Designer Degrees

College students, their parents, and the economy are mixing in a way that is causing an important realization to emerge. And that is, there is no one type of post high school educational program that will work for a broad population of students and situations. Different needs, different interests, and different financial resources are generating a demand for the availability of different educational choices in order to satisfy increasingly diverse learner profiles.

Henry Ford is quoted as saying “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” True enough 100 years ago. But today the opportunity for customization in virtually everything we buy is nothing short of phenomenal. From pizzas to computers to complete luxury homes that can be customized and ordered entirely online, the list of products and services we can order to suit our tastes and needs is far greater than the list of those that must be accepted as is. Douglas Adams’ view of the future featuring custom built luxury planets is seemingly less and less far fetched with each passing year.

It is very easy to imagine a database of video lectures recorded by the best and brightest lecturers and professors on just about every conceivable subject. From this knowledge bank, prospective student select the subjects and lectures which interest them and literally design their own track of courses leading to an advanced degree. In fact, little imagination is needed. Offerings from the likes of Khan Academy are already here. Of course I’m describing but one aspect of what the future may hold and there are challenges yet to be solved, such as accreditation and degree validation.