🕹Challenging the Monopoly Of Colleges

Good news: It's happening!

Hi friends- I’m Shreyans!

When news channels said COVID cases are on the rise again in the country, it didn’t feel real. My apartment got 6 new cases this week, and it feels real now😔. I sincerely hope you’re staying safe and healthy.

On to the topic.

If you follow my posts on LinkedIn, I’m sure you know my view about colleges: they’re dinosaurs waiting to be extinct.

Colleges have an important duty in our education system: they fill the gap between Class 12th and the job market. College is the only way a student can gain the necessary skills for getting a good job.

Therefore we must understand why exactly is college so valuable. I tried to think of a simple way to explain the value of the college system.

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🕹What makes the college-system so valuable:

  1. The Education Factor: This one is pretty obvious. Colleges were the only way a student could learn the necessary skills for the job market. Good colleges attracted good teachers who raised the academic standards of the college.

  2. The Social Factor: Since most of my readers are from colleges, I won’t need to explain this one😉. Social Factor is the thing we call “college life”. It is the total of the peer group, college fests and events, and clubs and departments. It also includes the alumni network of colleges.

  3. The Placement Factor: By leveraging their relationships with companies and recruiters, colleges built placement networks. The better the college, the better its placement network, the better chances the students have of getting placed.

Combined, these 3 factors have made the college system an important part of any student’s life. These 3 factors are responsible for the “tag” or “brand-value” of prestigious colleges.

You must have heard of the so-called Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 colleges. These 3 factors are responsible for this caste system. Tier 1 colleges have better placement-factor and social-factor than Tier 2 and 3 colleges.

Over time, the education system of colleges became outdated. New skills and fields became in-demand for the job market, while colleges still taught the old skills. Out of the 3 factors that made the college system valuable, it lost one- the education-factor. This created a gap in the market.

🕹Udemy and Coursera Tried to Replace the College System But Failed.

Both these companies are based on the concept of MOOC(Massive Open Online Courses). They offered cheap and quick courses that taught the latest skills. This filled the gap created in the market by outdated-college education. The MOOC model worked beautifully: it ensured the content was always relevant and up-to-date.

So, Udemy and Coursera were successful in replicating one of the college's strengths- the education-factor. But they were unable to replicate the remaining 2 factors: the placement-factor, and the social-factor.

Why they failed to replicate the placement-factor: They didn’t have a network of companies and recruiters like colleges had. Certificates from Udemy and Coursera have no value- no company will hire you based on that. If the certificates actually helped people get jobs, they would be valuable.

Why they failed to replicate the social-factor: MOOCs have no social aspect to them. There is no way you could form friendships with other people who are taking the same course. There is no concept of an alumni network in a MOOC.

So, MOOCs failed to replicate both- the placement factor and the social factor.

Do you now understand why the completion rate of Udemy/Coursera courses is less than 10%?

MOOCs gave no value to the students, so it is expected that most of the students didn’t complete the courses.

🕹If MOOCs couldn’t replace the college system, what will?

As I said in the subheading of this post, the disruption of colleges is actually happening. I’m currently aware of 2 concepts that have the potential to do what MOOCs couldn’t.

  1. Cohort-based courses:

    This concept is an improved version of MOOC. It solves one big problem of MOOCs- the lack of a social-factor.

    In a cohort-based course, a small group of students learns a skill together. Students have a strong sense of community while learning. This ensures that cohort-based courses have an extremely high completion rate.

    The only thing lacking with cohort-based courses is their placement network: they don't exactly have strong relations with companies and recruiters. I'm guessing the problem with cohort-based startups is that they're too small for companies to deal with them. Maybe they will figure it out once they become more established.

  2. The second concept that's disrupting college education doesn't have a name, so I'll call it the Integration Model:

    The Integration Model integrates 2 separate markets- skill development, and job-market as one service. A few examples of this concept are Unacademy Pro, and Google Careers Program. I wrote about Google Careers on LinkedIn last week and a newsletter article about Unacademy Pro.

    Both these ventures are very similar- they're solving the 2nd problem with MOOCs- the placement-factor. Here's what they're doing-

    • First, they will teach the required skills to the students(just like Udemy/Coursera)

    • They have built a network of companies that will accept the students of their programs(similar to the college's placement cell).

    This ensures that the Integration Model has real-value: students get hired based on what they learn in the course. This model successfully replicates 2 strengths of the college system- the education-factor, and the placement-factor.

    However, the Integration Model doesn't replicate the social-factor. Unlike cohort-based courses, students won’t have any sense of community while studying these courses. As you can see, this will be a problem. Although I hope that the possibility of placements will be a strong motivator.

The evolution of the college system has followed a clear pattern: first, the college system had 3 factors that guaranteed its victory. MOOCs tried to replace the college system by focusing on one factor but failed. Cohort-based courses and the Integration model are trying to replace the college system by focusing on 2 factors. Let’s see if they’re successful. Even if they’re not, we need not worry. The next wave of startups will focus on all 3 factors, and they will definitely replace the college system.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Please share it with your friends, I’m sure they will also find it informative.


Bye-bye and enjoy your Sunday! See you next week with another story about technology in India.