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We Need to Disrupt Education, Now

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States are broke. Municipalities are broke. We're reducing the number of teachers and reducing the investment in education. Does anyone really think this is a recipe for success? If we want to be competitive in the global economy, we need to make some serious changes. Now.

Our country has fallen behind in key areas of education. America needs to be the leader in education, in innovation, in manufacturing and in technology. There are over 7 billion people in the world and only 314 million Americans. To lead, we need everyone to be educated and equipped with the skills of the future.

Shockingly, our education system has not changed in two hundred years. We still require every student to learn the same way, at the same time, in the same classrooms, with the same lectures, using outdated and one-dimensional learning materials. We are more focused on historical subjects versus preparing our best and brightest for the skills they need to excel in a future of innovation and flux.

Everyone agrees it's broken, so why are we waiting? If we wait for government, entrenched institutions or the companies that have made a fortune protecting the past, we will lose another generation of students.

We can make education more accessible, more affordable and more relevant using technology. If we embrace what is and what needs to be done, rather than what was, we can move forward.

There are approximately 3.6 million open jobs in America, but there's a skill gap forming between what's being taught and what employers require to fill a position. My company, Chegg, the student hub, studied 3 regions in April of this year and compared open jobs in the area this year with recent graduate majors. The results were revealing and troubling.

Fifty-four percent of jobs in San Jose, California fall within the area of IT, but only 2 percent of students in the area are graduating with IT degrees. Thirty-nine percent of the jobs in Columbus, Ohio also fall within the area of IT, but only 2 percent of students are graduating with IT degrees. And, in Miami, Florida, 36 percent of the open jobs are in the accounting/finance field and just 4 percent of students in the area are graduating with accounting/finance degrees.

In addition to graduating without the skills for the future, students and their families are accumulating a staggering amount of debt, which has grown to over one trillion dollars in the U.S. Today, students spend dozens of hours a week just on their academics. And many of those students have multiple jobs to offset rising costs. The concept of attending a class at a specific time or meeting with a professor at random and inconvenient office hours can no longer be the norm.

This generation is growing up with an entirely different view of how, who with, where and even, what time of day they should learn and interact. Students today have never known a day without technology, the Internet, mobile phones, Skype, Google or Facebook. As a result, they don't understand or value the historical bias that everyone needs to learn the same information, on the same day, the exact same way.

We need to shift our focus to the students versus the administration and those who've sold billions of dollars worth of product to institutions.

It's time to re-conceptualize education. We need to allow students to learn how they want, when they want and where they want -- whether it's in the classroom, via text, through video, in study groups with their class, in study groups at their school or even online with students around the world. Technology allows us to focus directly on the needs of today's students, eliminating the historical boundaries of time, location, tools, scale and even cost.

Many schools are working to embrace the change; testing emerging new tools to help students master challenging subject matter. Students are helping drive the change using new types of learning tools and materials from new sources -- some of which don't even come from their own institutions. Perhaps, for the first time in our history, students are more experienced and skilled at the most powerful learning tool of our lifetime (technology and the Internet) then those who are charged with teaching them. This is causing an uncomfortable situation between students and educators and should cause us to accelerate teacher training to help educators adapt, learn, and test new types of learning tools.

The ultimate goal is for the student to master subjects and expand their minds, but it is as just as critical that they can access and learn the job skills of the future. The time is now to fix our failing education system. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, this is an American and economic issue.

For those of you who have a genuine interest in fixing our education system, especially higher education, please share your ideas about innovative technologies, schools and strategies so -- together -- we can collaborate and help our students and our country succeed.

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Dan serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of Chegg, where he oversees the overall business operations and executive management. Prior to this, Dan served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Guitar Hero and Chief Operating Officer (more...)

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We Need to Disrupt Education, Now


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Great article, well said!... by Jack Swint on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 at 9:37:03 AM
I see the issue of who the author was is now solve... by Ad Du on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 at 10:59:33 AM
"Perhaps, for the first time in our history, stude... by Ad Du on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 at 11:06:30 AM
The biggest predictor of educational failure for a... by Tapeis GlueandBacking on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 at 4:32:30 PM
 Sir, It's likely impolite of me, but I need ... by Ad Du on Monday, Oct 29, 2012 at 5:10:46 PM
You are absolutely correct, Daniel. We need a majo... by Howard Schneider on Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012 at 11:57:44 AM
Which is why this is the main principle of my plat... by Daniel Geery on Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012 at 12:19:19 PM