Is Social Media The New College Degree?

Social Media Resume
Now I have a lot of friends that are teachers. Even my sister-in-law is a teacher, and some of them are going to hate me for suggesting this, but is social media the future of higher learning?

I got my start in technology working for Michigan State University. I worked at what was then called Virtual University, now vuDAT. We were one of the few universities at the time putting classes on the internet. It was an exciting time and I learned so much working at Virtual University, much more than the classes I was attending each semester. There was a lot of controversy as to whether virtual education could give people the same degree of education as a lecture hall. Could people learn outside of a classroom, could they be disciplined enough, would they cheat on quizzes and tests? That was 12 years ago and today you pretty much see every higher learning institute offer some type of virtual classes. So, I guess it is fair to say that yes, it can be succesful.

Now, I have two little boys that are not ready at all to start school, but the pressure is on to find them the best preschool, the best school district and the best opportunity for a higher education. But is a higher education at an institute really what is best for them? Is the ridiculous rising costs of higher education worth it? Do I want them to be in debt for 20-years post grad? Or can I save up enough to send them both to school on my dime without sacrificing family vacations and life experiences today? Did I really learn more in college or with my real world experiences?

The answer for me is no, it is not worth it. I will not argue against the importance of early childhood education on literacy, social engagement, and know that early exposure to a great teacher is key to a child’s well being and success in the world, but I just do not feel the same way about college degrees. Sure it is important for certain fields and I would not want my doctor who is performing surgery on me not to have any formal training, but for my field, technology, education is not always key. Real world experience in much more valuable.

I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most intelligent people in the industry and guess what, not all of them have college degrees. In fact sometimes I am jealous of them because I still have some debt to pay off from my degree, while they are free to capitalize on their talents that they have learned in the real world. Even Mark Zuckerberg did not finish his degree. Does that make him any less valuable a contributor to the world?

Which leads me to this thought. When our parents were in school they had encyclopedias and dusty old library books to look information up with. Not super convenient. We had the Internet. A vast improvement. Our kids are going to have social media. A Boundless Improvement. Although social media is an extension of the Internet and mobile technology, to me it is in a category in and of itself. Each day that I access my social media outlets I feel like it is giving me a free education. I cannot tell you how much valuable knowledge I have learned through social media. I am not just talking about industry related information, I follow a huge gamut of people on twitter and through RSS feeds. I learn about current events across the world the instant after they have happened, I get recaps of speeches, political battles, conventions, and sports events. Twitter really has become the new cliff notes medium for events you can’t attend in person, movies you haven’t seen, and books you haven’t read. It is an endless well of information and guess what it is Trendy, people want to be part of the conversation. Recently a stat came out that 1/3 of all smartphone owner’s open a mobile app before leaving their bed. No more dragging yourself out of bed to get to class. The best part is it is mostly free and you can access it from anywhere. It is an endless well of knowledge.

Now not everything in that well is worth reading or learning, but that is the beauty of it. You get to choose from an Ala cart menu of what you want to learn and on your own time. No stringent class schedules, no clueless TA, no crazy tuition bills. You can un-follow when your boredom soars. You can share you finds with others. You can follow smart people and learn smart things from them and the smart people they follow. The possibilities are endless.

Now if I had to do it all over again, I would still go to college because the personal experiences I had and friendships I made during that time cannot be replaced by social media. I will also encourage my kids to seek a degree, if that is what they choose for themselves. But, I do think it is going to become harder and harder for universities to hawk higher education when so much knowledge has become available to the masses for free. Not to mention there is sea change in our attitudes, we expect this knowledge for free and when we get it we want to share. Also, there is are new apps, tablets, and mobile smartphones coming to market each day making this information even easier to access. It is hard to compete with a free and prolific product. What is that saying? “Why buy the cow, when I can get the milk for free?” I am fortunate that I got my degree from a university, but even more fortunate that I am student for life at The University of Social Media.

On a side note, if this post contains typos or bad grammer (sic) I blame it on my college education.

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