The Lean Startup Approach to Education & Employment in America

By Maria Peagler

Sep 10

The Learn Startup Approach to Education in America

Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration, posted a commentary on his tumblr blog last week about American college graduates being over-educated and under-employed:

“Too often in modern America, we equate “equal opportunity” with an opportunity to get a four-year liberal arts degree. It should mean an opportunity to learn what’s necessary to get a good job.”

Reich then continues to recommend two-year degrees at vocational schools as a common-sense approach to securing a top job that opens the door the middle class in America, without the huge debt.

The Lean Startup Approach to Education

America is widely heralded as the global hotbed of innovation using the Lean Startup method pioneered by Eric Reis: almost every major social media platform originated here, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and more.

But where is the lean startup approach to education?  If the minimum viable product (MVP) is necessary for a lean approach to business, shouldn’t a minimum viable education (MVE) be the wise approach to a career, especially in an employment landscape littered with college grads saddled with college loan debt?

How relevant will your four-year degree be in ten years, when your job no longer exists? Middle-aged journalists who once had flourishing careers at The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal are out of work because their industry was disrupted by digital alternatives.

Isn’t a better approach to get the MVE for your first career, and then pivot your education as your career and your industry evolve?

Don’t get me wrong:  I’m a lifelong learner, and I got a four-year degree when it was AFFORDABLE.  I paid my entire way through college, getting Pell Grants, student loans, and juggling three jobs.

My family lived below the poverty line, and I was able to get a degree from one of the top journalism colleges in the country. But I didn’t graduate with a burden of enormous college loan debt.

Since then, I have NEVER once considered going back to a university to further my education.  Why?

Because there are so many better alternatives to learning that are quicker, more up-to-date, and less expensive.

Minimum Viable Education Resources

While public and private universities in American have raised tuition every year far above the inflation rate, a more sane approach to education has been burgeoning:  online learning.

Lynda.com, Skillshare, TeamTreehouse, and yes, here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, you can get a great education in the digital sector.  Here’s a rundown of what each offers:

Learn Software Applications with Lynda.com

Pros: Classes on almost every major software application, including current and previous releases.  Lynda’s classes are a wonderful fit for creative professionals, as they offer courses on photography, animation, and other creative careers.  They’re also best for apps  that have new releases, like Windows 11 or Photoshop CC 2014, as they debut a new class with each new release.

Cons:  For social media platforms, Lynda’s classes are unable to keep up with the constant pace of changes.  They also do not offer a forum or access to instructors when you have questions.

Learn Creative Business Skills with Skillshare.com

Pros:  Classes on business, design, fashion, photography, film music, and technology.  I’ve taken Skillshare classes, and they’re a “light” approach to online learning, with an average of three lessons for each class.  They offer a multi-media curriculum and often curate their content from other sources.

Cons:  Available of instructors to offer feedback to students is inconsistent: some are great, others never show up. But the low price-point of their classes makes it worth it to try out and see what you’ll learn.  Some instructors are not great teachers, but are great practitioners, so you often need to be patient through long videos that could be shorter.

Learn Web Development with TeamTreehouse.com

Pros: Classes on web development that include Sass, Ruby on Rails, Javascript, WordPress, Android app development, PHP, HTML, business skills and more. They offer a great variety of classes, an online forum with monthly challenges, all for a low price point.

Cons: I was pleasantly surprised by TeamTreehouse.  Their founder comes from an affiliate marketing and vitamin business background, and like so many others in the last five years, entered the online training arena when it became possible using lean startup technologies.  While I have not taken a class from Treehouse (their shortened name), an SMOC intern has, and she was quite pleased with the learning platform.  They offer a free trial, which I would definitely take and see if you can get feedback or help when working on a coding project.

Learn Social Media with Socialmediaonlineclasses.com

Pros: Classes on every major social network and search engine optimization, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Slideshare, WordPress, YouTube, and more.  Offers a forum for questions, 1:1 coaching with its founder, as well as additional resources like infographics, bonus webinars, and case studies, all for a low price point.

Cons:  Students get a certificate of completion when they finish all lessons in a class; no testing or exams are necessary. Certification is from Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, not a third-party such as the American Council on Education (ACE), as that would triple the cost of classes here. Don’t offer classes on smaller social networks like Tumblr, Reddit, Delicious, or Digg.

Get a Digital Education for Less Than One Year’s Tuition at a University

You could take classes from every provider I’ve listed here for less than one year’s tuition at a public university.  You’d have a well-rounded  education from the recognized providers in photography, animation, Photoshop, Adobe Creative Suite, logo design, music production, web and app development and social media.

Each provider offers a free trial so you can take a class and see if it’s a good fit.  When’s the last time a university offered that?

You could have an impressive collection of skills for your resume, but how would you get the experience every employer wants?

Become an intern, an apprentice for a professional you admire, or volunteer your time for a non-profit who can sorely use your skills.  You get practical experience for your portfolio and build important professional relationships that will help you find a well-paying job in your new industry.

So yes, Robert Reich, there is a better way.  All made here in America, available for a global audience.

 

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About the Author

Founder of Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, Benjamin Franklin award-winner for independent publishing, award winning author of eight books, wife, mom, quilter and watercolor artist.