"Traditional Higher Education Is Losing Relevance. Here’s What’s Replacing It"

Hello Colleagues,

Dr. Peter Diamandis is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation that leads the world in designing and operating large-scale incentive competitions including the adult Literacy XPRIZE. He was named by Fortune Magazine as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.He is Executive Founder of Singularity University, a Silicon Valley institution that counsels the world’s leaders on exponentially growing technologies. (https://singularityhub.com/2019/03/22/traditional-higher-education-is-losing-relevance-heres-whats-replacing-it/ ) He recently wrote an article with, to me, the intriguing title, "Traditional Higher Education Is Losing Relevance. Here’s What’s Replacing It".  What's replacing higher education MBA degrees, according to Diamandis is virtual mentorships and coaching that, he says, are here to stay.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts about this article, and whether or not mentorships and coaching, perhaps with well-designed, substantive online courses, might be a model that HSE programs should explore.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

LINCS CoP Integrating Technology and Program Management groups




    I *do* think there's room for different pathways now...  so much of success is Making The Right Connections, as well as acquiring assorted skills.... 

Hi Susan,

This is a very important observation. The combination of having marketable skills (and knowledge and ideally some experience) and "Making the Right Connections" is the career pathways magic formula. I am going to start a discussion in the LINCS Career Pathways group about this and encourage you and others who may be interested to join in.

David J. Rosen


Many people will agree with this basic concept while most will disagree on ways to approach the needed changes. In education my experience was a drill and kill method till I mastered a minor algorithm and moved on. In today's world that method will produce results, just not the desired results. As I worked as a supervisor my key needs were employees who showed up to work on time, did a good job and played nice with each other. The reality is a college degree is a piece of paper that can help get your foot in the door, not the representation of true ability. Most employers seek competence and skills not an ability to parrot information. As the Open Education movement continues to grow we will see more "soft skills" courses and specializations offered. It is possible we will even see courses developed providing the mentoring mentioned on the Author's website. As long as college is cost prohibitive and employers have a need there will be more options to fill those needs. Knowledge caught behind a paywall will continue to become obsolete as humans embark on discovery. Education and pedagogy must change as well. Our Alternative programs will be moving to a model more in line with this approach and I am hopeful to do the same with our Adult Education.

I have a few success stories to share related to this conversation. I am hopeful others are seeing similar things in their work.

I had one young man join my class years ago and it was evident that he was full of personality, a wonderful people person, but was not a person that was going to find academic success very easily at most any level. He was in a room with 18 other individuals each there for different academic needs. After three months of helping all of the class adjust to a learning lab in which we become a community of learners, it was easier to start establishing some successes with many of the individuals. This young man glowed when I helped him realize his strengths instead of continually focusing on his challenges. He was shocked that we never ignored his challenges and he always felt tricked in some ways. "You would always get me thinking that I was in my comfort zone until something went click and I realized I was just doing something that formally was difficult for me. It wasn't work and darn it, it was fun and I miss our time together." This was a message he shared with me recently as he shared that after he got his HiSET, he went on to work in a couple of industries. In every position, he always gravitated towards customer service and he constantly was reflective on the reaction of others instead of just how he felt in an exchange. These reflection skills were always a focus in our class time together. His continual learning in each of these industries combined with his natural skills and positive work landed him into being awarded a large car wash and detailing business for him to take over. The owner was so impressed with this young man's work the owner felt he deserved to take over this thriving business so the owner could open a second branch in the next town over. This former student shared many details of what he thought helped him find so much success but it connected all of it to our 4 semesters together in our learning labs and the learning he experienced that had nothing to do with academics. 

In another situation, my own son entered an adult ed program and got his HiSET with the intention of entering post secondary to become an engineer. He was hearing so much support from others that "You can do this!". It was difficult for me in that I was consistently seeing academic challenges my son had that would really be difficult to overcome. At the same time I was able to see his incredible gift in designing and crafting things. He worked with scraps of wood, he worked with discarded appliances, he tinkered with almost anything he could get a hold of and most of all he was always playing around with CAD programs like Sketchup. After 4 years of continually struggling with academics and dropping out of a few programs, my son finally decided to start sharing his passion for design and building on the internet with friends, and then with strangers. He did this for almost a year and during that time he would get all sorts of request to build or design little things and he would always share his results online. A high school friend of his did go on to become an engineer and saw my son's work online and immediately invited my son to apply for a job with him. A week later, my son was interviewing at Bath Iron Works in Bath Maine which is one of the major military naval construction yards on the east coast. A week or two after that, my son had beat out hundreds of other applicants, almost all of whom had college degrees. It was my son's passion and desire to independently hone his craft that excited this company to take him on and not one month into his work for them, he was recently shipped out to San Diego to work on some specialized work that has specialized pay included. He is using his love for computer aided drafting and his creative tinkering abilities to help redesign some of our military ships. All of this was achieved with a focus that was not on the traditional academic track. 

Please don't take either of these situations as me saying that I can help anyone get where they want to be. Instead, I hope you take away some ideas about how we might be able to help people discover who they really might be. Maybe they leave us with no clue what they want to do but they really have learned who they are and what makes them special like that first case I shared. Maybe they keep pounding themselves down traditional paths getting more and more frustrated only because it is so hard for people to follow their passions with any confidence in today's society that really feels there are "right ways" to get where you want. Every day, the people I get to meet and work with astound me with just how incredible they are. The problem is that most of them just have not learned how talented or incredible they are yet and no focus on academics is going to help them discover this. My role as a coach and educational navigator is offering me so much proof that what Dr. Diamandis is indicating is valid. Education at all levels is becoming irrelevant because the systems we work within adjust so slowly to the changes in life and our energies are put into so many areas of our craft with so little energy available to focus on the individuals we are here to serve. I am finding that the more energy I can put into really studying and practicing how to coach and help navigate for individuals, the more successful I feel. Even better, former learners are starting to contact me more often with their success stories that all include a hearty, "...thank you for helping me discover who I wanted to be and for giving me the confidence to embrace who I want to be..."