Here's the thing—we may not actually want every otherwise unmotivated late teen to be sitting dubiously through college courses just because it's either that or go back to their dorm and twiddle their thumbs. Some things:
- There is an oversupply of graduates these days in most fields and at most levels
- A dawdle-dawdle unmotivated student is not doing their highest quality learning
- Even students that will eventually use what they learn may not do so for years
- In the meantime, what they learned is getting very rusty between learning and use
So with these things said, *how about* a model in which:
- People are not motivated to learn something until they need to
- Once they need to, they are happy to blast through it intensely
- And they will put it to use right away
- And their motivation comes from needs (for a raise, to be competitive, etc.)
I would think this would help to mitigate some of the particular supply/demand problems on all sides (for an education/for students/for graduates as employees).
The one caveat, and it's an important one, is that we do of course want people to be generally mature, thoughtful, capable, and culturally literate if they are goint to be participating in society, and right now high schools are failing utterly at even touching these points.
So to address that need, let's just require a minimal level of "general" college-level education, say a one-year or two-year degree that as no "major" or "minor" selections and issues no grades, but certifies literacy about politics/citizenship, social science (particularly social problems), national culture, basic quantitative reasoning, and so on—enough to become a careful thinker and to better understand "how to learn stuff."
This general education certification would be required in order to:
- Get a business license
- Sit on a corporate board
But would be disconnected from particular vocational or other subject-oriented learning issued via, say, MOOCS as well as face-to-face alternatives. And instead of a major in a single discpline, outcomes from MOOC courses could be used to calculate a nationally databased and relatively involved (many measures) "bar chart" for each student, that tallied their experience and competence with particular subject areas, expressed quantitatively as a figure without an upper bound, that is added to with each additional course, and perhaps incorporating quantitative feedback about their performance from employers as well:
So instead of wanting someone with 4-year degree and a "major" in computer science, employers could seek someone with their general education certification along with "at least a 1400 in OS design, a 650 in Java, and a 950 in medical organizations and systems" and so on.
Over the course of a lifetime, scores in any particular area could continue to increase, either by taking additional MOOCs to get more exposure, or by having employers report on accumulated skills and experience to the system.
So that someone that took only a few courses in X in school, but in the real world and on the job, became—over 20 years—the best X in the country, would have this gradually reflected in their national education/experience scores as the years of experience and successes mounted.
Meanwhile, we'd also no longer have the weird mismatches that come when an employee has a degree in Y but actually works in Z, and then has to explain this in various ways to various parties. First of all, at the level of the 1-or-2-year general education, they would no longer gret a "degree in" Y. That would be handed by MOOCs and represented in varous numbers that increased as the result of completing them.
But if someone did do an about-face and choose an entirely different subject or work area in life, this would also gradually be reflected in their education/experience scores. We'd know when someone who'd studied chemistry in their '20s finally became a "real biologist" because their scores in biological areas would begin to overtake their scores in chemical areas, and so on.
Of course none of this is plausible because social systems simply don't work this way. But (after a long digression) getting back to the point, it's not all that bad that a MOOC isn't the same as forcing someone in their late teens or early '20s to sit in a classroom and drag their feet through a BA/BS.