Collaborative learning in a post-COVID world

Full disclosure: This is part-opinion piece, part market testing. I’m about to make claims that aren’t fully backed by data, in hopes to foster debate and opinions from the internet. I’ll also mainly use the US tertiary education system as an artefact — fully cognisant that circumstances vary from country to country.

So, education technology (EdTech) has been trying to revolutionise traditional education for a good part of the last 20 or so years — to a certain degree of success. And I say ‘certain’, because as far as I can see — traditional institutions are still the preferred choice for parents sending kids to university; and most employers still require some sort of ‘credible’ degree to let you onto their payroll (If you have never attended university and managed to get a job you actually wanted through online learning platforms such as Udemy, Skillshare, Udacity, Coursera and the like — please get in touch, I want to get inside your head!). Likewise, if you’re a forward-thinking employer who believes every role is simply a set of skills largely shaped by personal traits and experience, attainable through other means than a 4-year degree and 48-thousand EUR (the cost of an average Bachelors degree at a university in Finland if you come from outside the EU) — let’s talk.

Enter COVID, and the joke that is education on our ‘modern’ capitalist societies has been further exposed. These universities even raised tuition, in spite of going remote due to COVID-19 — the fuckers. How many universities out there are known for developing state-of-the-art remote learning products? No, really — I want to know. If your university is killing it with remote learning, ping me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Doing a survey, the sample of which was n=1 (my little sister), who is more opinionated than yours truly- I started my question with: ‘so, you know how universities have had to go remote? I was wondering about your exper….’; ‘I HATE IT!!’ — she interrupted. I didn’t even get to ask about the fees before she had to get back to Microsoft Teams.

In fact, tuition fees are probably at an all-time high (data from the National Center for Education Statistics only shows numbers through to 2018).

Even the University of the People charges almost 5-thousand USD for a Bachelors degree). Yes, in order to get a degree from the University of the People — a Colombian earning a minimum wage should forego food, transportation or basic hygiene for 19,3 months. But hey, at least that’s the full degree. If you wanted to stay local and attend the prestigious Universidad de los Andes, you’d have to forego breathing for 20,3 months twice a year to pay for semester tuition (for a four-year degree). You better not fail if you want to study medicine — after 19 years of not eating, you’ll fucking need those skills.

And governments wonder why all the misery and poverty.

So, what’s the point of the rant?

The point of the rant is that there has to be a better way. There must be. And it must be pragmatic: it needs to take into account supply (qualified talent) and demand (employers needs) in a two-sided picture. And it sure as hell won’t come from education incumbents, or any government (even if they certainly can, and should play a role).

Taking a pragmatic approach

This would not be the first attempt at marrying forward-thinking employers willing to experiment, with talent equipped with select skills- minus the bells and whistles of a formal education. I was a huge fan of the initiative when Udacity and AT&T announced their partnership over nanodegrees, back in 2014. But in this connected world of ours, of course tech degrees had to be the first to be disrupted — so who’s next?

Let’s be realistic

A top-to-bottom overhaul of education as we know it is still a ways away, however — if there is something the global pandemic has shown, is that it needs to be accelerated. Our international, decentralised team has been cracking away at the core of our new micro-mentoring service, and we’re mere weeks away from opening up our private Beta to interested parties.

Our hypothesis is that, by facilitating short peer-to-peer exchanges within the context of in-demand projects and subjects (plus support from seasoned industry professionals)— we can orient and speed up the development of professionals for the jobs, nay — the companies, of the future.

At the same time, we need to keep our fingers on the pulse of ever-changing demands in the workplace.

I’m confused but vaguely intrigued, how do I find out more?

It’s very simple. If you fit one, or several of the following profiles, please give us a shout.

  1. People looking for entry-level jobs, yet still undecided about a specific direction
  2. People looking for a career change, yet unsure whether you have the right set of skills for your next challenge
  3. People who want to skill up and develop a close relationship with an expert to learn from
  4. People who wish to share knowledge, teach or simply tell stories (you don’t need to be a formal educator, we will help you determine the right level to teach through our use of data)
  5. Diverse workplaces, or employers curious about new ways of exposing themselves to fresh talent, with new perspectives and backgrounds
  6. People who have enjoyed using and learning through Clubhouse, but think there should be a space for more in-depth, actionable learning
  7. Undecided, but curious nonetheless

The human side of tech. I ask the “why’s?”, “how’s?”, “who’s” and “when’s?” when others think just tech. Talk to me about travel, dogs or ecosystem innovation.