04 | Online vs. IRL Learning

When universities go online

Bryne Hobart has an interesting piece on education in American Greatness arguing the long decline of higher education in America has begun. While I agree with this idea broadly, I believe it’s less about the decline of higher education but rather the increase in acceptance of online education. When I think of the value of college education, I refer back to the notion of positional scarcity that Alex Danco explored a few weeks ago. Higher education is one of the best examples of positional scarcity, as it is often attributed with “legitimacy” and “prestige.” The experience of being on a campus with a few thousand other students, unknowingly building your network has proven to pay dividends in the future. In most industries, this stamp of approval from a college remains relevant. But tech, of course, is embracing the model that technology enables. Democratizing access to high-quality information and education.

Colleges began as a place of research and exploration of academic frontiers, but it’s quickly evolved to become the place to build your social network and get a high-earning job right now out of college. Tech companies have long explored how to bring education to the masses, online in a high-quality manner that doesn’t cost a small fortune. Khan Academy, MOOCs, and even programs like Lambda School have paved a path for alternative learning with limited cost. Up until now, they failed to truly compete with universities. The community aspect has been a challenge and accountability with free educational resources causes student turnover. Feedback and mentorship can be nonexistent and online credentials and certification don’t seem to hold the same weight in name as universities.

Which brings us to Covid. Every university is being forced to compete with online education. I don’t think this is a model that will prove to be worth $40K for Zoom classes. Nor do I think this a long-term model that educators will want to adopt unless it becomes necessary. I do think this opens up the broader conversation of online alternatives. Universities are competing with the plethora of online education available. I don’t believe that higher education is going to disappear anytime soon, but I do think the normalization of getting an education outside of the college classroom is on the rise. So the question remains - will covid create greater acceptance around the legitimacy of pursuing a non-traditional path of higher education online?


On Silicon Valley & building: Marc Andreessen wrote a call-to-action piece, titled “It’s Time to Build” that calls for the disruption of our government and how we will build after coronavirus. I’ve seen a few pieces in response, I really enjoyed this from Jose Luis Ricon and this from Jerry Brito. Jerry’s piece articulates the broader question of what “we” want as a collective. In order to build like Marc says we need to there needs to be some agreement on what that even means. Many of the tech’s greatest companies over the past decade have fought against regulation and created markets in places where they were least expected (e.g., Uber and Airbnb). An attitude of civil disobedience might just be incredibly rewarding for society. So the question may be, what do we want but we’re not allowed to have?

In other tech musings, John Luttig’s excellent piece is a must-read, covering the diminishing tailwinds of the internet-era and how SV may operate moving forward. While I agree that Internet-era growth may not be the playbook in the 2020s, I feel like the world is at a prime time for radical ideas in new markets. The internet is no longer this new thing to grasp, it's integral to every company. I don’t necessarily believe that we’re at the end of innovation via the internet, I just think it might come from some of the less sexy places. Education, infrastructure, and e-commerce still have a long ways to go in my opinion.

On “unlimited” money printing and debt cycle: Ray Dalio’s been sharing chapters of his new book, Changing World Order, which discusses money and debt cycles in a clear, concise manner. I’m a big fan of Ray’s writing as I find myself naturally nodding along to his conclusions while I read along. It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the Fed’s actions in the past two months. I’m doing my best to understand the bizarro macro environment right now, and Ray tells it to you straight.

On dollarization: Max shared an excellent write up this month on crypto dollars and the broader evolution of the eurodollar market. Eurodollar market refers to unsecured USD held outside of the U.S. jurisdiction. It’s a massive market and reveals the interdependence the extent to which the world really depends on the dollar. The piece explores the potential for stablecoins in crypto, to behave in a similar manner, providing exposure to the dollar around the world. A fascinating rabbithole to go down.

Monthly Mood

I love these war style COVID posters from Annie Atkins. April 2020 in a nutshell.

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