Alternatives to Higher Education aren't just for techies

Research shows that learning is most effective when anchored in an authentic context. Why then, is so much time getting an “education” spent in a classroom? Until recently, there weren’t many ways to gain marketable skills outside of college, but the job market changed. With the developments in technology, we saw (and continue to see) a shortage of graduates with the skills needed to fill the increasing number of tech positions demanded by startups and established companies.

Because of that need, programming bootcamps opened across the U.S. In Chicago, Dev Bootcamp, Starter League (formally code academy) and Mobile Makers are a few of the accelerated, intensive web and mobile based development training programs. So, if you want to learn how to code, think through your options before spending 2-4 years and tens of thousands of dollars on a computer science degree.

Alternative educational options are also emerging for those interested in fields outside of technology. Design, social enterprises, business development, architecture and just about any other area of study are now offering educational alternatives. Kio Stark's book, Don’t Go Back To School, highlights how journalists, filmmakers, and even scientists are learning without grades, formal teachers, and huge tuition bills.

Enstitute, recently highlighted by The New York Times, also embraces this learning by doing pedagogy. Enstitute is an apprenticeship-based alternative to college that teaches skills such as computer programming and app building.

What’s particularly interesting about Enstitute is they offer digital or technology-based apprenticeships, but many of their fellows are developing tracks that include non-technical areas of study such as Japanese Culture and Poetry. This kind of model helps prove that technologists are not the only learners not bound by the constraints of traditional education.

Alternatives to classroom-based learning models continue to be a controversial topic. The days of rote memorization, cramming for final exams, and writing ridiculously long academic papers are becoming less and less desirable. Mainly because most of us only retain about 10% of what we’ve read and 5% of what we’ve heard in lectures. Compare that to retaining 90% of what we learn when we are able to practice and use the information immediately. No one can ever deny the important role that internships, apprenticeships, and on the job training play in professional and personal development.

We are entering an era that is transforming what education looks like regardless of the chosen area of study. Experience Institute was founded on the idea that full immersion-learning works well for a wide range of learners.

By Tiffany Mikell