Last week I went through the process of analyzing how much of what I learned in college that I’m still using today. This ended up being a difficult thing to assess and quantify.
While most of my undergraduate coursework was focused on human factors engineering, I ended up taking several general courses like humanities, math, history, psychology, and accounting.
Looking over my classes, the three least useful courses were – how to use slide rules, Fortran programming (taught with punch card machines), and calculus, which I have never used. I certainly can’t say these courses were worth zero, but they hold very little value in my world today.
Putting aside my conclusions, it does bring up a much larger question: What skills are being taught today that will have little or no value in the future?
More importantly, as college costs escalate, and repayment plans extend for decades, does the usefulness of a college education wear out before the payments end?
Technology is blazing forward at a torrid pace making lifelong learning part and parcel to our ability to stay relevant. Education has value, but exactly how much value and for how long? And what happens to the massive debt incurred by students when the knowledge is no longer relevant?
Here are a few thoughts on how the massive changes coming to colleges are being driven by the decreasing half-life of education.