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UnCollege: What do you think?
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thedevilsdaughter Offline
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UnCollege: What do you think?

I am an UnCollege fellow and I would like to know the general attitude towards the program on these forums. I used to follow the forums pretty heavily a number of years ago and this is where I first heard about the blog.

Depending on the general attitude, I would like to provide you with an honest review of the program.

My mom says I'm part of the Anti-School System movement. Yeah, she really does call it the A.S.S. movement.
02-22-2014 07:04 PM
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RE: UnCollege: What do you think?

Hi, and welcome. I think quite a few people here are interested in exploring post-secondary options, and a review of the program would be interesting.

Personally, I've been following UnCollege since it was first announced, and the Gap Year program is one example of what I think there need to be more of: college alternatives that focus on what's most important to learn, in less total time.

Your mom's characterization of questioning school sounds similar to the parents of many here, albeit even more harsh. I'd say many parents don't even acknowledge the existence of a school-related movement.

Anyway, I'm curious to here your thoughts on UnCollege... and you might want to explain a bit about it for those who are unfamiliar (or I can, but go for it if you'd like.)

To everyone else: have you heard of Dale Stephens and UnCollege? Any thoughts about it?

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02-22-2014 10:39 PM
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Uncollegereview Offline
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UnCollege: What do you think?

I'm also in the program currently with thedevilsdaughter (we are working on providing proof right now) and I'd also be willing to provide a review. Before I do, is there any aspect of the program you would like me to focus on? Schedules, expectations, what the house is like, etc?
02-23-2014 07:10 AM
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RE: UnCollege: What do you think?

(02-23-2014 07:10 AM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  I'm also in the program currently with thedevilsdaughter (we are working on providing proof right now) and I'd also be willing to provide a review. Before I do, is there any aspect of the program you would like me to focus on? Schedules, expectations, what the house is like, etc?

All of those things sound interesting. I think a lot of people on here aren't really familiar with alternatives to college. I've linked to UnCollege, and some other college alternative programs, quite a few times on here, but I think personal stories may do a better job of showing people what the program is like.

I assume you two are in the residential, "Launch" phase of the program, which the web site describes (program.)

"A ten-week intensive residential program in San Francisco, including accommodation and eight meals per week"

This is one of four phases of the program, which is intended to provide life-relevant learning and skills that often aren't covered in college, or that are covered over a quit long (4+ year) and often much high overall cost.

Is that accurate? How's it going for you two so far... and how can people be introduced to the concept?

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02-23-2014 07:32 AM
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UnCollege: What do you think?

You're right. We are in the Launch Phase.

To explain UnCollege, I will quote Dale J. Stephens in how he told us to explain it.

“UnCollege is a community for self-directed learners.

If someone supports the general idea, I may add something like In response to the rising cost of college.

If someone seems skeptical, I might say Because while school works for some, it doesn't for others, and those people deserve respect and a home.” - Email from January 5th, 2014

To expand on that, I will add that the Gap Year is for young people between ages 18 and 28. The program is divided into four parts.

The first part is known as the Launch Phase. You live with the other fellows from your cohort for ten weeks and attend workshops. The second phase is the Voyage Phase. In this phase, you travel abroad. The next part is the Internship. You either work or intern for three months over the summer to gain experience in a field of your choice. The final three months is set aside for finishing up your personal Project.

I will go more in depth with my review.

My mom says I'm part of the Anti-School System movement. Yeah, she really does call it the A.S.S. movement.
02-23-2014 08:23 AM
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UnCollege: What do you think?

"I assume you two are in the residential, "Launch" phase of the program, which the web site describes (program.)"

Yes, we are at the end of week 7/10 right now for the launch phase. It's been an interesting experience and to be honest, a costly one. Keep in mind for my responses that we are only the second group. With 4 groups per year, the program could be radically different within a year or two, so even if my experience was negative I can't completely say it's not worth it.



"This is one of four phases of the program, which is intended to provide life-relevant learning and skills that often aren't covered in college, or that are covered over a quit long (4+ year) and often much high overall cost."

I would say they are trying, but so far the product is not as advertised. They offer a few workshops during the weekdays led by Dale or some of his staff, ranging over topics like speed-reading, negotiation, how to promote yourself/your brand, and a few for planning our abroad travels, internships, and projects. I find the workshops to be nebulous and somewhat vague.
For example, I find a good method of discerning whether or not I understand a topic is to be able to explain it to someone else (as in sometimes teaching others a concept is the best way to understand it yourself). With these workshops, I don't come out of that room able to explain a new idea or skill, I'm unsure of whether or not I actually learned anything. In a classroom taking notes can be worthwhile, you come out with 3-4 new pages of information, but with these workshops it's harder to discern what is worth writing down because they offer little "practical" advice; many of them consist of something akin to a "top ten things you should do to accomplish ______," and if I've learned anything it's that top ten lists don't offer good advice for mastering a skill (especially in something using vague terms like "leadership," "networking," etc). Many of the workshops can, in fact, be simplified into an email with online resources for us to study. I don't find them worthwhile and for the last few weeks have to started to skip most of them.
We do have other workshops called "firesides," which I do find to be useful. In a fireside, an expert/professional in a field is brought in and we have a group interview (or sometimes dinner), exchange ideas, business cards, etc. Some notable examples are the founder of Codeschool, the Thiel Fellowship's program director (as you might know, Dale's Thiel money went to starting this program, and a few of us have been to the Thiel Fellow house), a nice lady involved in venture capitol (she handles a few hundred million dollars of investments), and a few others I can't remember. These are definitely more practical, we can talk with people who are experts, successful, and who have contacts we can potentially ask for internships or resources.

We are encouraged to meet people, go to meetups, invite people over for impromptu firesides, etc. I've been using Meetup.com quite liberally for that and I can usually find 2-3 per week to go to. Our schedules are not restrictive except for maybe having to go to weekly house meetings and things like that, but as far as the content of the program we can pick and choose what to attend. San Francisco is an excellent environment for this, everywhere you look there is another start-up trying to make a name for itself, so depending on what industry you're interested in, you could be swimming in opportunity.

The price, however, is the biggest shortcoming. We paid 12-13k for this, and the prices (available online) are only going up. If the program offered much more substantive information or opportunity it would be worthwhile, but after the Launch Phase, Uncollege provides little direction other than checking up on us to see if we are meeting our goals. Combined with the fact that what Uncollege does provide is marginally worthwhile, I can't help but wonder why I spent 13k to attend the program. (Have you ever seen Hitch with Will Smith? There's a part at the end where the lady asks him what he did to train Kevin James to be a cool guy, and Smith says something like "...I guess I didn't do anything, it was all him." That's the feeling I get from Uncollege, they gave us the environment but not a lot more). Several of us have theorized that we could have just used the money to share an apartment in the city and still accomplish nearly the same things as attending the program (while saving thousands for our accounts). It's conflicting - we spent all this money to realize that we didn't have to spend all this money.

The solution: I'll be honest, this program has been great for me, I've met some great people, experienced living on my own (most of us are 19-21) I'm only now realizing it's shortcomings. But it's not worth the price, not yet at least (and the funny thing is most the money goes to renting the house, the staff barely makes any money, it's hardly even profitable). I couldn't have done this with my own ideas. I'm new to the whole idea of alternative education so these were new concepts to me, but really, just "fake it 'till you make it" is a good start (I live in a very different culture than what I find in SF). Get rid of your distractions, empty your room of clutter and find something you want to learn and do it. Get out of the house everyday, go to a coffee-shop and do research on your laptop, cold-email some experts and ask about good ways to learn [Insert Skill Here] (be sure to look up some guides for it if you don't know how) https://rapportive.com/ is a good source for this, as it loads contact info so you know you have the right email if you're just trying to guess it. Dale's book is also a good resource. He has awesome ideas, it just that the execution of the program has been poor so far.

The thing is we are the beta testers in a way; this program isn't well known, often ridiculed by those who can't see what's wrong with education today, but in a year or two the program could be well worth your time. Keep an eye on it and watch how it changes.



Quick addendum: I'll be gone for several hours, but I'll answer any questions you have as best I can. I'm used to being on Reddit where people ask for proof during AMA's, so if you need proof let me know and I'll see what I can do.
(This post was last modified: 02-23-2014 08:43 AM by Uncollegereview.)
02-23-2014 08:40 AM
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RE: UnCollege: What do you think?

Interesting, Uncollegereview... thanks for the post. A view from the inside helps a lot.

One of my core interests is in designing and helping promote alternative education, particularly of the "what will help you figure out and manage your life" variety. Obviously (to "us" who question college), traditional college has its issues, and price tag, as well.

So, how can what UnCollege provides be changed and improved? I noticed one somewhat similar program, Mycelium, used to have a 9-month, rather expensive program. (I believe it was over $10k, though I don't see a price any more) Now, they advertise a much shorter (12 week), and cheaper ($1500) "Learning Journey."

Living away from home for the first time, and having the opportunity to live with others with similar interests, certainly has value. One question I have, though, is rather than paying a large lump sum to either a college or an UnCollege-style program, maybe it'd be better to ask how people can learn to budget their own money and make their own purchasing decisions with whatever cash or borrowed money they might have access to?

Bundled offerings of various kinds can have value for a lot of reasons, including making an easy-to-promote product offering, and providing a similar packaged experience for multiple people. But, maybe a consulting format where people piece together things that are most relevant to them, and fitting for their budget, life goals, and risk tolerance, would make more sense.

I have a bunch more thoughts, including responses to particular lines in your post, but I'll break this into parts so the resulting text isn't too overwhelming. (And I'll do some replies over the next few days.)

Even though there haven't been other responses here (yet), a lot of people on this site are soon going to be considering post-secondary options, including how they'll first live on their own and get started in some kind of job or career. So this is quite a relevant topic to further discuss, perhaps even with a chat or hangout.

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02-26-2014 03:53 PM
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RE: UnCollege: What do you think?

We (the other fellow) have been discussing how to best give feedback for something that can actually be changed. Its difficult because while it's easy for me to say "these workshops are vague" or "I'm not getting the value of my money," I don't have a clear solution on how to change or improve those aspects of the program. Some things can be solved by simply offering them as an option - maybe Dale could simply email us a list of online resources for some of the simpler workshops, and the more complex ones could involve bringing in more professionals. And of course that ends up conflicting with the entire paradox of making a curriculum for those who are anti-curriculum


The best idea we have had is to turn Uncollege into 2 parts:
The first would be for dedicated "unschoolers" who are used to alternative education. It would be networking and project oriented and built for very self-driven people (basically the ideal person Dale speaks of in his book). More likely a year long, involving a few weeks in SF (or a house somewhere) and then a project or internship.
And the second would be only 10 weeks long, a boot camp of sorts designed to instruct those new to this idea in methods of self-direction, how to get to where they want to go (or even figuring out what they want to do). It would involve a longer stay at the house and then a voyage.
Offering a course about budgeting/living away from home is good, but so far as I've seen a lot of what people really need to learn (anything) is to really dive into the situation, ex to learn a new language its a good idea to spend time in that foreign country. The best way to learn to live away from home is to do so (albeit with preparation beforehand).

Of course, the unfortunate thing is the program has to be flexible at its heart, otherwise it becomes an institution itself. It has to be able to change for every group of fellows yet still be able to offer every group something worthwhile, which is a delicate balance, especially for something only 6 months old
(This post was last modified: 02-27-2014 11:57 AM by Uncollegereview.)
02-27-2014 11:53 AM
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RE: UnCollege: What do you think?

(02-27-2014 11:53 AM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  We (the other fellow) have been discussing how to best give feedback for something that can actually be changed. Its difficult because while it's easy for me to say "these workshops are vague" or "I'm not getting the value of my money," I don't have a clear solution on how to change or improve those aspects of the program. Some things can be solved by simply offering them as an option - maybe Dale could simply email us a list of online resources for some of the simpler workshops, and the more complex ones could involve bringing in more professionals. And of course that ends up conflicting with the entire paradox of making a curriculum for those who are anti-curriculum

A list of resources could be good. In fact, I imagine at least a good portion of the content those workshops contain could also be presented in video form. That'd give you the option of reviewing it later, and facilitating your own discussions with others about what they say. (There'd be the question of what you would be permitted/encouraged to share, then.)

On that note, have you seen Dale's CreativeLive workshop?

Learn Anything: Hack Your Education

I watched a good portion of that when it was livestreamed (for free), and I thought it had some good content... though quite a few parts overlap with things I've come across elsewhere. I'm quite a fan of CreativeLive's format, though, blending in-person workshops with a larger, distributed real-time audience who can also react, pose questions, and learn from the live sessions.

(The way CreativeLive works is, to watch beyond the livestream, you have to pay ($149 in that case) for permanent access to the videos.)

Any thoughts on that format, perhaps as a component of a Gap Year-style program? (Two of the currently listed Gap Year mentors also run workshops in Dale's CL course.)

(02-27-2014 11:53 AM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  The best idea we have had is to turn Uncollege into 2 parts:
The first would be for dedicated "unschoolers" who are used to alternative education. It would be networking and project oriented and built for very self-driven people (basically the ideal person Dale speaks of in his book). More likely a year long, involving a few weeks in SF (or a house somewhere) and then a project or internship.
And the second would be only 10 weeks long, a boot camp of sorts designed to instruct those new to this idea in methods of self-direction, how to get to where they want to go (or even figuring out what they want to do). It would involve a longer stay at the house and then a voyage.

So, basically offer one option similar to the current Gap Year program, and a second one that's primarily the "stay at a house with other participants" part of the program?

One thing to consider is how similar models of learning might scale, either within UnCollege, or in general. Lots of people currently plan to attend college for their post-secondary experience, even as many people are questioning both the cost and (often after they start) the experience itself.

And, as you can see on these forums, many people find secondary school boring, painful, and irrelevant to life. Personally, I think one solution in general is to help people explore their interests and try things. The question is then, how much is this a learner-initiated and learner-pursued process, vs. one where mentors and guides design experiences, and provide direction and feedback.

(And of course, who pays for, and who gets paid for, what along the way... and how people's sense of fairness and derived value fits along the way.)

(02-27-2014 11:53 AM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  Offering a course about budgeting/living away from home is good, but so far as I've seen a lot of what people really need to learn (anything) is to really dive into the situation, ex to learn a new language its a good idea to spend time in that foreign country. The best way to learn to live away from home is to do so (albeit with preparation beforehand).

Yeah, I agree. That's a lot of what I had in mind. I think there are some things where a "class" (video content, articles, curriculum, exercises) might help with... like Dan Ariely's Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior (addressing decision-making and behavioral economics) or Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights, or various CreativeLive courses.

But, putting all that into practice is where the real "learning" arguably works. That's one argument for giving students adjustable, day-by-day decisions over their tuition, meal, and housing spending... and even spending on coaches, mentors, and workshops for that matter... rather than bundling everything.

Then again, one of the advantages of a bundled program, whether UnCollege Gap year or college, is that it can probably be more easily "sold" to possible funders, family members, and so on, who want to see a program based on a plan, rather than people just winging it with their spending.

That poses some interesting questions, eh?

(02-27-2014 11:53 AM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  Of course, the unfortunate thing is the program has to be flexible at its heart, otherwise it becomes an institution itself. It has to be able to change for every group of fellows yet still be able to offer every group something worthwhile, which is a delicate balance, especially for something only 6 months old

Right, that's the challenge. Arguably, programs should be flexible for the students that are in them, too. How to manage that is a question for course/program designers. It's harder the more you scale things up (like running a MOOC), though at least theoretically more feasible with smaller groups of 10 or so.

And, the idea of standardization circles back to the question of curriculum. Are there some things everybody (at least in a given program, or style of program) should know and do, to get their certificate, or similar "progress report" to whoever might be paying for things?

That's something to think about, particularly in the case of many people of college age who don't have a big pile of their own cash to work with. If people are depending on funders who are looking for at least some metrics of learning and performance (parents, banks, scholarship providers, Pave funders), they're going to need a program that has some measurable elements and/or deliverables.

And then, there's the question, beyond learning and growing for its own sake, how knowledge, experience, and skills can be demonstrated to employers, clients, and the world at large. That's a big thing people tend to pay for when they sign up for traditional degrees, so it's something for alternative program designers to consider as well.

Thoughts?

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02-27-2014 01:03 PM
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RE: UnCollege: What do you think?

@Uncollegereview and @thedevilsdaughter, one question I have is, what are your plans and ideas about life beyond "college" (or UnCollege)?

What are your interests? Do you have a specific idea of what you'd like to do in life, or are you still trying to figure it out?

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03-02-2014 03:57 AM
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UnCollege: What do you think?

"On that note, have you seen Dale's CreativeLive workshop?"

No, hadn't heard about that. I feel really behind on my social radar, my hometown was very unlike SF, I hadn't heard of Peter Thiel, experienced the startup culture, etc. Literally everything about this was new to me


"So, basically offer one option similar to the current Gap Year program, and a second one that's primarily the "stay at a house with other participants" part of the program?"

Basically yes. One would be like comparable to a boot camp, the other would be like officer candidate school. So when you're done with either program you leave either a private or an officer, but they both offer a step up based on how new you are to the idea of alternative edu.


"one question I have is, what are your plans and ideas about life beyond "college" (or UnCollege)? What are your interests? Do you have a specific idea of what you'd like to do in life, or are you still trying to figure it out?"

I'm not totally sold on the idea of unschooling. Ideally of course, education would be more flexible and unschooling wouldn't be needed. Basically I see unschooling as the reform schools need, but I don't think it can compete on its own except in rare (Zuckerberg/Gates/Jobs) circumstances.

It is unfortunate that degrees are still needed in their current state, but if they eliminated all the gen-eds and really focused on what the degree is about then I would be much more open to it. Honestly, I do intent to go back to college when I'm done here, though I'll probably find some kind of technical school and get a 2-year degree just so I'm able to learn though relevant classes.

I'm hesitant to reveal my specific interests, to be honest I don't know how likely it is that Uncollege follows this website, and even though it's very unlikely there's other reasons I want to wait a few weeks before getting more specific. I will say that I have daily existential crises about my purpose in life and what is worthwhile from a global perspective, so I guess I'm still figuring it out, but I do have a skill-set I'm building.

Honestly I'm a bit lost. Through all the online services I've signed up for while here, I get dozens of emails for meetups, lifehacker articles, and a dozen different notifications for job sites, internship sites, and skill learning websites. It's a little hard to keep track of in an orderly manner, and especially difficult to discern any measure of progress or accomplishment.


As a final note, I frankly don't like the whole startup pressure. Everything about Uncollege revolves around getting a cool idea, getting together a dev team and building a startup company, but I have no interest in marketing, business, etc. I just want to do [SKILL]. I see all these startups every day excited about all their business ideas and honestly I just can't respect that. Yeah some people have good ideas, but half the ones I see just sound like "dude, I had this awesome idea...you see, we made this toaster, but it also has a clock on it!" Do you understand? Its somewhat an incorrect philosophy, but right now I see it as "you're either making thousands off an app/website or your project isn't worth my investment." I'm just not ready to get excited for every other idea people talk to me about even though they are pouring their life into it, I just see them as fooling themselves about what I see as an unsustainable and poor quality idea. I know I sound really contemptuous of them, but its the best way I can describe what I feel about it. Uncollege is different, I can tell its more thought out, but it still has serious flaws that make me question its worth.
03-03-2014 07:08 PM
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RE: UnCollege: What do you think?

I wrote quite a lot in response to that... hopefully the extended blocks of text (and links) have some kind of value. Smile

One of my passions is writing these extended bits of content, but figuring out how to do so in a way that's digestible and interesting to people has been a challenge. That "tl;dr" feeling can be tough to overcome, both from the perspective of writing, and reading, longer bits of text. Feel free to review or critique this as well... one day I hope to arrange bits of items into a form that could make up, or be part of, a more formal learning sequence of some kind.

(03-03-2014 07:08 PM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  "On that note, have you seen Dale's CreativeLive workshop?"

No, hadn't heard about that. I feel really behind on my social radar, my hometown was very unlike SF, I hadn't heard of Peter Thiel, experienced the startup culture, etc. Literally everything about this was new to me

It's interesting that isn't part of the content they include in the Gap Year program. Ultimately, a big part of designing a college-alternative program is picking out bits of content (or facilitating workshops and conversations.) So, there's the question of what elements to include. That's something I've given a lot of thought to, particularly since people differ on what they find interesting and worthwhile.

(And, sometimes, a person needs the right kind of experiences or situation to find a given piece of content, lecture, or experience relevant.)

In my case, I learned about Peter Thiel and UnCollege in 2011, as I was scouring the web, trying to figure out next steps in my life. I tried starting a startup, of sorts, in 2010, with one partner, and we ended up biting off way more than we could chew. I ended up in a very bad situation financially and searching for what to do next... with the goal of addressing the needs of the sort of people who dislike traditional school, including college.

That led me to spending a huge amount of time since then scouring the web for resources and thinking about how to combine them into some kind of meaningful sequence(s.) I've scoured the web at many points, but from 2011 on, I started finding a LOT more people talking about what was wrong with education... but figuring out what to do about it, personally and in general, was still a big question in my mind.

In 2012, I started connecting with others who were also building things. I signed up for UnCollege's short-lived forums, and there, an early UnCollege volunteer, Priscilla Sanstead, invited me to a Facebook group called UnCollege Network. She also introduced me to a number of other education-related groups on FB, like Lisa Nielsen's groups, and that was all quite an experience compared to being alone, searching... or wondering how to transform the worlds of powerlessness and despair many on School Survival are unfortunately stuck dealing with.

UnCollege Network was only loosely affiliated with UnCollege, though, and eventually Dale made it clear that the group was completely separate from UnCollege and its focus on Gap Year. (Earlier on, UnCollege was explained as a "movement." but they ending up narrowing their focus to the Gap Year programs... which, for a startup, makes sense... but this more open networking group has ending up becoming less of an actively managed "community," as Priscilla took her community management passions elsewhere (Badass Teachers Association, in particular.)

Near the end of 2012, I started connecting with educators on G+, and I started spending more time there. Some are interested in starting new schools, and some are in higher ed, grappling with questions of their roles there. and the role of new trends like MOOCs. Through those circles on G+, I've discovered and taken part in several education-related MOOCs, which have been interesting... but I echo your complaint that often even innovative programs are missing something. And, often, the feedback loops for getting input from learners/participants has pretty substantial delays.

That's one problem I'm personally interested in addressing. You can see an extreme form of that in typical junior high and high school scenarios that people here discuss... teachers assign things the students don't like, but there's no option to ask for changes within the class. The curriculum and lesson plans are set, and that's that... whether or not the students are finding them engaging.

(03-03-2014 07:08 PM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  "So, basically offer one option similar to the current Gap Year program, and a second one that's primarily the "stay at a house with other participants" part of the program?"

Basically yes. One would be like comparable to a boot camp, the other would be like officer candidate school. So when you're done with either program you leave either a private or an officer, but they both offer

a step up based on how new you are to the idea of alternative edu.

Interesting. There's also the question of how programs like this relate to a person's path regarding traditional college. For example, I can imagine people who drop out of college, but who are still looking for a path forward (like me at many points) having somewhat different needs than someone who's literally looking for a pre-college "gap year," or someone who is looking to carve a path with little or no traditional college attendance.

Another factor in all that is how many college courses are now available as MOOCs or in other open forms like on YouTube. These are materials that can potentially be utilized in customized, non-college education programs (including at the secondary level, as well as post-secondary.) There's potentially a role, then, for learning coaches, who work individually with students to piece together the content and experiences that work for them.

(How that relates to general, planned "programs" of various kinds is something to figure out.)

(03-03-2014 07:08 PM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  "one question I have is, what are your plans and ideas about life beyond "college" (or UnCollege)? What are your interests? Do you have a specific idea of what you'd like to do in life, or are you still trying to figure it out?"

I'm not totally sold on the idea of unschooling. Ideally of course, education would be more flexible and unschooling wouldn't be needed. Basically I see unschooling as the reform schools need, but I don't think it can compete on its own except in rare (Zuckerberg/Gates/Jobs) circumstances.

Yeah, I think learners should have freedom and choice, but I also think there's a role for mentors, coaches/guides, and some form of community. Also, one thing that can be hard to find with open-ended independent learning is meaningful challenges -- something educators (or game designers) can potentially develop expertise in and provide value in creating.

This is why good classes, workshop, or other learning-oriented situations can be such a positive experience, when there's a good click with the learners' learning styles and interests. But, a lot of people rarely, or even never, experience them in traditional education contexts.

(03-03-2014 07:08 PM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  It is unfortunate that degrees are still needed in their current state, but if they eliminated all the gen-eds and really focused on what the degree is about then I would be much more open to it. Honestly, I do intent to go back to college when I'm done here, though I'll probably find some kind of technical school and get a 2-year degree just so I'm able to learn though relevant classes.

That approach is being used by quite a few coding "bootcamps" that last several weeks to several months. It can be harder to find for other subjects, but one option is to directly pay experts for coaching. I've imagined scenarios where a group of people with overlapping interests pools their money and pays one or more experts to run a custom class or workshop, perhaps co-facilitated by a learning consultant (one of the roles I'm interested in taking on, myself.)

The catch is, it's harder to get traditional financial aid, or traditional credentials, doing such ad-hoc programs. But, like UnCollege, perhaps crowd-financing sites like Pave and Upstart could help with the financial side of things... and with sites like Degreed and efforts by various people like David Blake, maybe employers will start to value these ad-hoc learning experiences as high, or even higher than, traditional credentials.

References:

Jailbreaking the degree: David Blake at TEDxFurmanU [10m]

(See David Blake's Degreed, as well as a site with a similar concept, Accredible, for some examples of platforms intended to replace (and/or augment) traditional degrees and transcripts with records of specific learning experiences.)

The Degree is Doomed by Michael Staton (he was on a panel with Dale in the CreativeLive course, which is actually viewable on its own: Day 3 Future of Education - Learn Anything: Hacking Your Education [1h]

New crowdfunding platforms let you sell stock in yourself

(But then, going into debt in any form raises some of the questions of college debt in general... what's worth paying for, given a particular person's plans and possible life paths.)

(03-03-2014 07:08 PM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  I'm hesitant to reveal my specific interests, to be honest I don't know how likely it is that Uncollege follows this website, and even though it's very unlikely there's other reasons I want to wait a few weeks before getting more specific. I will say that I have daily existential crises about my purpose in life and what is worthwhile from a global perspective, so I guess I'm still figuring it out, but I do have a skill-set I'm building.

A skill-set is definitely a good thing to have. But yeah, figuring out what to be and do overall is one of the big challenges a lot of people face. Even with an overall sense I've what I've wanted to do, putting it into practice has been a challenge. The result has been many periods of being stuck, lost, or just trying to balance "survival jobs" with working on things like improving my writing, networking, or just living life for a given period of time when an overall path forward hasn't been clear.

With a specific skill-set or field of interest, one of the biggest questions is where you'll plug that in to earn a living... what kind of organization(s) you'll work for, what kind of freelancing you might do, where you'll live, and so on. The Internet, as well as meetups of various kinds, can be useful for that, but again it can still be hard finding meaningful paths amid all that.

You might find Hansgrohe's thread, My relation to people at school and life, including the follow-up discussion interesting, when it comes to existential crises and figuring things out. I think this is one of the biggest things factory-model education fails at... providing the right mix of freedom, encouragement, and prompts needed to find one's path, whether at a given point in time or overall.

But, that's also an opportunity to find better ways to do things... and UnCollege is one attempt at doing so.

(03-03-2014 07:08 PM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  Honestly I'm a bit lost. Through all the online services I've signed up for while here, I get dozens of emails for meetups, lifehacker articles, and a dozen different notifications for job sites, internship sites, and skill learning websites. It's a little hard to keep track of in an orderly manner, and especially difficult to discern any measure of progress or accomplishment.

Yeah, I know that feeling, digging through mountains of information and figuring out how to process it, and what's really relevant. In 2011, I started making visual layouts where I pulled in references of various kinds (screencaps and so on), in an effort to build maps to content and look for connections between things. I found this to be quite a worthwhile learning experience in itself, though the results are perhaps even more overwhelming to make sense of and navigate than the email inbox and social media content streams people are often already grappling with.

Keywords to consider: information overload, decision overwhelm, cognitive dissonance, opportunity cost. I've spent a fair amount of time searching for content on those topics, and one of the things I've learned doing that is that I'm not alone when it comes to feeling lost in all this information. Meanwhile, there's the possibility of ending up missing out on important and relevant information, experiences, and conversations while stuck digging through other ones. And, there's the potential to get stuck in echo chambers where the same limited messages and perspectives are recycled over and over.

I think one general answer to all that is to spend some time reflecting on the journey so far, and another is to try building maps of some kind to all the content and conversations over time.

Here are some related threads from this forum, with links to related content:

What Will You Click On Next? Focusing Our Attention Online

Maria Konnikova: Unclutter Your Brain Attic Like Sherlock Holmes (video)

Necessary Knowledge -- this thread raises a big question: what should a person know? This can be answered with relative ease by experts in a given field, for working in that field... but it also applies to life in general. My post there, #12, is quite long and could probably be written better (and adapted to a less-buried location), but it outlines some of my thoughts on what's worth learning about... including things like how to have conversations, and metacognition.

How to go about learning those things (or other life-crucial information), is a bigger question. Is it a matter of reading X number of articles or stories, watching Y minutes of lectures, or doing Z varieties of assignments in workshops or on-the-job tasks? It probably depends... but it's something to think about. In some cases, it may simply be finding a person who explains things especially well, or seeing examples of life paths that click with what one is looking for at that time.

(03-03-2014 07:08 PM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  As a final note, I frankly don't like the whole startup pressure. Everything about Uncollege revolves around getting a cool idea, getting together a dev team and building a startup company, but I have no interest in marketing, business, etc. I just want to do [SKILL]. I see all these startups every day excited about all their business ideas and honestly I just can't respect that. Yeah some people have good ideas, but half the ones I see just sound like "dude, I had this awesome idea...you see, we made this toaster, but it also has a clock on it!" Do you understand? Its somewhat an incorrect philosophy, but right now I see it as "you're either making thousands off an app/website or your project isn't worth my investment." I'm just not ready to get excited for every other idea people talk to me about even though they are pouring their life into it, I just see them as fooling themselves about what I see as an unsustainable and poor quality idea. I know I sound really contemptuous of them, but its the best way I can describe what I feel about it. Uncollege is different, I can tell its more thought out, but it still has serious flaws that make me question its worth.

That raises an interesting point. I think on the plus side, you're learning something about what you don't like, which can be a worthwhile experience in itself. Spending a few weeks or months experiencing startups might help you make a decision not to get stuck in a miserable position for years, for example.

In my case, I was fortunate to experience working at a well-planned startup just after I first dropped out of college. This was in a small city in the middle of nowhere, but it was a great experience for me. (This was over a decade ago.) I loved the activity, pressure, and range of things there were to do... and the possibility of contributing, a feeling I never got in school, including college. But, as the company grew, it became more corporate, and less like a startup. Perhaps more importantly, I realized that coding really wasn't what I wanted to do for a career... I wasn't particularly good at it, and I had a passion to transform education and explore the field of psychology, and create content of some kind. That's a much more ambiguous and complex set of goals to pursue than a specific skill, but that's helped give me direction even at times I've been incredibly lost as to how to proceed.

On the topic of poorly-planned startups... that's definitely a reality that's not part of the fairy-tale concept of startup life. There's also the question of what next, if and when a startup fails, or no longer needs you. And, there's the important distinction between co-founding or managing a startup, and simply working at one.

I'll close this with one of my favorite TEDx talks, from EL Kersten of despair.com. He talks about his own experience working at a startup, the letdown the employees felt as their expected stock options didn't turn out to be worth so much, the resulting formation of Despair, Inc., and the concept of "narrative identity" as a way of thinking about life.



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RE: UnCollege: What do you think?

I'm very interested in this program, but does it REALLY have to cost so much?? Kinda defeats the purpose. Make some billionaire cover my cost's.
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UnCollege: What do you think?

@xcriteria lots of awesome articles there. I just bought the Sherlock Holmes book associated from the video. Now I just have to find time to read it...



@scorchededge243, we wonder the same thing. We actually recently had a lunch with Dale discussing the price, where the money is going, etc. A lot of it goes to rent, but Dale and his team get meager salaries. I'm guessing most of it is going towards opening other houses like in New York (they want multiple houses, possibly around the world. One is actually opening in Brazil, but its not associated with Dale).

The argument is Dale has had an awesome idea and needs to attach his name to the brand by making it widespread, meaning he needs to open houses and get publicity (as opposed to letting the program mature and develop into something better before copying that to other new houses) in order to make the program sustainable.

They are looking for investors, but I agree that it should be cheaper. They have had investors and they are continuing to look, but its still not enough to make it low cost enough to consider viable for most the people not going to college because of the price. The thing is, its still not enough just to make it cheap from investors. I think Uncollege is an excellent idea, and so will some rich people, but it needs to be able to be sustainable without investors at some point without gouging out our life savings (some of the fault is with housing, as it has to be in good locations).
03-04-2014 11:40 AM
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RE: UnCollege: What do you think?

(03-04-2014 11:40 AM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  @xcriteria lots of awesome articles there. I just bought the Sherlock Holmes book associated from the video. Now I just have to find time to read it...

Hah, yeah, that's another keyword to add to the list above... "time management." (And, another... "procrastination." Razz)

(03-04-2014 11:40 AM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  @scorchededge243, we wonder the same thing. We actually recently had a lunch with Dale discussing the price, where the money is going, etc. A lot of it goes to rent, but Dale and his team get meager salaries. I'm guessing most of it is going towards opening other houses like in New York (they want multiple houses, possibly around the world. One is actually opening in Brazil, but its not associated with Dale).

It's hard for me to imagine how rent could be so much. I'm in NYC, and I've thought about setting up similar programs here (but with lower costs.) Pretty good rooms in decent locations can cost $600-800/month. And some of them are in the form of houses/apartments with multiple rooms. (I suppose "decent" is relative... but that's a whole other conversation.)

So, for 10 weeks, that might be $1600 in rent.

And there are ways to swing even cheaper rent (shared rooms, sleeping in living rooms, etc.)

I'd love to draw even a meager salary as a learning coach/consultant. Biggrin

Another idea I've thought about is, why not help people find part-time work as part of these "live in a big city and learn" programs. That could offset the cost of the housing and/or the rest of a program, or even cover it.

(03-04-2014 11:40 AM)Uncollegereview Wrote:  The argument is Dale has had an awesome idea and needs to attach his name to the brand by making it widespread, meaning he needs to open houses and get publicity (as opposed to letting the program mature and develop into something better before copying that to other new houses) in order to make the program sustainable.

They are looking for investors, but I agree that it should be cheaper. They have had investors and they are continuing to look, but its still not enough to make it low cost enough to consider viable for most the people not going to college because of the price. The thing is, its still not enough just to make it cheap from investors. I think Uncollege is an excellent idea, and so will some rich people, but it needs to be able to be sustainable without investors at some point without gouging out our life savings (some of the fault is with housing, as it has to be in good locations).

Yeah, I just don't see how it has to be so expensive. Investors will typically want a substantial return-on-investment, unless they have philanthropic motives (or other motives, like dictating curriculum... which is making me think of ideas for dystopian fiction.)

Certainly, one option for reducing cost is getting subsidies from individuals, organizations, or governments. Lots of these are given out in the world of traditional higher education, in the form of PELL grants, scholarships, interest subsidies on loans, and so on. To draw that kind of money, it'll be necessary to make these college-alternative programs actually be credible and fiscally transparent and sensible... as traditional colleges are facing pressure to be as well.

I understand Dale's interest in building a sustainable brand and business model. But, I also think UnCollege can be (and already is) part of a larger market for post-secondary options, with many players that focus on specific niches (like Silicon Valley startups and coding, in the case of UnCollege.)

I see an entire service built around just helping people find the right programs like UnCollege's Gap Year (or even combinations with traditional college.) That which could be done under the UnCollege brand, as well, but ultimately there's the question of how millions of people seeking post-secondary education, and questioning traditional paths, figure out what to do, and spend their collective hundreds of millions of dollars to do so... amid thousands of parties vying for their money... with the goal of building and sustaining their brands.

Anyway, it's a big topic, but I think improvement will come faster if people who are in, or want to be in, these types of programs help research and brainstorm how they should work. If experts, gatekeepers, and facilitators can provide value, it makes sense to pay them, and I think there's a lot of money to be made providing that value in the post-secondary market, but it's critical that alt-learning providers not end up with the same sets of criticisms traditional edu is getting (too expensive, not enough value.)

On a final note in this reply, it's worth comparing the free programs with Open Masters Program, which is a free, "please replicate us"-style program meant to simulate what people get out of master's degree programs.

Have you heard of that? Any thoughts on how what they describe (and show) relates to the UnCollege experience?

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UnCollege: What do you think?

I'm going to go to UCGY. See you there!

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