Video Of The Week: The Unbundling Of Education

Here’s a talk my partner Albert gave at NYU Stern last year. I hadn’t seen it before. It’s a short (6 1/2 mins) discussion of the unbundling of education, which is a thesis we’ve been investing against at USV for the past half decade and one that we continue to invest against.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. kirklove

    Albert is such a great public speaker. Dare I say badassssssssss in that chill, articulate way.

    1. jason wright

      Martin Luther visits the Vatican

    2. iggyfanlo

      Albert Einstein meets Martin Luther King

  2. jason wright

    have many university pension funds come knocking at your door?

    1. pointsnfigures

      they usually use fund of funds.

  3. awaldstein

    So…When education is not about skills but thought. About the broadness of perception not just the training of skills how does the economics of unbundling work?I buy this vision but two pieces puzzle me.Are we looking at skills not liberal arts as a formative important component of growing as people and culture?When I look at amazing gatherings like what happened in Black Mountain College in North Carolina where Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Olson (my thesis topic btw) came together as an experiment in thought and perception I wonder whether these can happen again in a decentralized fashion.And more formative, education is about community about groups and relationships. You can unbundle the learning of discrete skill but connections-best accomplished by the human touch–are important.Great speech btw and made me think of my times in school. Community and perception where the tools I took away that have most fueled my life.Big thanks to Albert for this thoughtfulness.

    1. pointsnfigures

      I think the humanities are very important-especially with what I see going on today. Learning the great books, or teaching it like this:… is a great base to learn other things. I don’t think some of the softer majors that pose as critical thinking majors but aren’t are worth the money that is paid for them.

      1. LE

        If I can remember way back to when I was in college I don’t think there was anything that I did academically to learn that wasn’t related to the goal of getting good grades, graduating and getting the degree. Who has time for anything else (learning wise) when you are in college? What is the payback for time spent? While I am sure there are some students who take advantage of learning things they don’t need to (because they enjoy doing so) I don’t think that is happening to any significant degree while they have a particular goal of graduating. Almost guaranteed by human nature and survival and having fun instincts.In the present day and for quite some time I am learning in all sorts of things that I find interesting and entertaining that I didn’t when back in college (or even when I had my first business “just staying alive”). And I am definitely glad that I didn’t focus on these things back them. It wouldn’t have been helpful given what I ended up doing. (Hobbies that I did of course were..ditto for part time jobs.)Point is if you are in a liberal arts education then perhaps learning the great books is a good use of your time. If you get tested on it or if it helps you in some way. I would question doing that if you are a business major who is wet behind the ears and knows only what you learn in the textbook or at a lecture. In that case your time is better spent either spending even more time learning about business or getting an actual job in the field that you think you will be in or even starting your own business. Learning liberal arts is great but everything takes time and attention it’s all about putting resources in the place with the best possible outcome.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          > While I am sure there are some students who take advantage of learning thingsI did. Just passing was easy enough. For some of the stuff, I really wanted to LEARN it, really well. In some cases I did, in others, no. E.g., for Maxwell’s equations, I wanted a prerequisite in exterior algebra of differential forms and differential geometry but couldn’t get that fit in. I tried and made some progress, e.g., with the Nickerson, Spencer, and Steenrod book from Princeton.But for general topology, I was able to do it. I got a copy of Kelley, General Topology, and had a course where I lectured a prof once a week. I lectured on a chapter one week and presented home work the next week. I got nicely through all of it but the chapter on compactness then concentrated on my honors paper in group representations.In grad school, the situation was much more severe — a weak lecture or two from a prof and I was OUT’A there. I had no patience with junk material. But there was also some just excellent material, and I loved it.At a good research university for a grad student what matters is the research, and I did some — that is what got me my grad degrees. That is, the key is not grades in courses but research.There was a grad course where I did make good grades: It was an advanced course in linear algebra by a severe, world class guy. I’d never had a first course, but I looked at the contents of their advanced course and guessed that I didn’t need their course. They smiled and said I should take it anyway. Really all they wanted me to do was to prove myself.But, I’d had a head start: I’d worked hard on linear algebra in several contexts: Group representation theory is heavily linear algebra, e.g., Hermitian matrices. I’d taken a reading course in physics that was a lot of linear algebra. I’d done a lot in advanced calculus that is all about the vector spaces of linear algebra. Linear algebra is about spaces, and so is general topology. In my career, I’d done a lot in linear algebra, worked on my own through several good texts, especially the classic one by Halmos. I’d done a lot in multivariate statistics, more linear algebra. And the fast Fourier transform, which can be looked at as linear algebra. A lot in numerical linear algebra. Some in linear programming, more linear algebra. Some in optimization, more in the vector spaces of linear algebra. More in analysis on vector spaces, more in linear algebra. A good pass through multi-linear algebra in Halmos and exterior algebra in Fleming. I’d carefully written my own notes on linear algebra, a brief book. Before the first class, I sat in the student room and wrote out from memory about 80 pages of manuscript on linear algebra. Did I mention I thought I didn’t need the course?On an early homework assignment, the grader made a mistake on my paper; I corrected him; and he made no more mistakes on my paper.The course was carefully graded, homework, tests, midterm, and final. I effortlessly, learned next to nothing new in the course, totally blew away all the other students by wide margins. On the corresponding Ph.D. qualifying exam, I did the best that year. Total waste of time — I already knew the material. Instead of that, I could have learned something good, e.g., a nice high end version of deterministic optimal control (Yellen has mentioned that!).Net, to heck with grades. Instead learn the darned material and then do some good research and/or applications.

    2. JLM

      .The skills v thoughts is a strawman argument. It is “both and” rather than “either or.”Even amongst folk whose forte is skills, ideas of how to deploy those skills have to be developed.When ideas wrestle, the result is better ideas.This is why we should have “regular order” in the Congress and why things like Presidential debates should be real debates and not “gotcha” sessions.I have only really learned anything in life from those with whom I disagree. The people who agree with me are just confirmation bias.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  4. Richard

    We often hear that the best investment opportunities are contrarian. I just don’t see a contrarian view hear.

    1. pointsnfigures

      Talk to a university dean.

      1. Richard

        Albert missed some issues: Where else can an 18 year old leave his parents house, be made to feel important, be able to play sports, drink beer and be within a place that is desirable (often in the middle of no where). This is often the last opportunity for someone to feel utopian. This is like arguing that the sleep away camp experience will be unbundled for 10 year olds.This is the place that is so impactful that people give their hard earned $$ to it when they die and do so often before spending it on themselves or their own family members.The university may like the hospital become so expensive that we are forced to reconsider its value, but that is another issue (though elite universities are essentially self funded requiring no tuition at all)

        1. awaldstein

          Disagree.Maybe true is you consider education a parent supported right of passage.For me–maybe I was unique dunno–it was a right of passage but self supported.People will seek out communities that matter. I like the idea that education becomes a breaking of the chain of childhood and parental support post high school.

          1. Richard

            Im not following your position? There are alternatives to traditional college, but they tend to be hands on skill based, places like fashion design schools (FiDM, downtown LA).Bill Gates and Steve Jobs each have 18 year old daughters, both are attending Stanford.

          2. JamesHRH

            Fred’s own description of the benefits of attending MIT:- other students- faculty- market reputation of MITThe learning is a commodity. The social assets are irreplacable.

          3. Richard

            Disruption occurs when you target a segment that the legacy industry ignores. Say a lot about universities, but they are not ignoring high school students.

          4. LE

            Exactly. MIT helped Fred get into Wharton. Both of those schools helped Fred get his first job at Euclid.Would go as far as saying that the first degree also got him Gotham Gal as well and she was super important to his success. [1]Noting also that Albert Wenger attended both Harvard (BA) and MIT (Ph.D.).[1] Sophia Loren without a nose is not Sophia Loren.

          5. Richard

            Good ol Albert, first he predicts the gov will provide living income with no work requirement, next he predicts the goverment will stop subsidizing higher education. The odds are slim and none and that was slim who left the building.

          6. Dave

            Yeah, I don’t really see the unbundling happening in interesting ways around verticals/courses (code, physics, medicine, whatevs.).The big blocks to unbundle are: learning material (commoditized to an extent), networking, and credentialing.Can there be a market for credentialing entities that rivals the MITs and Harvards of this world? I can’t see why not.

          7. PeterisP

            For every student that gets those assets from study at MIT there are ten students who study at objectively much worse schools – and actually they do get most of the “commodity learning”, but they are not getting any worthwhile credentials or networking.Their degree is pretty much getting igored (or scoffed at) anyway, unlike their student debt. *Those* are the people who need unbundling – even if they currently prefer the full “college lifestyle experience” and can get it funded by loans, they cannot really afford to pay for that, they wouldn’t buy that as a separate service for its huge price.

        2. Matt Zagaja

          The “traditional” college experience is an awesome and special thing. If someone is able to have that experience I think they will choose it over other paths the majority of the time. However the data shows us that the “traditional college experience” where you get to live in a dorm and graduate in four years is not how most people experience college. Lots of students go to community colleges, state universities, etc. and do not graduate in 4 years. Many people are commuting to their schools and taking courses online.

          1. Richard

            Lets not forget that that most 18-24s don’t attend university, so for these millennials and those that follow it’s not exactly an unbundling issue.

          2. pointsnfigures

            I think this thread meshes perfectly with Albert’s thoughts. Right now, universities are a stamp of approval, a certification, a good housekeeping seal. What if there were other ways to do this? Already it’s beginning to happen. The process to become accredited via the Federal govt is incredibly bureaucratic, expensive and mind numbing. At the, we are starting to offer up mini-educational programs aligned with accredited schools so people can receive certification in certain subjects.

          3. Richard

            You and Albert are forgetting what it means to be 18, the challenge (the pain point) is not the degree or certificate but rather it is adding meaning to life/to avoid boredom.Issac Asminov (1964)

          4. LE

            What if there were other ways to do this?Doesn’t scale. Plus the existing system is the perfect pyramid [1] [2].Even if you decided to offer a new stamp of approval branding (similar to what Thiel is doing or with Rhodes Scholars (a cut above just getting into Harvard)) or any other stamp it’s simply not going to scale to hundreds of thousands of people or millions. Even SAT’s are still important as a filter even if some schools don’t use them (or the ACT’s).A new housekeeping seal can’t be created out of thin air. Even those in tech who have created a new seal of approval (let’s take getting into YC) [3] haven’t stood the test of time and aren’t taken seriously by 95% (arbitrary) of the public out there.[1] Similar to that book that talked about why most drug dealers live with their mothers.[2] Also like the entertainment business as another example.[3] It impresses me because I’ve been hit with the brainwashing. But it’s something that if you aren’t in the mix with these things is near meaningless as a stamp of approval.

        3. LE

          This is like arguing that the sleep away camp experience will be unbundled for 10 year olds.Sleep away camps are getting competition from “learn something camps” (that are very expensive) for parents who want to give their kids an advantage in getting into the top schools. My stepkids attended one at Princeton last summer [1] in addition to 3 weeks of sleepaway camp. Next year they will do a few of the “learn something camps” (just classrooms by the way and maybe a pool or a field I think) and no sleep away camp at all. This was their choice once exposed to the fun experience of learning during the summer and what they were able to do. They liked it just as much or better than sleep away play all day camp. (Was my idea I take credit for pushing this path instead of “play games all day”).Interesting though that the kids at the learning camps appeared to me to be primarily from immigrant families (Asian, Chinese, Indian) but not surprising since non-immigrant families are getting a bit soft and lazy the immigrant families are still busting their asses (at least in the community that we live in) and not taking the future for granted.[1] Where you stay in the Princeton dorms.

          1. Richard

            Yes, but that’s not unbundling or disruption. Rather, it just competition.

  5. pointsnfigures

    Agree with this a lot. BTW, giving that speech at a university in the way that he gave it would be very contrary to the way many university people think. Universities are multiple vertical silos, with barriers to entry etc just like corporations. The way we educate people is going to change, it must change. Utilizing traditional means, going through various government bureaucracies, and using teachers unions is a waste of time and treasure. Better to blow it up and re-aggregate it.

    1. LE

      The way we educate people is going to change, it must change.Anything is possible (hey Uber took on the TLC’s, right?) but in no way is it guaranteed. You have a bunch of actors (the top Universities) who have a vested interest in keeping the current system and are great gatekeepers. You have 2nd tier universities who also need to fill classrooms. You have an entire farm team of students raised by parents who went through this system who have choices to make for their children and have, generally, control of those children.Has anyone knocked out the major sports leagues with a new sports league? We don’t even have serious soccer leagues that mainstream people care about yet a great deal of suburban kids play soccer and have been for years. (Back when I was in school only private schools played soccer at least where I lived..) It’s that entrenched.Arguing the other side of this I would offer that “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered” so given the cost of these degrees there of course is a threat to a declining student base and the backlash that we are seeing now. But it’s not going to implode on itself like a potential drop in Black Friday sales could happen. It’s simply to entrenched (the degree) in how this country operates.

  6. Richard

    Prediction:In 16 years Chan Zuckerberg applies to Harvard.

  7. William Mougayar

    It’s funny, Albert is talking to that audience as if the Internet was invented yesterday (and I understand why he did that). The novelty is not the Internet. It’s everything on top of it. Unbundling, re-bundling, aggregation and re-aggregation are themes that have been with us since Day 1 of the Internet. We just haven’t been too aggressive in implementing them.Any big change is 80% business process, 20% technology. Let’s stop focusing on technology, and focus on changing minds, processes, programs, old habits, old ideas, etc… There is plenty of technology to go around already.“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”– John Cage, American Composer & writer

    1. Richard

      Quotable “the novelty is not the Internet”

    2. Richard

      Here’s a prediction from Isaac Asminov made in 1964 that Fred might like.

    3. awaldstein

      creating new habits is what marketing is all about.

      1. William Mougayar

        also, it’s business process reengineering. there are deeply engrained processes that need to be obliterated.

        1. awaldstein

          Biggest changes of near term in how people behave cross the globe.-twitter-facebook-uber-airbnb-snapcat-instagramHow we buy and consume:-amazon-etsyWeak here–helpThese are social and consumer buying behaviors that have been platformed.Sure you are right as well of course.What’s your list on the business side/

          1. sigmaalgebra

            > business sideThere’s a lot on the shelves of the research libraries that, with the Internet, cloud, etc., could make a nice, big splash there.(1) As we generate data, we need to store it so that it will be easier to grab and use. E.g., store it as just XML — we can parse that.(2) Mobile and IoT can generate still more data.(3) With the Internet and the cloud, we can get the data and process it.(4) With the Internet and mobile, and IoT we can make use of the results of the processing.Simple stuff? Sure, just old order entry and inventory. One step up, supply chain management.More: There is the old pharmaceutical salesman optimization problem: He visits physicians, described new pills, hands over some literature and sample pills, and goes to the next physician. Okay, Qs: What physicians to visit today, in what order, pitching what new pills, handing out what free samples? How to solve it? Get a lot of relevant data. Then have a combinatorial optimization problem. For a fairly general case can formulate the problem as min cost flows on a network with integer capacities and, thus, nicely solvable by, say, W. Cunningham’s version of the network simplex algorithm.But before the optimization, we’re talking a lot data gathering and data communications to, say, the cloud, and then more data communications back to the salesman.No doubt there are also versions for many cases of itinerant ambassadors of commerce. E.g., currently maybe we have to assume that the salesman will be driving on the streets. So, we need lots of data on traffic and, then, some relatively good vehicle routing software. Did I mention IoT and the cloud?Here’s another one: The company needs a, say, three year financial plan, hopefully for growth. So, your mission, and you have to accept it, is to warm up your copy of Excel and build a spreadsheet, say, to keep it conceptually simple, one column for each month and one row for each relevant quantity.So, you fill in the cells with code that draws data from cells in earlier columns. In some cells you can enter only values from a random number generator, say, when Yellen will move. And in some cells you have some decisions to make. One of the cells, say, at the bottom right, has the quantity we want to maximize, in units of dollars.Okay, automate the decisions? Sure, there has long been spreadsheet software for that, say, based on L. Lasdon’s generalized reduced gradient ideas.But, tilt: Lasdon’s work can’t handle the random variables.Okay, but there is software that will — just put in some candidate decisions, and that software will run Monte Carlo with the random cells and report empirical probability distributions for the results.But, tilt, that software will only evaluate decisions and not find the best decisions or not find the decisions at all.So, now what? Well, going way back to R. Bellman, with contributions more recently from E. Dynkin and several others, there is an approach called stochastic dynamic programming (SDP).Okay, for a real problem, with SDP we’re talking lots of computing. Fortunately the work is nicely parallel, on a large scale, perfect for a cloud.But, the work can use one astoundingly large amount of input data where we would want IoT, mobile, and the Internet.And the results are not simple but a huge table that at each month says what to do that month once we reach that month and see what the situation is. Uh, we have already figured out what to do that month for every possible case of the situation that month — I did mention want a big cloud site? To use those results, need the Internet and often mobile.For the supply chain problem — a good high end solution is also SDP. For the Uber problem of telling a cab what fare to take next, right, a high end version is also SDP.When can make a good application of SDP, it will look smart beyond belief, much like a perfect chess program where, occasionally, some wind blows some of the pieces around — ah, perfect stochastic chess! And you thought that perfect deterministic chess was hard!There is a good argument that, with enough data, SDP is the one size fits all version of best possible intelligence. We’re talking big stuff. And big cloud.Where there is some big stuff, maybe for now there is also some small versions? Typically, yes.But, there is lots more — again, exploit mobile, IoT, the Internet, and the cloud and make use of a lot that is on the shelves of the research libraries and more that can be done.

  8. Salt Shaker

    Albert is a great, insightful speaker. Are college administrators truly invested in change, or are they beholden to a legacy model due to selfish reasons and the great discomfort that comes w/ disruption? The rising cost of higher education has certainly put in question its price/value, but what institutions are sincerely and aggressively exploring ways to right the ship? Change takes time, pioneers, vision, etc., but it appears legacy thought processes in higher education are extremely entrenched, despite strong evidence the model is quite broken.

  9. JamesHRH

    great short speech.Higher education has a huge social proof structural lock down – every large company has a hiring process that relies heavily on the social proof of a major university degree.That is a lot of resistance to change, in the market.The unbundling of a university degree requires a lot of risk adverse (middle class) people to accept a new paradigm. That is also a lot of resistance to change, in the market.As well, there is no obvious replacement for the social proof. If that emerges, then you may have a sudden paradigm shift that will crush a ton of post secondary institutions.Tough sledding.

    1. LE

      Higher education has a huge social proof structural lock down – every large company has a hiring process that relies heavily on the social proof of a major university degree.Exactly. And anybody who tries to think it doesn’t help doesn’t have a social proof degree. Perhaps it’s not as great as having a famous last name and trying to be an actor or a musician, but that social proof degree absolutely helps even when you aren’t interested in working for a large company. [1][1] Which is not the same as saying that you can’t achieve success without the social proof degree. Of course you can. But it’s certainly easier having a gun to go along with that great smile. [2][2] Al Capone reference.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        A lot of people prefer not to have anyone around with either a gun or a social proof degree.

    2. JLM

      .The social proof of a college degree — subject specific, I suppose remembering my antipathy for poets — is real.It IS a ticket to the first dance, a deb party, a wedding — it is not the final ticket to a full life.The bigger question may be — is a college graduate a “finished” product as it relates to being an educated person?The obvious answer to that is not just “no” but a resounding Hell no. Education is an unending process — a journey, not a destination.But, the notion that something is going to substitute well for a Harvard MBA, is not bloody likely.Still, entrepreneurs can take credit that the ultimate social proof is at the paywindow.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. LE

        Also people are underestimating what it takes to get into Harvard or any top school assuming you get in through the front door and not the back door (which I am guessing is the majority of people). It’s not all about smarts it’s about also how hard you work and plenty of other things and what is important to you and what you value and how you spend your time. The entire student body (at any top school) is simply different (in total). This is not to say that equally deserving students didn’t get rejected (because in many ways the process is arbitrary we all know that). Of course that happens. So it’s a fall negative (or do I mean false positive?)I would be glad to detail the case of my own daughter for authenticity. She is getting near a 4.0 average at a public university that is considered “a public ivy” (get that … that is what they say apparently). So after 1.5 years there I tell her “why don’t you apply to Wharton” and try to sell her on that. Forget whether she can get in or not. She isn’t interested even in applying she likes it where she is. She has no interest (even though she is a management major) in going to Wharton. And there is no way I can convince her otherwise. So what does that say about her? When I was her age I was the exact opposite. I lived and breathed getting into Wharton and finally pulled it off. And my grades were nowhere near what hers are now nor were my SAT’s particularly good for that matter. But I immediately saw the value of going there and my own daughter with a host of advantages does not. [1] And I got all A’s (except for the last year). Something I had never pulled off before (I am not a student in any way..)[1] And everyone there was super serious and into business and not a slacker in any way that I could see. Simply a big difference (as Phil Sugar will tell you) then what would be right next door at Drexel U “in total” (not specifically any one student).

        1. PhilipSugar

          I agree. I always laugh when an MBA says my Undergrad is not a Wharton Degree. I remember Jeremy Seagal saying the curve was twice as high for undergrads as it was for MBA’s. My brother was the only person that ever scored a perfect score on Fin6. The mean was 20%

        2. sigmaalgebra

          Yes, but once I gave a talk on AI to a class at Wharton, and one day at Drexel I heard a talk from E. Dynkin. The audience, mostly profs, were in awe.When his bio was given and mentioned that his dissertation advisers were Kolmogorov and Gel’fand, the audience gasped!Everyone paid close attention.Gotta tell you, Wharton never had better.Dynkin was long, maybe still is, at Cornell. Once for Christmas my wife got me Dynkin’s two volumes on Markov processes. About the time I did my dissertation on stochastic optimal control, Dynkin wrote a book on it — yes, I have the book!Curiously at the time, I was supporting myself and my wife through our Ph.D. degrees by doing applied math and computing for US national security. Yup, at one point I made fairly significant use of Markov processes!In this case, Drexel came out far ahead of Wharton!

  10. Kirsten Lambertsen

    What always strikes me is understanding *how* we got where we are today. So interesting to realize that the conditions and circumstances of travel, generations ago, are what led to the bundling of education — just pure practicality.Seth Godin’s TedX talk was an eye opener for me on this. Always worth sharing again when we’re on this topic. Great minds, Albert and Seth :)

  11. LE

    Very interesting talk especially at the end with respect to unbundling and how that will change what a university ends up doing and looking like.The one fly in that is the fact that people go to Universities or Colleges to get degrees primarily, and in order to cover the overhead of those degrees the place of higher learning needs to have some extra vegetables surrounding the main course to make it attractive to be there and/or to enhance the experience. Top universities (the ones that control the discussion in education … let’s face it the 2nd or 3rd tier don’t) have plenty of reasons to sit back, milk the cash cow and only offer trivial changes in how they operate. Additionally they aren’t looking for ways to lessen the cache of what they have taken perhaps hundreds of years to achieve. [1]Noting also that Albert still gets (I think he said) the print NY Times (I do also but only on Sunday) and that is a perfect example of the power that some long standing quality institutions have in perpetuating and holding onto their standing, even in a greatly changing world.[1] Point being as long as they remain relevant (like the NFL, NBA, MLB) and so on and are seen as being important filters I am not seeing how there will be any major changes at least in our lifetime.

  12. Michael Elling

    “Being there” requires very high quality ubiquitous 2-way video communications on large displays. Something our infrastructure (and the internet) are not set up to do universally. And I don’t see it happening for some time, especially as the FCC has defined broadband as 25/3, whereas the minimum for such a world would be 100/50 at most locations. Online communications is not a pure (or particularly good) substitute for in class, face to face learning. Not pooh-poohing the notion, rather just being a realist as to whether we are even close to the tipping point, which we aren’t.

  13. Michael Elling

    Want to disrupt higher ed? Lower the drinking age to 18. If people could go out into the work force and socialize with colleagues (which they can’t do today) many more would see going straight into a trade or craft to be financially more sound than racking up a lot of debt and losing out on income.But it really sucks (and is disadvantageous) to work somewhere and not be able to socialize with your colleagues because it is often the act of networking that helps one advance. If this applies to 20-40% of the students who exit colleges today after spending $100-$300k (plus lost income) and don’t really make a significantly higher salary than had they not gotten a degree, then we have major disruption. It would force all universities to rethink their raison d’etre.I believe colleges open minds and colleges are important for personal development. But 50-80% of what one learns in college is rarely applicable to the real world or one’s trade/craft. It would be better if businesses were to get kids into a trade sooner and, with assistance of the govt, promote and sponsor continuous learning that develop them as individuals while they learn important life lessons in the real world. And the universities can be part of that process when we have full-duplex 4K video that substitutes for being there.

    1. JLM

      .Michael, I am going out on a limb here — you don’t have teenage children?While much of what you say is perfectly logical, the idea that 18 year olds have “colleagues” or that they need some impetus to view life from the bottom of an empty beer bottle is not equally sound logic.If drinking were some impetus to success, my two would be rubbing shoulders with . . . . well, you know what I mean, right?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Richard

        You are to kind. That may have been the most rediculous comment I ever read on AVC.

      2. Stephen Voris

        I take the aim of his first paragraph as “make the alcohol consumption they’re already doing on college campuses legal, so they don’t have to avoid adult supervision/workplace colleagues to do it”.Whether or not that argument’s a valid one depends on how many companies do their team-building in bars; I suspect the answer is “some, but not all that many”.

        1. Michael Elling

          You socialize with colleagues outside the purview and supervision of the company. It’s not sponsored by the company. But there are actual policies that say anyone over 21 cannot drink with any colleagues under 21. You can get fired for that.

          1. JLM

            .Real world — how many “colleagues” do you have who are younger than 21? Really?I just don’t see this in all of my dealings with startup entrepreneurs or at TechStars or Capital Factory or in the angel investment world in ATX.I could be wrong but it feels like a manufactured problem, not a real one.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. Michael Elling

            None of this really applies to the top of the bell curve. I said it could impact 20-40% who are not entirely set for college, but working would be miserable if one couldn’t socialize and network with more experienced colleagues who can show you the ropes.But the issue here is the crisis in student loans to which few have a fix. While my idea may sound absurd, everything you’ve said only supports what I initially pointed out. And if we put into question the bottom 30% of the suckers who leave school with mountains of debt and bleak job prospects, then the whole house of cards might come tumbling down.When I graduated in 1983 at 20 the drinking age was still 18 in NY and NJ. In addition to my job at a brokerage house, I used to referee soccer on weekends, something I had done since 15 in high school. Fantastic money for a high school and college kid. Almost the best one could (and still can) make legally at that age.But some of the older refs saw potential in me and after the meetings at the State Govt offices on Long Island they would invite me out for drinks. It was there that I heard a lot of war stories and gained their trust that I could listen and learn.My mentor was an LIRR train conductor with no college education. Small Irish chap. Jack McCabe. When he was on the soccer field he was 30 feet tall. No one messed with Jack. A few years later Jack had me as a linesman in a senior international friendly match with an actual FIFA referee in the middle at Hofstra Stadium.They were grooming me for something bigger, but later that year I got my first senior analyst role and got married and hung up my whistle. Jack went on to being the USSF National Referee Administrator. Who knows what might have been.Things I learned at the bar with Jack and a handful of other referees who never went to college and the lessons learned on the field will never be forgotten.If you read my comments, it’s not about the alcohol, it’s about what individuals might (or not) learn on the job and as an 18 year old starting in the workplace I doubt few experienced veterans are going to take them under their wing over drinks in a bar. Because it is illegal.

          3. JLM

            .Your comments prove my point, do they not?YOU were 20, right? The drinking age was 18, right?Where’s the problem? Go have a drink.The “wisdom of the campfire” is a real phenomenon but it really has nothing to do with drinking. It has to do with wisdom.BTW, I own are really stretching it here. Stop digging.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        2. JLM

          .Most kids go to school in the 18-19 year old range. The first thing they obtain is a fake ID. A fake ID they will shortly grow out of.They drink.[Interesting note: You sell fake IDs in college and get caught and under Dodd-Frank you never work in financial services for the rest of your life.]Suddenly, by the time they’re juniors, it’s all legal.Those first two years of illegal drinking are unlikely to have a lot of impact on their long term business future nor are they likely to be working for a company with whom they are going to work when they graduate. They’re college kids.Great companies are unlikely to be building their teams on college freshmen and sophmores; or, trolling bars to find talent.This is a made up problem.College kids drink way too much and that is a problem but not the one you’re suggesting.I would also note that I see more and more “older” entrepreneurs (30-45 years old) at places like TechStars and Capital Factory — real world stuff, not make believe stuff.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      3. Michael Elling

        It has less to do with alcohol consumption, although I do believe as a society we should be teaching children at earlier ages how to drink responsibly in a family, then social setting.In my case, 2 children down 1 to go. Whenever my two older kids had internships during summers they couldn’t go out with colleagues or after-work get-togethers. Those relationships can develop within weeks and months at work.It’s not the act of drinking, rather being included in important networking functions and socializing in general.And lots of kids are attracted to school where drinking is “legal” (or indirectly allowed) as far as most are concerned. I won’t even talk about how drug use is aided by the raised drinking age.

        1. LE

          It has less to do with alcohol consumption, although I do believe as a society we should be teaching children at earlier ages how to drink responsibly in a family, then social setting.Agree. Forbidden fruit is typically bad.It’s not the act of drinking, rather being included in important networking functions and socializing in general.Agree. Maybe what is needed is a “work related drinking” exemption. A green card. Sounds crazy I know and would never happen but would achieve the goal you are discussing.

        2. JLM

          .First rule when digging yourself into a hole — stop digging.Your comment had to do with “disrupting higher ed” and now you’re morphing into responsible drinking. Which is it?As to how young folks work and develop in companies, it is perfectly easy. You obey the law. Nobody is going to stay under 21 for very long. You embrace good practices. You act like an adult.As a CEO for 33 years and having developed a lot of young talent — though I would admit that I don’t remember anyone being under 21 years old — it was done with a plan and in an appropriate setting. It was not done by the seat of anyone’s pants particularly mine.As to internships, what is the benefit of a college sophomore cracking a beer with management or a company worker? Remember, your intern example is likely of legal drinking age when he/she’s a junior, so we’re talking about one year most likely.I wouldn’t “go drinking” even with my most senior staff members. Drink at a meal? Have them over to the house? Beer on a golf course? Yes to all. Drinking was just part of the adult landscape and didn’t solve or create any specific problems.I was always mindful of company sponsored events and whenever I could reasonably forego alcohol, I would. Not a Puritan but we had a deep pocket and I didn’t want anyone else’s fingers in it.I have had a “problem drinker” or two in 33 years of CEOing but they both turned out to have other bigger problems. And, I dealt with it. Straight up. No real drama.One was a huge disappointment to me and ended up in a mess after I parted company with him. Life and business can be messy sometimes.Stop digging.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. JamesHRH

      Drinking age is 18/19 throughout Canada, no diff.De facto drinking age in Europe is 15ish. Not much diff there.No sale.

      1. JLM

        .I don’t know for sure. I drank a lot of Molson’s in the day and it made me a freakin’ genius. Improved my vision, to boot.Nah.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Richard

          And makes everyone a little slimmer, cutter / more handsome and more charming

      2. Michael Elling

        You have to look at enrollment and graduation rates as well as tuition costs (opportunity cost) and what income might be lost before making a blanket statement like that. Then factor in cultural and other differences.The US model is totally out of whack with the rest of the world. And 94% of all secondary graduates pursue some tertiary training/education (as compared with 62% in Germany) raising questions about the poor state of our secondary education.Seems like there’s no way out, but to go and leverage oneself to the hilt to get ahead. And have a beer while you’re doing it.

  14. Kirsten Lambertsen

    What I’ve found perplexing in today’s comments is some of the focus on the “Ivy League” schools.Last October, just 65.9 percent of people who had graduated from high school the previous spring had enrolled in college. Only 0.4% of U.S. students attend an Ivy League school.To focus on the benefits of college as being those that are solely associated with Ivy League schools or even top schools is to ignore the experience of most people in the U.S. (and the world).My college provided me with zero brand equity. The only thing I did get out of it was what I learned, including how to learn and what I was interested in learning.It seems to me that what Albert envisions is about bringing more people into higher education, overall, and improving the learning experience for those who are participating to actually learn something and who aren’t (for whatever reason) focusing on the prestige and networking benefits that a brand name university provides.

  15. iggyfanlo

    This is the BEST 6 1/2 min I’ve ever spent being educated on education

    1. Simone

      can I recommend Ken Robinson – The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything (with Lou Aronica)

      1. iggyfanlo

        Thanks… just ordered it on Amazon

  16. Simone

    Education, same as fossil fuel, smoking, guns, sugar consumption etc. is one of those endeavours we know we need to, and can change today, but there is a big resistance to change. The usual culprit is money. With education, I think it is a barrier to entry – to a good career, employer, network, even a desirable partner. So there is an interest from middle/upper class to maintain this barrier. I never thought there was just one Steve Jobs in the world, I think there are few billions of people who will never have a chance to compete in their life time.Aligning education with today’s work market and, as importantly, with our individual passions and skills,would make us happier and fulfilled throughout life, with benefits to hiring businesses. I don’t see any reason why -in theory! – MOOCs couldn’t achieve this goal. The still missing link is to get solid recognition from work market/employers.I don’t see the academics as the main opponents, they are very much needed in the new education system, the main opponents will be parents and children from privileged backgrounds who will be very keen to delay as much as possible the day when the playing field is levelled.

  17. Francois-Pierre Marcil

    Thanks for sharing this talk. One thing Albert doesn’t talk about,but I feel is obvious, is that one could create a better, bundled experience and then there would be one university like there is one Facebook. Unbundling is a nice theory, however, in practice monopolies often(always?) devour the unbundled use cases over time (Look at Google, Facebook and Amazon). Don’t get me wrong, it is much easier to unbundle and run with it than to create the next monopoly (hence the interest of VCs in encouraging these tactics?). However, we currently need the big projects more than the small ones, the bias for the precise and small is troubling. 100000 small companies won’t solve education because education doesn’t need solving (opportunity does).

  18. Ryan Laughlin

    I like Albert’s thought process. As an EdTech founder, I’ve thought quite a bit along these lines. Yet, I have a slightly different take on the unbundling of education in Higher Ed.To date, while the Internet has enabled unprecedented access to knowledge and meta-learning, it has yet to force any unbundling of higher education. The data speaks for itself: The percentage of 18-24 year-olds enrolled in college has increased .5% each year for the past 15 years. (It’s at 40% right now.)So, in fact, digital technologies have instead acted as supplemental enhancers, enabling institutions to streamline their operations and students to take better notes.The common reason that MOOCs, for-profit online colleges, and other educational technologies have so far failed to unbundle higher education in any meaningful way is because they have failed to take into account the human experience.Several research studies have attempted to find out why students drop out of college. Nearly all of them indicate that not one single reason exists. Students drop out for a variety of reasons. Yet if you study the data you’ll find that vast majority of reasons for dropping out of school are due to personal reasons. And if you look at the patterns of behavior that led to dropping out of school, you can find one simple commonality: the student did not believe that they mattered to anyone.And that’s what technology has so far failed to replicate. If you’re going to unbundle one of the units of education, you absolutely MUST foster human connections. MOOC classes, for example, have a 90% incompletion rate because the company and instructors have yet to build in a way to help students feel like they actually matter, that someone cares about their advancement in life.University administrators get this. They intuitively know that students don’t go to college to be educated. They go for the experience. It’s why schools are spending billions on oxford buildings, luxury amenities, and athletic entertainment. (As a result, for-profit colleges, are struggling.)And if you’ve read any research on how smartphones are rewiring the brains of our students, you’ll realize that the student’s addiction to entertainment has forced universities to constantly iterate to create better college experiences instead of better education.So, while a few edtech companies are enjoying some success, their college members are using those technologies to supplement their physical learning environment, not replace it.Simply put, the unbundling of higher ed will not happen anytime soon unless edtech companies start focusing on the human experience first, where learning occurs secondarily, organically, as a bi-product. And that’s a really really difficult nut to crack.

  19. Steve Goldenberg

    I’ll respectfully disagree: the way Al describes unbundling equates content delivery with learning: “On the Internet I can go with one click from an article about sports to an article about business that can be on a completely different domain produced and written by someone completely different.” This implies that all a person needs is to consume a set of content in order to learn effectively. It also implies a college or university’s primary value is in delivering content and that that delivery will be radically disrupted by the free delivery platform of the Internet.A better explanation of the current higher-education model is one of curation: colleges and universities curate experiences for their students through their faculty and, on successful completion of that experience, grant a perpetual right to the student to use the brand and product of the institution for their own benefit. Both a known institution like Harvard and a standard degree type like a Bachelors communicate the value of an education to the market.There exists a significant body of research to support this idea: the impact on a person’s life from a higher-education experience is OVERWHELMINGLY connected to having a faculty member who cared about that person’s experience according to one of the best studies on it:…. While “unbundling” is a catchy soundbite, it misses the heart of where true life-long value is created through education.

  20. Simone Brunozzi

    It’s weird that you say “invest against” and you mean that you are investing based on that thesis. Weird English language 🙂