Look at the homepage of any major news organization and it is instantly clear just how much social, digital and “the internet” has become a part of mainstream society; the debate is quite clearly closed. Run a search on any of those terms on your local university’s course directory and you are left wondering what you missed; where the past decade has gone.
For the students I advise this is a very serious, very real issue: they’re spending an increasingly significant fortune to get educated and worried that they’ll walk into a very tough market with tools and an understanding that reflects the past.
The system that once sparked innovation has become its own obstacle.
Progress and innovation have, in great part, come out of academia. There’s certainly been truth to that in modern technology and business as well, but look at Google Glasses, Open Source APIs, or Social Marketing and it is clear the source for change is changing. It’s no secret that many of the big names never made it through college and looking at my own life, my peers, most of the people who I follow there are simply few with letters attached beyond of BA, BS, or AA. In a period of rapid change, experience has become more important to getting ahead. If there’s no economic need, you can bet there are not many who will go through the hoops.
Yet schools demand that their faculty have lengthy experience, prestigious accolades, and impressive research…. clearly important traits to hold as an educator except that, to teach, they count if they come from within academia; having “done it” is not enough.
There are of course the exceptions: a finite group of pioneers & researchers, known names, and passionate experts. You find them around the hubs that supported them, the places where they worked, and the institutions which have modernized. As you get further away [and you really don't have to go far], the less modern educators there are, and yet the more they’re needed. We are quite literally teaching our way into the digital divide.
‘We’ need to change as much as the schools.
One could say we just wait it out. In a decade, the modern fields of today will be far more saturated and thus people will once again [likely] find a benefit to pursuing higher degrees giving us a population of potential educators. It’s how trends have entered academia in the past, but I’m not so sure it will work again… After all the world hasn’t made one big leap but rather is in a period of constant steps and what’s modern today will be outdated again soon [what was the mobile market like in 2003, where was social, who knew ruby...] continuing for the foreseeable future.
Instead, I’d suggest universities need to evolve. Standards have to be re-evaluated… Those who wrote the book [in many cases literally] should be invited in; not as last-ditch solutions but welcome colleagues, fully supported contributors to the learning experience. Schools can adapt and teach how to teach, support in where to mix the tactical with the theoretical, guide research along side cases, but they have to let the people who know what it’s all about in first.
At the same time we, as a collective of builders and developers, marketers or strategists, have to recognize that if we want to curtail the shortages of talent and position our local communities to succeed, it means getting involved. Just as we can’t expect old world politicians to become tech advocates for our causes, we can’t wait for someone else to step up and become an educator. We need to power an army; to have enough presence to gain a voice, to turn new into accepted, accepted to required, to evolve the curriculum
There are some positive trends emerging. Extension and online programs where title is less of a barrier are evolving to compete with vocational institutes as are some of the bigger private names who can pull in those with enough of a pedigree to ignore the academic titling. So long as undergrads are walking out of school being told they need a double spaced resume, and not what LinkedIn is [true story], it should be clear we’ve got a long way to go.