Analyst, Project Manager, and UX (user experience) Designer. While not the first of their kind, it is the first to be sponsored by one of the biggest tech companies in the world. Doing this can begin a trend that could lead to other tech giants setting up their types of curriculum for the jobs that they need, effectively giving another viable alternative to a college education.

As it currently stands, the other paths outside of going to a four-year college are a Junior College, Trade School, or going straight into the workforce. By themselves, they aren't able to provide the same types of opportunities for social mobility that a four-year university would be able to. Although with Google entering into micro certification, giving opportunities at the positions that are needed most in today's economy, this could become a legitimate competitor to the institution of higher education.

What does education look like in a world where four-year degrees and masters aren't the only paths to a nice high paying job without having to be the next newest face in Silicon Valley? Where the traditional barriers to entry in higher education exist? A world that gives the chance to the part of the workforce that is being put of work by automation and robots instead of leaving them to fend for themselves in an ever-changing world. It could be closer than we all think.

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