Day 2 of SXSWedu comes to an end. What better way to end the day than to reflect on the rich conversations, presentations and interactions? Today I’ll do it in the form of 6 questions that highlight memorable moments of the day (That is apart from a great lunch and dinner with new and old friends. You’ll have to ask me in person about those.).
Question 1 – What happens when you apply a social entrepreneur’s mindset to addressing the fact that 90% of the hottest new jobs in Texas require a college degree, but less than 30% of high school graduates go to college…and many who go to college do not graduate?
You get PelotonU, a less-than-three-year old organization that provides funding for eligible students in the Austin area, connects them with regionally accredited competency-based programs (like College of America, WGU, and Patten University), offers mentoring, and creates a space for people to gather, learn, and get the support they need to persist and succeed.
This represents another example of what I’ve written about in the past as the un-bundling of higher education. In some ways, this is like the financial aid office, career services, student advising, and the tutoring center at a college. Only this isn’t a college. It is these types of services unbundled from a school, but then it connects with existing CBE schools to create a full and valuable learning experience for working students. Look for this model to expand over the next few years. I can see a day in the future when we see PelotonU-like services available in most major cities.
Question 2 – What happens when the US Vice President’s wife is a community college professor and she shows up at SXSWedu?
You get a standing room only presentation with security guards all around the perimeter. You also get a polished and on point message about the importance of college education; making it “accessible, attainable and affordable for all Americans.” You get a champion for President Obama’s challenge to reduce the cost of a community college education to $0.
Question 4 – What happens when you put two engaged journalists on the main stage to debate whether good teaching is learned or in the genes?
You get a playful but interesting exploration of the challenges that we face as we think about what it takes to have highly effective teachers in our schools. While one camp says that we are best to get smarter people in the classroom, the other says that it is about getting the best trained. So, why not aim for both. Let’s put the smartest teachers with the best training (and a commitment to lifelong education) in the classrooms.