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#23 - Education has been Solved by Crowdsourcing

2019-10-15

#23 of 40 Reasons Not To Go To College to Study Computer Science

I am currently just a month away from qualifying for tuition reimbursement at my job. My manager has already approved my plans for using that reimbursement (even including the possibility of driving to the local public university (10 minutes away from work) during the day to attend one class a semester and clocking it as my lunch break and just working overtime to make up the difference -- how amazing!).

But what I was thinking about was YouTube. I am sitting watching a video about passive versus active management and I thought about how there was hardly any need to even enroll in university, even if those classes are free for me thanks to tuition reimbursement. The entire curriculum at UoPeople is available online for self-study for free since it uses 100% OER. The GaTech OMSCS degree is also free online for self-study through Udacity's video hosting. Not only can I take the same classes, but I can do so free. To get a degree seems like a detriment to me professionally, rather than a boon. Do I even want to take advantage of my tuition reimbursemen when it mandates that I enroll at an accredited university, when YouTube is just sitting there?

It almost makes me a little scared. I mean, thanks to the effort of a few nonprofits, a bachelor's and a master's degree-worth of education is just sitting for free on the internet. Understandably, the only affordable online colleges are UoPeople and OMSCS for computer science, so those are the classes I would enroll in. Why even enroll if I don't benefit in any way from taking the classes through self-study, other than getting a degree? I'm very close to deciding tuition reimbursement would be a detriment to my career, rather than a boon. I'm turning down a master's degree in computer science.

It really seems like it's just too much overhead. I have to worry about taking a proctored exam, I have to worry about making comments on an LMS, I have to worry about taking too hard or too soft of a class load given that I work. Why not just do it on my own for free and pace it according to my own schedule, instead of a syllabus' schedule? It seems the advantage of pacing it according to my own life is infinitely better than worry about a class schedule that bites into my freedoms afforde by my job.

And that's when I realized, education has been solved by crowdsourcing. Whereas school has traditionally had no means of crowdsourcing -- the library's stack was basically the extent of peer to peer sharing -- now a days almost all current educational practices are crowd sourced on the internet. There are hundreds of companies attempting to create open source educational content. Once that content is open sourced, it is in the public domain forever. There is literally no way colleges can compete with the public domain, since the economics of paying for a service you could get for free via the public domain becomes a bizarre question of fashion. And fashion is fickle -- while it could be cool to go to college today, in ten years going to college might be seen as gauche. That's because college, in its current form, is never free. Education, however, is free in non-college forms. That's because internet hosting, web servers, and open education have contributed software and content into the public domain for free. At the point in which computer science can 100% be learned for free online through a computer, "education," and all the sticky mess that comes from tuition and dorm costs which at this point are bloated beyond recompense, have entirely been mitigated. There is zero need to pay tuition or for dorms. There is zero need to pay for textbooks. There is a solution: and it's that computer science can be learned entirely free online through OER/OCW and your public library. And if you want more than that, rather than costing thousands of dollars a semester, a PluralSight account costs just $200 a year.

That is solvency. That is a group of people seeing a problem -- the high cost of education in America -- and crowdsourced a free equivalency. The irony of crowdsourcing is that there is no single point of truth. There isn't a free college, there isn't a free curriculum, there isn't a free computer science degree. Instead, the collective effort of many thousands of people have create an equivalent to free college, an equivalent to a free curriculum, and equivalent to a free computer science degree. The irony is that this mode of creation and production is entirely opposite to the model of brick and mortar colleges. You don't take a class here and there from different colleges, you get ONE degree from ONE college. You don't study for a few months at college A, then study at college B for half a year, then study at college C for a few weeks. You are locked in to just one source of knowledge. That's reprehensible given what's possible with the internet and open source. It's the same sort of thing you see in "Walled Garden" approaches to software that lock you into a proprietary operating system and ecosystem. Walled Gardens are created to keep you stupid -- keep you away from the competition and free alternatives and forever sucking the teet of system providers, who earns billions from being closed-source.

Crowd sourcing on the other hand recognizes that there is no reason to have a single point of truth. Learn from this professor for a few months, learn from this professor at another school for a few months, jump over to this college's OCW for half a year. Having dilineated "teams" is a waste of effort. Through crowdsourcing, each point of truth can make a small contribution for very little upfront investment, and the accumulated whole of the effort, through all these disparate entities, creates a non-proprietary point of truth. The problem is employers don't understand this, they'll never understand a resume that lists the thirty or so OpenCourseWare classes you took online in your quest to become a computer scientist for free. Some do, however, and you should seek these employers out for your first job.

Education has been solved through crowdsourcing. The problem is, HR departments have not. But if HR departments are not hip to the fact that future generations of students will never again pay for tuition in order to get a degree from a single source of truth when there is a crowdsourced solution, they will lose the war for talent. There is no talent in paying for a degree simply to get hired. There is talent in researching tax-advantaged investing accounts to such a degree that you are aware of the benefit of saving when young, including on educational costs. A knowledge that educational costs have been solved through crowdsourced open education. That's the sort of talent that business should hire for: zero debt candidates. Candidates who are looking to retire in 10 years of employment. When a company starts generating hundreds of early retirees at age 35, that's going to be a place that students want to get hired and work. In a world where HR departments are adding Vanguard index funds to their 401ks, it's silly to ignore the equivalent of Vanguard in education: open education. Open education and index funds make sense. Learning about and using both is a direct equivalency of talent. As index fund investing grows in popularity, so too we'll see the popularity of open education. Both deal with finances, and both translate into increased savings. That's why Holm School teaches financial independence along with computer science. Because open education is the index funds of college. Colleges are active traders, resulting in lower returns versus passive open education.

As John Bogle describes in his books, when Vanguard first created index funds, they were smeered as Unamerican. The same is also true of open source. The same is also true of open education. We're not yet over the hump where people are fully cognizant of the opporunities afforded by open education computer science curriculum, but soon this will become default. It is inevitable, and to decide otherwise is a matter of fashion rather than mathematics. College costs are unsustainable, they have already devastated my generation. The next generation won't use a single college, they'll use hundreds of colleges that created OER for free when they learn computer science. It's as inevitable as the success of index funds, of open source. OER is legit and not going anywhere. Soon there will be an affordable Spotify for Books for $15 a month. Education is exploding right now, and the previous problem of exploding student debt is completely avoidable through computer science open education. To think that students need to adapt, and choose a costly college, is ridiculous. HR departments need to adapt and choose financially solvent but equally talented hirees.

I'm not proposing that there be a stigma against student debtors in hiring practices. But given that the general perception is that people without college degrees won't get hired anywhere, it's necessary to see that this particular problem will be solved by some more transparent applications, perhaps ones that exceed a single page, listed off completed OER/OCW along with open source projects on github. Why this seems any less legitimate than hiring based on college completion is something I don't understand, and imagine will fall by the wayside in future generations. If you are a legitimate programmer, you will get hired somewhere. You can then use tuition reimbursement to complete your degrees. There is no need to spend any money on computer science education given the robustness of the open education public domain.

Most people still mope around because of high education costs. Some people don't study what they want to study because they can't afford college, and think their efforts will be in vain if they don't wind up with a degree. The true test is whether your skills that you learn online are useful to an employer, not that you have completed a degree. Degrees are the lazy way to decide that, outsourcing the work to a paid professor. As resumes move to Github instead of LinkedIn or whatever, people will understand that the next generation of programmers don't have college degrees and won't be reliant on a college's prestige to score employment. Programming isn't kids stuff, and computer science education won't be relegated to the playground that passes for college these days, in which who-can-pay-for-the-most-expensive-clothes is the arbiter of playground supremacy, rather than sound judgment and forethought.

It's a meritocracy, baby. Get in on the ground floor and teach yourself about Open Education, Financial Independence, Index Funds, and Computer Science. The sky's your limit, no joke. Anyone willing to teach themselves computer science for free will find that the difficulties are small and rewards are immense. Let's thank the open educators, OER writers, public libraries, OCW professors, and internet hosting providers that make the future so bright, instead of the dismay and destruction that affected my generation when they graduated with high student loans into a Great Recession. Educational costs have been solved by crowdsourcing. To rely on Walled Garden ecosystems is self-imprisonment, and one that will cost you in freedom and wealth. Anyone who complains about the walled garden of college costs can be better responded to with information about computer science OER.


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