Introducing Education 3.0
In the past one decade, relative enrolment in online courses has trebled (Stack, S 2015) opening up the debate as to what really changed, besides the obvious, technology. Traditional, face-to-face learning has domineered the globe for thousands of years- as far back as when the very first university, Taxila, came into existence in 1000 BCE and up until the birth of modern-day universities, such as Oxford University (1096 AD) and University of Bologna (1088 AD).
In an attempt to demystify the mystery behind the mammoth success of online schools, we did some research and were able to come up with this some solid pieces of evidence- as to what works and what doesn’t when deciding which is the best way to school yourself.
For the sake of convenience, we have divided this paper into two parts. In the first part, we have compared the two means of education delivery- Traditional and Online- in order to help you determine what suits you best. In the second part of this article we have endeavoured to expose how at Pragmatic Product Leaders, after an extensive year research on best pedagogical techniques, we have been able to build a new age program for prospective Product Managers which meets halfway the rigour of traditional and the flexibility as well as ease of online courses so as to provide aspiring product managers a path-breaking solution for advanced education.
Before we move on to assess the good and the bad of both Traditional and Online Schooling, I would like you to have a mental picture of what I am about to explore. In the diagram below I have represented where Traditional and Online courses would lie if one were to score them based on “effort put into providing quality education” and “convenience of attending the course”.
Image 1: Effort Vs. Convenience: PPL meets you mid-way!
The Pro’s and Con’s of Traditional Education
The foremost appeal of traditional colleges lies in the scrupulous selection process, involving the student making a case as to why he/she should be admitted which is then reviewed by a committee of professors with at least a few good years of experience in teaching. All this, just to ensure that the right mix of students are admitted, which in turn ensures that each student’s experiences and background serve the goals of the larger community by promoting “community learning” as well as helps make good citizens.
This painstaking selection process also assures that the students help build as well as have access to elite alumni networks, which further improves their prospects of getting higher paying jobs at global firms as opposed to their counterparts who did not or could not obtain higher education. A study conducted by the US Department of Education in 2015 revealed that a decade after enrolling in a four-year college degree program, the average income of a typical student is $40,500 USD a year, which is almost double of what any high school graduate earns.
Thus, I have used the two arguments above to conclude, that college graduates, especially, top university graduates, have a considerable head-start when it comes to finding jobs– whether it is their first time in the workforce or climbing up the ladder- global managers world over give preference to their fellows. Thus, they are often referred to as “feeder schools”- schools that feed the global firms with talent and expertise.
In more recent years, a major concern that has enveloped the traditional academic circles is whether teaching quality has been able to keep pace with the modern times and how can we constantly upgrade and sustain the existing knowledge pools. Quality teaching is often equated with the efforts put into research by the professors; i.e. the more research is done by a professor, the better he/she is at teaching. However, there is no evidence to support such claims, traditional schools do set aside ample resources for its teaching staff to conduct research in their respective fields. Whereas quality teaching lacks a clear definition, a few major concerns that have envelop this space more recently are increased international competition, increasing social and geographical diversity of the student body, increasing demands of value for money and introduction of information technologies.
A major drawback of the traditional education system is that they require full-time commitment. The system is inflexible in terms of class timings and the student needs to be physically present on the campus. Whereas on one hand, this in-person and intimate teaching experience enhances the learning experience for some students, for others, especially those from poorer backgrounds or with a history of marginalization, it can prove to be a major obstruction in terms of obtaining a high-quality education. This system also effectively shaves off any and all students who have crossed a certain threshold in their personal life, such as age, marital status, having kids, those who have been in the workforce for a while, those unwilling to leave the workforce to pursue education, etc.
In conclusion, I am of the opinion that traditional schools seem to view education as a “one box fit all” kind of solution. When it is clearly not the case. This in itself makes a solid case for the success of online education. However, this is not the whole story. To understand the full depth of this argument, in the next section, I have attempted to throw light on the pro’s and con’s of online education and tried to examine what makes it such a popular medium of education amongst students.
Image 2: Traditional Vs. Online Education
The Pros and Cons of Online Education
As I have already mentioned, online schooling has gained huge momentum in the past one decade. With the arrival of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), knowledge is available wide and for free. However, this system lacks structure and although it gained some traction in the beginning, slowly and steadily students started falling back into structured courses clearing the path for online course providers such as Coursera and Udacity to make huge profits on the back of this growing demand. As Green, D (1993) put it, the “culture of higher education” has become “increasingly market-oriented” which has led to increased demand for quality teaching.
Whereas on one hand online schooling overcomes all the drawbacks of traditional schooling, it cannot be denied it has its own limitations. Online schooling fits right into the student’s budget as it costs a fraction what he/she would pay to a university and can be pursued by any individual of any age, marital status, sexual orientation, etc.- basically anyone who doesn’t really fit inside the society’s traditional pre-approved boxes of good social conduct. If you are a working professional or even just a lazy individual, you can complete the course while enjoying the comfort of your own surroundings at any hour that you find most suitable.
However, it cannot be denied that online schooling lacks the rigour of traditional schooling. Firstly, most online course, there is no structured selection process to determine whether the course is even a good for the student. Secondly, since there is no value added from the preliminary vetting process, the process results in a severe deficit of “community learning”. Thirdly, there is no mechanism to monitor student achievement and neither is there a mechanism to provide any guidance in case a student is unable to cope up with coursework. Many sites do claim to provide student and administrative support, but there is hardly ever any follow up once the student has paid up for the course. This results in heightened personal responsibility on the part of the student. and Fourthly, there is a severe paucity in terms of teaching effort. Majority of courses available online are pre-recorded and thus provide no real time opportunity to address student concerns or provide tutorials in case a student is unable to cope up with coursework. Infact, only a handful of universities and sites, such as the Harvard University Extension School, have the option of online live classes/ lectures. Fifth, online courses are inherently designed to save time and effort. A 16-week course can be covered in 8-weeks. Sixth, even if exams are held, there is no proctoring. So, there is nothing to say if it was an open book examination or the student genuinely attempted all the questions, as in a traditional setup.
All this results in “learning in an isolated fashion”, which majorly contributes to overall lower achievements. Only those, who are really interested in completing the course actually complete the course, whereas others either drop out or make minimal effort in order to get certified.
Education 3.0 will Marry the Best of Both Worlds!
Let me illustrate with the example of Pragmatic Product Leaders Course- aptly called Pragmatic Product Leaders Program– how it is not only possible to provide all the benefits of online courses but also the best of what traditional courses have to offer. After all, that’s what Education 3.0 is all about!
Argyris & Schön (1974) determine that quality enhancement in higher education should be a double-looped process. The first loop of quality enhancement is driven by the inquest: “are we doing things right?”. But this question alone is not sufficient. For the quality enhancement process to function perfectly, we must ask ourselves “are we doing the right things?”. And this is exactly what we did.
Our team at Pragmatic Product Leaders spent hours studying and analysing the traditional and online schooling models to be able to tactfully marry the two approaches and bring to you a course that not only has the rigour of traditional schooling but also the flexibility as well as ease of online schooling. We spent a year researching and reviewing the literature available in the domain as well as other resources, such as blogs, videos, peer reviews, audios, etc. to understand where and how it could be improved and made more comprehensible. Our aim was to create a structured pedagogy which would be precise and clearly define a direction for our students without wasting their precious time. To this end, we interviewed 100+ product managers at different stages of their career to identify what separates good from great and interacted with 3000 plus students via webinars and offline sessions on product management which helped us nail down the issues and friction that a learner faces.
During this process, we reached an important realisation, that of the hundreds of online courses available that claimed to help an aspiring student become- if not a great, at least a good product manager- there was none that offered a comprehensive package including covering essential topics, tutorials, specific resources, student support and most importantly practical, hands-on experience. They all fell way short of being anything that would help an aspiring student achieve his/her goals. As a response to this challenge, we built an all-encompassing and structured pedagogy, covering 326 topics, 20 Modules and 20 hours of study material. Besides, we offer 20 live tutorials by industry experts for our students as well as continuous and time-bound proctoring and grading of assignments, to ensure no student falls behind.
Unlike any other online course available in the marketplace, we take utmost care when determining if a student is a right fit for our course. We use a three-layered selection process followed by an interview to clearly map if the student has the right aptitude and attitude required to take up the course. This also ensures that each batch has a diversity of students from different educational backgrounds, work experience, cities, geographies and ethnicity. As a result, in each cohort, (on an average) 70% of our students are from top colleges including Stanford, Waterloo, and IITs, have 7+ years of work experience and hail from cities all over the globe such as India, London, San Francisco, Singapore, including others. We believe in building communities and therefore, just like any other top university in the world, we have an elite alumni and student network to ensure continuous peer-to-peer learning and access to top-notch opportunities at global firms.
What makes us awesome?
A major drawback of all online and sometimes even traditional courses is that they do not provide any real-time or hands-on experience. It needs to be emphasised here that learning concepts is not skill acquisition. As Ryle (1949) put it “if you expect students to use knowledge to solve any kind of problem, you must provide them with opportunities to practice the needed skills and receive feedback about their performance”. Infact, a study conducted using Force Concept Inventory (FCI) by Hestenes (1995, 1992) shows that students in the interactive-engagement courses outperformed students in the traditional courses by 2 standard deviations (SDs).
Given the plethora of evidence available in favour of active learning, while building an effective pedagogy, we were overly mindful that learning facts (the “what” of it) and learning to do something (the “how” of it) are two completely different things.
Keeping this in mind, we have built experiential learning as an integral part of our course. Unlike those courses that focus only on theoretical aspects of learning, we focus on highly task-based learning simulating authentic working environment. In an endeavour to fully achieve this goal, we take you through a step-by-step process of acquiring practical knowledge right from decision making, planning, designing, building and finally implementing your thoughts and ideas. Through this process, we aim to help our students develop comprehensive ability to rethink, innovate, analyse and develop a 6th sense when it comes to building a successful product. To this end, we team you with our in-house development team, who not only helps you build the product but also ship it!
At Pragmatic Product Leaders, we don’t believe in only having our students pay for the course but are rather interested in ensuring whether our students complete the course and benefit from it too. We have a team solely dedicated to pushing for unconditional “student success”. Whether it is by providing constant check backs, sending in motivational tips or even providing additional learning material- our team is always ready to help you achieve your potential. In addition, to help you further your career goals, we have a dedicated recruitment team which is constantly hunting for the best PM opportunities out there as well as help you ace your interviews. To ensure that each student puts their best foot forward for we go that extra mile and provide individual mock interview training with experienced and globally celebrated product managers, help you structure your CVs and provide a continuous stream of interview tips so that you can get that dream job of yours!
All that being said, we obviously provide all the benefits of online schooling. Once you sign up for the course, you will get one year access to all our course material. The timings are completely flexible so that whether you are a working professional or a fresh graduate, you can study at your own whims and fancies. There is no hidden classroom component, so rest assured, you can study in any part of the world that makes you feel at home. To further your convenience, all our live sessions are also recorded– so even if you miss one, you never have to worry about falling behind.
With the above being said, I sincerely hope I have convinced you that with the Pragmatic Product Leader Course we hope to bring in a revolution- usher a new era of education 3.0– which benefits not just a typical student that checks off all the boxes but any and everyone who has the passionate and intensity to become a Product Manager.
Both traditional and online schooling have their own appeals as well as failings. Whereas on one hand traditional schools have meticulously crafted their selection procedures, provide access to elite alumni network and relentlessly promote “shared learning”, online schools are preferred majorly because of the ease and flexibility they have to offer to the regular Joe/Joan. However, in this new age where education has been transformed into a commodity and international competition to acquire students has been gathering huge momentum, it’s about time we found a solution that brings together the best of both worlds.
Pragmatic Product Leader Course, aptly called Pragmatic Product Leader Program, does just that. Not only do we have an intense selection process to ensure only those who are most fit to attend the course are selected and help build an elite community of Product Managers globally, but at the same time provide all the flexibilities of an online course. Our aim is to not help you to become a good product manager, but a Product Manager with Super Powers!