Writing in Entrepreneur, Adrian Shepherd calls attention to Google’s recent move to enter the world of higher education by offering six month courses in areas in high demand from employers. In addition to targeting areas with high demand and short-term courses, the initiative will charge only $300 per course. Shepherd discusses the threat to traditional institutions of higher education, not only from Google, but from others who might create additional targeted offerings to be completed quickly at low cost.
The Google offering raises a number of provocative questions. First, the question for those interested in developing alternatives to higher education is whether the Google model will open up possibilities for other providers or whether it will deter other entrants who may be reluctant to take on both traditional institutions and players the size of Google in the race to re-imagine higher learning.
Second, although the initiative offers shorter form courses at lower cost, it does maintain the course model. It is unclear if the course will have staying power in the post-industrial era. Is it the best way to package learning or simply the most familiar way?
Third, by linking higher learning options so closely to employment, the initiative may gain traction quickly at the expense of more diverse and innovative options. Changes in the job market can drive changes in higher education, but should they, particularly at a time when we may be moving to a jobless future where the role of education will shift dramatically away from labor preparation and toward making the most of increasing leisure.
Overall, these questions lead to the more general question as to whether the Google move is really innovative or even all that disruptive.