Choose your cauldron
It's in our common parlance to say "choose your weapon" or "choose your poison" when facing options among different tools, sporting equipment and alcoholic drinks. I'm introducing a similar expression: "choose your cauldron". Each of the four migration paths that I'm foreseeing out of institutions of higher ed amount to a cauldron for the college students. In stories and in therapy, a cauldron traps the character in a situation with no available exits. The only available option is to change character and underlying beliefs. Cauldrons are extremely valuable for outgrowing adolescence. They provide the right kind of pressures for immaturity to evolve into responsible adulthood. Since all four alternatives to the institutional morass offer these benefits, it comes down to a choice of "choose your cauldron" for enrolled students and dropouts alike.
I expect the global research institutes to preserve the academic rigor that has been widely compromised or abandoned in institutions of higher learning. Learning to "do the math", "apply the formula" or "solve the flawed procedure" allow for objective testing. There is one right accurate answer, even if there are many ways to arrive at it. The disciplines of science, engineering, and countless technical fields all thrive on conventional coursework pressures. It's often expected that the undergraduate classes function as Darwinian selection of the fittest for these demanding disciplines. The abundant survival, conformity and achievement pressures form a cauldron for quickly building courage, confidence and convictions in young adults.
Certification testing facilities will evaluate a broader spectrum of competencies than objective tests. I expect they will realize the benefits of 360 degree feedback that has gained popularity in business as well as all those "getting voted off the show" reality TV programs. We may see the common use of review panels for live presentations that judge the merit of thinking off the top of your head and responding to challenges without forewarning. The learning done prior to testing will included an individually varied mix of self-exploration, team learning, formal instruction and apprenticeships. There is will be basis for "testing what was taught" since the learning will have been done independently and mostly "off-campus". All this traps the learner in repeated pressure cookers to "make the grade" on the certification testing procedures they have hired to measure their progress and assess their readiness for particular responsibilities. .
Life changing collegiate experiences offer a different kind of cauldron. Meeting dozens of strangers, living in dorms, joining groups and dating without constant supervision all provide captivity that invites growing up in a hurry. Relationships trap us in what other people are feeling, thinking and doing that we cannot control. Groups confine us by the norms, conformity pressures and distribution of responsibilities that ask us to respond like an adult. Living together in close quarters with people we did not know last year forces us to understand people different from ourselves, while becoming more tolerant and less selfish. Enduring the ups and downs of sports teams, personal endeavors and group dynamics also makes for maturing with no easy outs.
Instigators of the next economy will be engaged in community outreach, activism and organizing. They will be developing reputations as they make a small part of the world into a better place for others. They will discover how costly it is to violate others' trust and hurt others' feelings. They will learn to respect themselves more so there are in a position to show authentic respect to others. They will be confined in situations with the same people being deeply effected by what is getting worked on, postponed, shortchanged or neglected. The opportunities to "mature with no escape" will prove very effective for those who found college to be useless, boring, irrelevant or antiquated.
Some students already experience these cauldrons enrolled in institutions of higher ed. Most do not. The disruption of higher ed will render these beneficial experiences more available with higher quality for many more learners.