3/6/12

The cost of post-secondary education is relevant to many users on this board. Those not in school are likely paying off loans or considering a graduate degree.

There have been several attempts to open elite educational institutions to the masses, most notably MITs OpenCourseWare. The problem is you can't exactly use it to qualify for a job like a degree. You might have done the work, but can't prove it.

The NYT ran an article discussing the possible of online certificate programs. Free courses with paid exams, so as to discourage cheating. Could these certifications eventually replace a college degree for many jobs that don't really need a degree? (Does my postman need 4 years of college?)
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/05/education/moocs-...

Of course, you can cheat on these exams, but cheating in college is also possible. More broadly, could we move from general BAs to specialized certificate programs? MSFT has done a great job with their certifications- you can get a good IT job without paying for a degree, and the certifications actually do demonstrate knowledge Are these tailored certificates a way to end the educational arms race?

Comments (28)

3/6/12

Not sure if it ever will - I think it depends on what you want to deem as a successful alternative. Will you be able to give those without finances or access more opportunity to learn and make themselves more attractive to employers? Yes, I believe so. Will these people be considered more attractive than the people who went through the traditional hoops of doing a university + specialized certificate? I'm not necessarily sure.

There was a good blog post on why education start-ups do not tend to succeed and much of it has to do with the culture of America about education (versus that of say India or China)
http://www.launch.co/blog/why-education-startups-d...

Financial Modeling

3/6/12

I was talking about this with some of the old timers when I was bartending this weekend. The concensus was that everyone should get to experience a year of college. After that, if they stay, do a degree with a payoff. If they want to do something like "literature studies" that's cool, but strongly recommend a double with a major that opens up an specific job....like accounting....or at least minor in something practical, like comp sci.

There should also be a mandatory course for every incoming college student explaining basics like (1) choosing majors (2) writing resumes (3) what too much debt looks like (4) ???

Basically, I went to school with ZERO oversight and had no idea what I was doing, so I think it's important to make sure the kids have some sense of grounding and information so they are empowered. Here and there, you find someone that knows exactly what they want from day one, but the overwhelming majority of kids going into college have no clue what they want or how the system works. School can't replace any individual initiative, but a crash course in "Welcome to the real world 101" would really help things.

As for online education: it is a good adjunct, but employers don't take it nearly as seriously outside of a few outlier examples that people throw in to deny this fact.

Just my thoughts.

Get busy living

3/6/12

I've been all over MOOCs for awhile now. The quality of classes available for free is staggering. The only thing I pay for is lynda.com and that's $25 a month. While I was in New Orleans last week, I met a guy who is teaching a complete Rails class (as in zero to Rails expert in 6 weeks) for $350.

Programming is easily learned outside the college environment. However, I still think the Computer Science environment is important for teaching programming architecture. It's simple enough for a guy like me to learn how to do something online, but it's often easy to forget how important the why is as well.

3/6/12

How about state school? If you're not working you can get a MS in a year.

As mentioned earlier, a lot of employers wouldn't take this online approach too seriously.

3/6/12

I think some disciplines lend themselves very well to this type of schooling. For example, most employers are less concerned about a Comp Sci degree than they are an MCITP certification, etc., which is something someone can get on their own without going to school.

Obviously if employment is your top priority then going to school makes that end more easily attainable. If your goal is a good living and tons of personal freedom, however, there's not much (read: any) point in going deep into debt on a degree when you can teach yourself pretty much any programming language for less than $500.

Believe me, if today's opportunities had been around when I was in the Marines and had time to teach myself these skills, there is no way in hell I would have ever even given Wall Street a second glance. The only reason I went to work on the Street is because that's where the money was at the time. But if I had the choice between pounding the phones in a monkey suit for 15+ hours a day or scratching my balls in my underwear while I code away on my home computer back then, it would have been no fucking contest.

3/6/12

If employers still rank those WITH a degree according to the pedigree of their college, then an alternative to degrees would add just another step in the ladder and hence their credibility and worthiness will be questioned from the start.

Until you overcome the hurdle of the prestige/popularity/pedigree factor in college degrees, you can probably bring these alternative courses and certificates on the same level playing field. Not like it's going to happen though.

I have a friend who is a kick ass graphics designer and coder. His front end coding is incredible but a shop won't look at him because his CV is missing a degree. I mean 9 Times out of 10, you would take this guy over a CompSci grad but it's the way the education and job Market has evolved hand in hand.

3/6/12
Rumplesmoothspin:

If employers still rank those WITH a degree according to the pedigree of their college, then an alternative to degrees would add just another step in the ladder and hence their credibility and worthiness will be questioned from the start.

Until you overcome the hurdle of the prestige/popularity/pedigree factor in college degrees, you can probably bring these alternative courses and certificates on the same level playing field. Not like it's going to happen though.

I have a friend who is a kick ass graphics designer and coder. His front end coding is incredible but a shop won't look at him because his CV is missing a degree. I mean 9 Times out of 10, you would take this guy over a CompSci grad but it's the way the education and job Market has evolved hand in hand.

He doesn't have to work for a "shop", he can go work for facebook and make $100k+ a year.

3/6/12
MrJetSet:
Rumplesmoothspin:

If employers still rank those WITH a degree according to the pedigree of their college, then an alternative to degrees would add just another step in the ladder and hence their credibility and worthiness will be questioned from the start.

Until you overcome the hurdle of the prestige/popularity/pedigree factor in college degrees, you can probably bring these alternative courses and certificates on the same level playing field. Not like it's going to happen though.

I have a friend who is a kick ass graphics designer and coder. His front end coding is incredible but a shop won't look at him because his CV is missing a degree. I mean 9 Times out of 10, you would take this guy over a CompSci grad but it's the way the education and job Market has evolved hand in hand.

He doesn't have to work for a "shop", he can go work for facebook and make $100k+ a year.

Like I said, he's a front end developer, they're dime a dozen and hence the differentiating factor becomes a degree. I am sure FB has a few engineers without degrees due to their sheer brilliance but they exist amongst a ton of MIT/Caltech grads.

We are not talking about going for the big fish and getting a job at FB and making 100k+ a year. We are talking about the regional design firm with 10-20 employees who wont give this kid a second look because he doesn't have a bachelors yet his portfolio far eclipses some of those at the firm. The idea that someone with a degree is not qualified is absurd because all the practical and applied work in someone experience is disregarded to a large extent.

Financial Modeling

3/6/12
Edmundo Braverman:

Programming is easily learned outside the college environment. However, I still think the Computer Science environment is important for teaching programming architecture. It's simple enough for a guy like me to learn how to do something online, but it's often easy to forget how important the why is as well.

I was just thinking about this on the way to work: I was a computer science major for two years and they mostly taught the theory, but very little applied programming. It was almost like a number theory/devolopment track instead of an actual programming track and we had to teach ourselves the actual coding. Based on your experience, I do think a lot of programming could be taught more efficiently. Honestly, I don't think 4 years of school is necessary: 6 months of crash coding, a year of theory+coding+practical integrated experience, done.

Get busy living

3/6/12
UFOinsider:
Edmundo Braverman:

Programming is easily learned outside the college environment. However, I still think the Computer Science environment is important for teaching programming architecture. It's simple enough for a guy like me to learn how to do something online, but it's often easy to forget how important the why is as well.

I was just thinking about this on the way to work: I was a computer science major for two years and they mostly taught the theory, but very little applied programming. It was almost like a number theory/devolopment track instead of an actual programming track and we had to teach ourselves the actual coding. Based on your experience, I do think a lot of programming could be taught more efficiently. Honestly, I don't think 4 years of school is necessary: 6 months of crash coding, a year of theory+coding+practical integrated experience, done.

The most important thing I think most self-taught programmers miss (or at least have a tendency to miss) is the unintended consequences of their coding. For example, let's say I want to solve problem XYZ with a computer program. I use the programming I've learned to create a program that solves problem XYZ. Boom, I'm happy.

But then some skeevy fuck recognizes that the code I've written can easily be perverted into a gnarly virus. Boom, now I've got the feds kicking down my door and I'm sad. All the theoretical and architectural stuff they teach you in Comp Sci enables you (or at least should) to look at the program from all angles and prevent this sort of scenario or to build in the extra failsafes that an amateur coder wouldn't normally think about.

3/6/12

FYI MIT started offering certification for their free courses through MITx.

I think it's pretty obvious that the 4 year university model is dying; degrees simply don't mean anything anymore. With the exception of expensive scientific equipment and lab space, everything one would need to learn is available online or at a library. I needed to upgrade my math skills so I went on Khan Academy - they have videos, practice problems, tests, and it's on demand.

3/6/12

evilbyaccident:
I think it's pretty obvious that the 4 year university model is dying; degrees simply don't mean anything anymore.

I was going to write up a whole post about the following graphic (still might, I guess) but I thought it was appropriate here:

3/6/12
Edmundo Braverman:
evilbyaccident:

I think it's pretty obvious that the 4 year university model is dying; degrees simply don't mean anything anymore.

I was going to write up a whole post about the following graphic (still might, I guess) but I thought it was appropriate here:

The fact that the free classes are so high quality, yet so underutilized, speaks to the real value we place on education. Better have a piece of paper certifying a 4 years of attending gender studies classes than learn how to program from some of the best in the field...

It sounds hyperbolic, but how many of those jobs do you see requesting "a four year degree"? Nothing about the content of that degree, just its presence.

3/6/12
Edmundo Braverman:
evilbyaccident:

I think it's pretty obvious that the 4 year university model is dying; degrees simply don't mean anything anymore.

I was going to write up a whole post about the following graphic (still might, I guess) but I thought it was appropriate here:

Nice pull, Eddie. Where'd you find this (i.e. the graphic)?

3/6/12

As usual Eddie you and I are on the same page.

Speaking of degrees being worthless, I saw you posted one of your old pay stubs in another thread. It read like you made 43.5k for a week's worth of work. Did I read that correctly? If I did you shit all over formal education.

3/6/12
evilbyaccident:

As usual Eddie you and I are on the same page.

Speaking of degrees being worthless, I saw you posted one of your old pay stubs in another thread. It read like you made 43.5k for a week's worth of work. Did I read that correctly? If I did you shit all over formal education.

LOL. I don't know that I shit all over formal education but, yeah, you read that right.

3/6/12

^ They're def not worthless its just that Bachelors replaced the highschool degree norm that was required several decades ago. Now its almost necessary to obtain a masters of some form (I'm talking in averages).

Try getting a BB IB or HF gig with a h.s. degree and a ton of certifications.

3/6/12
mb666:

^ They're def not worthless its just that Bachelors replaced the highschool degree norm that was required several decades ago. Now its almost necessary to obtain a masters of some form (I'm talking in averages).

Try getting a BB IB or HF gig with a h.s. degree and a ton of certifications.

Contrary to WSO lore, there are, in fact, jobs outside of the financial services sector. Shocking I know.

Yes, it would be impossible to get any investment banking related job without a university degree, but it's not like you go to school to learn how to be an analyst. In theory the schools separate the wheat from the chaff, but I think we've all met enough incompetent jerk-offs with degrees from elite institutions to know that this isn't always the case.

Obviously the education system hasn't crumbled, but there is clearly a transformational shift taking place.

3/7/12
evilbyaccident:
mb666:

^ They're def not worthless its just that Bachelors replaced the highschool degree norm that was required several decades ago. Now its almost necessary to obtain a masters of some form (I'm talking in averages).

Try getting a BB IB or HF gig with a h.s. degree and a ton of certifications.

Contrary to WSO lore, there are, in fact, jobs outside of the financial services sector. Shocking I know.

Pics or GTFO

3/6/12

definitely agree it depends on the type of career one is looking for, but there is definitely in a future in this, and there should be

What is the answer to 99 out of 100 questions?

3/6/12

I wish I could have just done the CFA instead of university. I'm doing level 2 now and its much more intense than anything I did (I'm in the UK) and I am putting in more hours/effort. If I could have started as an apprentice at a research shop and done CFA over the next three years that would have been ideal.

3/6/12
Ovechkin08:

I wish I could have just done the CFA instead of university. I'm doing level 2 now and its much more intense than anything I did (I'm in the UK) and I am putting in more hours/effort. If I could have started as an apprentice at a research shop and done CFA over the next three years that would have been ideal.

That's not the craziest notion in the world, actually. I'd only be mildly surprised to see an arrangement like that at some point in the next decade, if only because it would drive analyst comp even lower (and therefore save the banks money on what is essentially a high-level data entry job).

3/6/12

MIT courseware is great. And you learn a lot of practical stuff for free. But let's not kid ourselves that this or any other online program will replace an actual bachelor's degree. Employers value a degree from an elite school precisely because it acts as a signaling mechanism. It tells them that this student is smart, hard-working, and reliable. I mean I don't see how someone who did not even go to college but took cs courses through MIT courseware can get an interview at top tech/banks/prop trading shops. What's their calling card? "Oh, I took these courses on MIT's website and mastered the material."

3/6/12

This is actually a topic that I'm very passionate about. As a very frequent user (could I call myself a student?) of MIT's incredible OpenCourseWare's offerings, I really do hope that education moves toward this sort of model. Not I think it will, necessarily, but I can hope. After all, if some kid from Bangladesh could set the curve in a structured, legitimate MIT Electrical Engineering class, or a Berkeley Civil Engineering class, as an employer, why should I give even the minutest of fucks if he was able to get through some mostly arbitrary admissions process?

Hell, I can't remember the exact statistic, but even Harvard says it barely rejects anyone based on whether or not they can handle the academic rigor. (Of course, I'm guessing Harvard would never open up its courses to the general Riff-Raff, but if MIT and Stanford are willing to, then that point is moot anyway).

That said, I do think the damage has been done as far as one thing is concerned: College degrees really are the new high school diploma. What I think you'll probably see is college graduates using such services to improve their resumes, and add practical, value-add skills to their professional repertoires. Anything past that would be a tremendous bonus.

3/6/12
atomic:

That said, I do think the damage has been done as far as one thing is concerned: College degrees really are the new high school diploma. What I think you'll probably see is college graduates using such services to improve their resumes, and add practical, value-add skills to their professional repertoires. Anything past that would be a tremendous bonus.

This begs the question, are current college graduates really that much more skilled than past high school grads?

I don't like to call any knowledge useless, but I suspect a majority of college students just learn (and forget) random facts as opposed to learning skills. I think college is just a prolonged adolescence for many.

3/6/12

Is no one here a proponent of "learning for the sake of learning"? Maybe I'm just an idealist and like taking random things like English classes...
But also, isn't the point of an educated population a more productive population, which usually leads to advances that increase a country's GDP? Obviously not everyone is going to really contribute something specifically significant to society by getting a degree, but I would argue that most of the value that has made society a better place over the past century comes from those with college education (famous tech guys being the exception, not the rule). Part of college education is, in addition to learning applicable technical skills, learning to think critically and analyze, which are two significantly important skills required for first world living. While these skills may be innate to some extent, it definitely can be nurtured/learned.

3/7/12
3/7/12
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