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A term we hear quite frequently in the education space is “disruptor”. But when something gets thrown around so loosely, it’s easy to lose track of its original meaning.

Simply put, the central purpose of disruption is meeting the student’s needs more effectively. Education organizations must look at the traditional school system and ask themselves, “What parts of this just don’t make sense for today’s students?” Many organizations would likely agree that the biggest problem with the traditional system is that it does not adequately prepare students for the ultra-competitive workforce.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • How traditional course programs inhibit specialized skills
  • Why stackable credentials are so appropriate for today’s students
  • Why the classic “college experience” is still crucial for incoming freshmen

This week, I spoke to Scott Schwab, co-founder of Bottega, the first regionally accredited “Bootcamp” school. Bottega was inspired by Scott’s own experience as an undergraduate business student. He attended college to learn the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. But in those four years, Scott never wrote business plan, pitched a business idea, or did anything to prepare him for the reality of starting a business. This just happens to be the main focus of Bottega: giving students the exact skills they need to succeed after graduation.

Students Want Specific Skills, Not General Knowledge

College is supposed to help students develop the most relevant skills for their desired industries. But it’s very difficult for students to do this when they are required to break their education into semesters and take completely unrelated classes simultaneously. A student looking to develop a specific skill might only be able to take one relevant class per semester. And how do universities even know which skills are most relevant for each industry?

Bottega offers logical solutions for all of these dilemmas. Thanks to their partnerships with industry leaders, Bottega courses are directly influenced by the current job market. Students take highly specific courses so they can focus on building the most relevant skills as quickly as possible. Proficiency in a specific skill is eventually confirmed through a special credential. The student then focuses on becoming proficient in another skill, and then “stacks” each credential to build a degree-like certification.

What About Students Who Haven’t Chosen A Career?

Despite Bottega’s stark differences with traditional universities, Scott believes there is still tremendous value in the classic “college experience.” After all, not every college freshman knows what they want to do with their life. They find their path by taking courses in a wide variety of areas. But once they do find their path, Scott says students should be able to “drop in and drop out,” or take individual courses whenever they like. They shouldn’t have to wait several years to take a very important course, or be required to take courses that have nothing to do with their specialty.

Another major focus of Bottega is internships. Since course loads are based on the job market, students are put into internships so they can learn which skills are losing or gaining relevance and decide which courses to take next. In Scott’s opinion, this is a huge reason why a great deal of Generation Z is considering alternatives to traditional universities. Today’s students want real world experience, so universities must build relationships with industry leaders and offer internships as courses.

Nowadays, Industry Exposure Is Just A Few Clicks Away

The fact that Bottega even exists speaks volumes about how different today’s students are compared to generations’ past. It is now fairly common for a high school graduate to have a specific career in mind. Why? Think of how much information is at their fingertips. By the time they graduate high school, today’s students have already been exposed to a myriad of industries.

Education marketers must remember to treat their audiences as if they have clear career expectations. Prospective students need schools that understand their priorities. Your marketing strategies should always strive to convey the message “We know what you really want out of this experience.”

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