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Will there be a time when knowledge gained through self-learning be as accepted as degrees through colleges and universities are now?

With so much information immediately available through the internet and other sources, one can become an expert or even just generally knowledgeable. Putting aside the money and resistance from current institutions, could in the future, education be gained through natural curiousity and self learning? Maybe much of the data we current "learn" could be stored in a small interactive pocket "brain" or whatever some clever individual may come up with for a name. When needed, we just inquiry and respond.

This question is intented to go to the heart of learning and the "proof", a degree, certificate, etc, that we have mastered those learning events.

Does anyone believe there could be a grand restructuring of education and the 'proof" of it sometime in the not to distant future?

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  • Jul 7 2013: First of all, I am very glad that there is a thread on Ted about this topic. I have recently co-founded an online education company helping fellow self-learners, so this is very dear to my heart.

    My thoughts:

    1) knowledge gained through self-learning eventually will be as accepted not as a degree but as another credential for employment. It will take a long term. Just like women got treated more equally because top male executives wanted their daughters to be treated equally. So cultural/perception change will take multiple generations. The current generation who still went to good colleges but have to keep up via self learning will treat self-learners differently when the current generation become the top executives.

    2) while I agree people can learn by attending schools and professors, research has shown what really matters is how much time/efforts one puts into learning/studying. A driven person who is learning him/herself should learn/attain much more knowledge/skill than someone who isn't driven but attend schools.

    3) one main reason that organizations look at a degree is because they don't know how to interview/hire, so they use degrees as a convenient filter. With the world becoming more competitive (not necessarily a good thing), people will have to become (at least I hope) more accountable. When that happens, maybe skills (not degree) will be more valued and maybe more emphasis will be put on hiring managers to hire people who are capable at delivering.

    Just my 2 cents. BTW, I have a great degree, so at least I am not saying this because of any sour grape feeling.

    Again, thanks for giving me the opportunity to participate in this conversation. Regardless if one has a degree or not, one should continue learning through self learning.
    Michelle, co-founder of RedHoop

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