The Value Of Online Education

The current labour market requires a university qualification in order to obtain employment. That’s pretty much a general rule. If you disagree, try obtaining well paid employment without either a university qualification or a trade certification. You will be an outlier if you are successful.

The value of online education, in my opinion, is that it enables self-starters to obtain the sort of education that a university qualification should be giving them but doesn’t. For reasons I haven’t yet wrapped my head around, my learning at university has been less than my learning online.

There is a major problem with learning online though – it’s only possible to realise the value of what you’ve taught yourself once you are employed and utilising those skills. There is a chicken and egg problem here – a lot of young people will not be given the chances they need to figure out where their comparative advantage lies in the labour market.

This increases the likelihood of sub-optimal investment in the university qualification itself. What degree you take matters, but what you major in matters even more. The Ministry of Education recently released a study showing that some majors clearly have an earnings premium over other majors.

In that sense, if you feel like you’re not learning anything valuable at university, online education is the recovery tool. Without forking out $800 a paper to simply jump through the hoops, you can exchange your time in exchange for far more interesting course content and skills.

This links into what Tyler Cowen was talking about in Average Is Over with respect to conscientiousness. If you can work through a textbook outside of class, do the problems and build a solid understanding of how that area you’re interested in works, you can do it for other fields as well. There’s a cumulative effect to applying yourself to online education – you build experience using the tools, you build experience sticking to a schedule and you gain more knowledge with which to identify other knowledge gaps to be closed.

I like learning new things and developing new skills – particularly IT related ones – but if it wasn’t for online education and the enormous amount of free resources available on the internet, my love of learning would have been destroyed by university. That’s something I’ve discussed at length with other people who have similar interests – rigid orthodoxy at university might signal reliability to future employers but it drums out any creative spark necessary for competitiveness in the skills market.

Khan Academy Can Teach You Finance

The explosion of online learning means that you have no excuse for ignorance when it comes to economics and finance.

Khan Academy started off with mathematics videos that could help you learn calculus or algebra, but they’ve expanded to include clear explanations of almost all topics you can think of by way of ten minute videos and exercises.

The “core finance” curriculum over at Khan Academy is a must-see if you have no idea about basic finance principles like time value of money or want to get a basic understanding of how derivatives work.

I am a fan of self-directed learning. I believe that my time at high school and university has actually retarded my intellectual progress. I have to regurgitate crap that’s been proven wrong both by real world observation and even by other academics to get out of this academic prison.

If I could go back in time, I’d work part-time to support myself and spend the rest of the time engaging aggressively with online education and my own startup projects.

Sadly, I’m past the point-of-no-return with my worthless degree and even though I’d love nothing more than to spend time learning what matters instead of what an out-of-touch university bureaucrat thinks I should be learning without a university degree I am a leper in the marketplace.

The tragedy is that because I’m young, I’m at even more of a disadvantage because there’s no way to display my skills and learning outside of the curriculum except by putting myself out there and writing.

What’s worse is that I know that counting sunk costs is wrong, but how can you not count sunk costs when taking the rational choice – quitting now – leaves you with no income and no reasonable prospects of work?