Google Has a Plan to Disrupt the College Degree - Oh please!

This morning shared this link Google Has a Plan to Disrupt the College Degree

Even the full URL naming felt like click bait


Probably ? or at the very least just about SEO..

The title click bait ?

Google Has a Plan to Disrupt the College Degree

I’d say so. The Subtitle…

Google’s new certificate program takes only six months to complete, and will be a fraction of the cost of college

100% click bait.

💥 Save time, save money, get “smart” 🤦

Let’s start by stating there is no way a 6 month programme is the equivalent of a 3 / 4 year degree programme.

teach foundational skills that can help job-seekers immediately find employment.

This initial quote sums it up for me. Foundational skills for immediate employment but then Kent Walker senior vice president of global affairs at Google states;

In our own hiring, we will now treat these new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles.

The thing is those that started in UX design moved into these roles as they appeared, they had degrees in design, art or english. They adapted as the industry moved they used far more than foundational skills to negotiate changes. I’ve been to talks from the games industry advocating the ‘fact’ you could learn to make a game via Google usually from individuals with degrees in English, philosophy, art or design even, and yet you don’t need a degree. This tends to be a narrow-minded view of new courses, they somehow think that a course called Games Design is not a ‘proper’ degree anyway and not the route into industry. The motivation is usually to accelerate people into current roles and lower costs.

Now for sure if you want to work on Fortnite 2, or any version of any game you can see now. You could get up to speed in 6 months in one very thin aspect of game making say basic 3d modelling and you could possibly get a ground level role if the company recognises the credentials, your portfolio would be very limited. I am not confident this would actually work in practice mind.

However if it does I am also confident your starting wage and positions would be much lower than one of my graduates and your progression in the industry would be much slower.

Why can I say this, two fold, I have the data to back this up but also a degree programme is not teaching you how to do a job role. And if it isn’t obvious the ‘jobs’ are always changing and evolving. Some roles our graduates are in didn’t exist 6 months ago.

In teaching a degree programme, we have what I like to call a lens. In my instance our lens is game making, I think it’s a pretty important lens for many reasons, which can be found elsewhere on my blog, or just ask me why games are the most important design medium of our time, however it is still a lens. So within that Lens we are helping students to undertake what is wrapped in the package often called Life Long Learning.

Some of the items in that package include;

  • Resilience
  • Cooperation
  • Co-creation
  • Project management
  • History
  • Context
  • Research
  • Negotiation
  • Future thinking
  • Curiosity
  • Failing
  • Reflection
  • Society

Alongside all of these and more is the design, writing, psychology and technical skills to manifest ideas through game making, which is another huge list. And when I talk about skills there is again a specific way to really learn skills, my ZX Spectrum skills dont serve me today but the way I understood them does.

This is a holistic approach to learning and how to work within a complex evolving system (our world). We do this with 3 to 4 years of project based learning, industry and exchange placements, projects and internships. MIT refers to this rather neatly as the four Ps - Projects, Passion, Peers and Play.

You just can’t cover this type of approach in a 6 month programme, whose central pillar is to get you a job role. Yes perhaps those that progress from the 6 months (crash) course may in a company likely learn a lot of what I describe above on the job but would that the best place and of course you run the risk of being let go for any ‘mistakes’ you may make.

Walker then pulls out a patriotic flag to tug at our heart strings;

We need new, accessible job-training solutions … to help America recover and rebuild.

Don’t be misled these courses are Google training programmes for Google to drive down the wages of designers and engineers.

These two lines are just nonsense;

Higher education has been ripe for disruption for a long time

and that Google’s move;

… has major potential to change the future of education and work.

Oh Please !

Yes short vocational courses have there place but let’s understand that properly and have a real discussion on how we need a decent mixed economy of education rather than the ongoing diatribe of Silicon Valley disruption.

This next quote for me is dangerous;

Remember: Nowadays, it’s all about skills. Not degrees.

A degree is not about getting a job at Apple, Google or IBM per se. This is the ongoing fundamental miss-understanding of education. What Google have created is a training programme not an education.

The world has some of the most unprecedented issues the human race has ever faced, what we don’t need is more of the same skills, we actually need more curiosity & creativity, and I know where this thrives, in Design, Art and Humanities education.

(yes I used the same click bait title - sorry 🤪)

Adam Procter @adamprocter