Podcast College

by | Feb 20, 2020 | Future of Education

Futurist Thomas Frey discusses trend toward podcast learning.

Podcast College has the potential to short circuit the path to a newer you!

What if getting a college degree involved little more than listening to podcasts and taking tests?

Podcasts can be squeezed into every crack in every day, like riding in a car, working out at the gym, going on a bike ride, or waiting at the doctors office. Most college classes cannot!

Colleges and higher ed are about to be transformed and it is in this transformation where amazing new opportunities will spring to life.

At the moment, we don’t know if the disruption will come from AI, videos, podcasts, mentor networks, or something else. But ten years from now, the process for getting a college degree, learning new skills, or simply brushing up on your latest hobby techniques will look vastly different than it does today.

We all have our own idea of what success should look like. But our notion that college degrees are a must-have component of success is quickly eroding.

For teenagers, their heroes are people who have launched their own video games, started a band, filmed a rockumentary, created a mobile app, written a graphic novel, or won a major video game tournament. To them, the accolades and notoriety that come with this kind of experience far outweighs the tedium involved in credentialing new skills.

For others, nothing resonates quite like being involved in an authentic accomplishment-based learning experience where meaningful work is making a meaningful impact.

Experience trumps diplomas every day of the week.

That said, we still have a need for credentialing.

Our Mandate for Humanity

One of our underlying mandates has been the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next. And no, we’ve never been very good at it.

History is filled with stories of invading armies determined to wipe out every possible remnant of ancestral tribes, races, cultures, and ethnicities, and in doing so, many of the inventions, discoveries, and research projects that have brought us to this wobbly point in history have been lost along the way.

Every time there has been a burning of books, destruction of libraries and museums, or dismantling of schools, our ancestors have been forced to relearn, rediscover, and reinvent each of these pillars of accomplishment one sand pebble at a time.

Simply put, it is our ability to look back at everything we’ve learned, discovered, invented, and imagined in the past that helps jumpstart every new generation of young people by placing the starting blocks on a much higher plain of understanding. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Over the years we’ve developed a number of tools for doing this including libraries, books, museums, colleges, and more recently countless forms of digital archive sites including YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Until recently, the greatest responsibility for this generational transfer of knowledge has fallen on colleges.

In much the same way books have evolved into a convenient way of packaging information, college courses have become the default form of packaging learning units.

Yet, anyone who’s written a book knows how onerous and demanding the process can be. And creating a curriculum for a college course is equally demanding.

Of course we’ve seen a number of shortcut processes come out of the woodwork, but for truly meaningful books and courses, it’s still a painful process.

More recently, however, the online digital world has given us a completely new set of tools to work with, and the reinvention of learning processes will send shockwaves of disruption through our existing school systems.

Futurist Thomas Frey - Listening to a podcast becomes an intensely personal experience!

Listening to a podcast becomes an intensely personal experience!

Enter the Podcast Universe

At the DaVinci Institute, we hosted our first Podcast Bootcamp in 2005, shortly after podcasting itself was invented.

Podcasting was first created in 2004 by former MTV video jockey Adam Curry and software developer Dave Winer. Curry wrote a program called iPodder that enabled him to automatically download Internet radio broadcasts to his iPod. Several developers improved upon his idea, and podcasting was officially born. Curry now hosts a show called The Daily Source Code, which is still one of the most popular podcasts on the Internet.

The name itself came from the idea of loading audio files onto an Apple iPod.

I remember how our Podcast Bootcamp turned into a bit of a geek-fest because the whole process of recording and loading audio files online was still in the prehistoric, cutting-edge early years.

Today, most of the rough edges are gone and podcasting itself has become a massively fast growing and hugely popular medium.

Currently there are over 850,000 podcasts featuring over 30 million episodes. And these numbers are moving up a steep growth curve with projections that we’ll break the million podcast barrier later this year.

51% of people in the US have listened to podcasts, and the audiences are split into 56% men and 44% women.

Most of the growth in podcasting started in 2014, with 157% growth since then, when smartphones started to become more podcast-friendly.

Right now, podcasting is free from government regulation. Podcasters don’t need to buy a license to broadcast their programming, as radio stations do, and they don’t need to conform to the Federal Communication Commission’s broadcast decency regulations. That means anything goes — from four-letter words to sexually explicit content. Copyright law does apply to podcasting, though. Podcasters can copyright or license their work, and Creative Commons is just one online resource for copyrights and licenses.

Futurist Thomas Frey: Testing will be a key component of every future learning system!

Testing will be a key component of every future learning system!

Inventing Podcast College

What if college lectures, with a single professor discussing a topic, were replaced with 2, 3, or 4 very bright people discussing the same subject matter on a podcast?

Podcast courses already exist, and many colleges already have their own podcast course offerings, but so far no one has managed to pull together an organically scalable YouTube-for-podcast-courses site with testing and revenue sharing that offers legitimate credentialing for next generation learners.

Here are some of the components that could make it a rapidly scalable online service:

  • Audio and Video

    Since there are no one-size-fits-all forms of learning, podcasts will include both audio and video.

  • AI-Driven Recommendation Engine

    Finding good podcasts is easy. But finding great ones is hard. Over time an AI recommendation engine will learn your interests, quirkiness, idiosyncrasies, and personal preferences.

  • Industry-Driven Certification Standards

    Every profession, personal skill, or area of learning has logical points where experts in that field would consider the necessary learning to be sufficiently complete. But every profession or skill is different.

  • Instant Language Translatio

    Switching from French to English to Mandarin should be automatic based on your profile.

  • Official Record Keeping System

    Building a system with impeccable integrity means that the system for archiving the accomplishments of every participant must be secure, private, and managed by an organization with impeccable credentials. While many people will think that a government-run archive is the best solution, the best possible record-keeping system will be one that transcends governmental boundary lines.

  • Participative Wealth Pricing

    The revenue stream generated by each courseware unit will be divided between the courseware producer, distribution company, transaction company, system operations company, and the official record keeping system. Maybe more. Courseware prices need to be kept low to make courseware accessible to anyone interested in learning.

  • Multi-Dimensional Tagging Engine

    Tagging will help train the AI. Much of the system usability will be driven by multi-dimensional tagging engines that will include:

    • Personal Rating Tags

      Upon completion, each student will be asked to rate the pod-course. Courses will be graded on accuracy, quality of the learning experience, ease of use, and overall effectiveness.

    • Quality Assessment

      Listeners will up-vote and down-vote podcasts so the best-of-the-best will rise to the top.

    • Truth Assessment

      Virtually every aspect of society has their own version of the ‘truth’ – religious truths, scientific truths, legal truths, etc. For this reason, individual groups will place their tags of approval or disapproval on courses. For example, organizations like the American Chemical Society, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Focus on the Family, American Civil Liberties Union, National Rifle Association, National Education Association, or the Catholic Church can all review the new courseware that is being introduced and make a determination as to whether or not it meets their criteria.

    • Taxonomy Tags

      Invariably, courseware topics will be understood differently by every student. For this reason, allowing students to place descriptor tags on all completed courses will create the necessary taxonomy markers so an AI recommendation engine can find it.

    • Prerequisite & Post-Requisite Tags

      Knowledge builds on knowledge. As an example, students cannot study literature until they know how to read, and they cannot study computer programming until they know math and algebra. So courses have to happen sequentially, and it becomes imperative to develop a system for sequencing courses based on the order of which learning must take place.

    • Comment Tags

      Comment sections will allow students to voice their own thoughts on each course.

Futurist Thomas Frey: Podcast college has the potential to become the most liberating shift in learning in all history!

Podcast college has the potential to become the most liberating shift in learning in all history!

Launching the Business of “You”

How many traditional schools are currently prepping students to be “freelancer-ready?” In a word – none. It’s simply not happening.

Instead, the hard transition from student grunt to skilled worker is occurring in radically different ways – through friends, through trial and error, and through existing project teams.

Mentorship is quickly becoming the new classroom.

When LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman said, “You need to think and act like you’re running a start-up of ‘you’,” he’s referring to your own career.

Every new free agent that enters the project-to-project job world quickly realizes that their growing lists of questions simply don’t have textbook answers. They have to find their own answers, and the quickest way is through peer groups and mentors.

Living in the U.S., the country with the highest educated waitresses and bartenders in the world, an increasingly vocal underground feels they’ve been lied to. Academic credentials no longer live up to the promise implied with every new student loan that’s being applied for.

That’s one of the reasons coworking is becoming so trendy; they’re looking for a better network.

Futurist Thomas Frey: Your next career move may only be a few podcasts away!

Your next career move may only be a few podcasts away!

Final Thoughts

The best schooling occurs when you have a project where you can instantly apply the things you learned.

Writing a book, receiving a patent, or starting a business are all noteworthy symbols of achievement in today’s world. But being the author of a book that sells 50,000 copies, or inventing a product that a million people buy, or building a business that grosses over $10 million in annual sales are all significant accomplishments far more meaningful than their academic equivalents.

Most of what happens in today’s universities is based on “symbols of achievement,” not actual accomplishments.

Academic competitions pit students against each other to produce results that best match their teacher’s expectations. Only rarely will they produce anything noteworthy.

Completing a class is nothing more than a symbol of achievement. Similarly, completing many classes and receiving a diploma is noteworthy, but still only a distant cousin to a real accomplishment.

No, this doesn’t mean that classroom training has no value. But, what we achieve in a classroom is at least one level of abstraction removed from a real-world accomplishment.

In the business world, it’s only an accomplishment if someone is willing to pay for it.

The global marketplace is not looking for people who have learned how to be great students. It wants results.

Podcast College has the potential to short circuit the path to a newer you!

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