What is the Future of IT Education in the United States?
1. Introduction to the Future of IT Education
The question is no longer “What is the future of IT education in the United States?”, as we may have moved past that point. The question is “What is the future of IT education in the United States?”. The answer is not clear, and a lot of questions exist about it. The answers are not:
“We should just do it better, or do it differently.”
“We should do something about it; I think we can make some improvements.”
There are obstacles to doing this, too:
First, there are other things going on in higher education: for example, the University of California (Berkeley) has recently announced its plan to take over a large chunk of Berkeley Tech Museum from its previous owners — an interesting prospect. Second, there are different views on what exactly constitutes a university (as opposed to a college), and how much autonomy each institution should have.
Third, there are different opinions on whether colleges should be more like the vocational programs they were meant to replace (high-tech vs traditional), or whether they should continue to be more like universities in terms of their mission and approach (as opposed to what it used to be). Fourth, there are different schools with different approaches and therefore different curriculums and methods for teaching various subjects (e.g., introductory courses) and different methodologies for teaching each subject — from computer science classes at Harvard to courses taught by visiting professors at Yale — than they had been before (when they were all called “universities”).
For many people today that first question may feel like a dead-end where answers don’t exist, but if you look at career prospects after college/uni/colleges I think you might find that some answers do exist if you really dig into them (this is especially true at elite institutions). And if you look at career prospects after high school/college/uni I think you might find even more answers out there if you really dig into them (this is especially true at elite institutions).
Everyone has his or her own opinion on this topic; here are mine: Higher education was never intended as a way for people with little knowledge of computers or technical skills — who have no interest in these fields whatsoever — to get jobs in those fields. It was always supposed to be about providing an education for those who already know those skills or want them anyway.
2. The IT Training Market in the United States
IT has been a major industry for decades, but there has been little growth in the total number of students enrolled in it. In fact, from the mid-1970s to 2001, the number of students enrolled in schools with IT courses more than doubled – from 10% to 18%. However, there has been a substantial decrease in enrollment since 2001. And as you can see from the chart below, that trend is pretty much flat-lining (at least for IT education).
As a result, it’s hard for most companies to justify spending large amounts on this type of training. As a result, there is a lot of debate over whether or not this is a good market for training and what we should do about it.
3. Trends in IT Education
If you have been reading the IT education space for a while, this may seem like a familiar question. What does it mean to be an “IT educator” today?
It’s difficult to answer this question in general terms because as we all know, there is no one right answer. What is your own experience? There are certainly many differences that differentiate education from training. How do you define “training”? Are you talking about a formal curriculum or are you talking about more of a hands-on experience? How do you define “learning”? Do you want to harness the power of software, or do you just want to get someone to use a particular piece of software? These are all questions that will vary depending on your perspective and how broadly or narrowly defined your experience is.
In addition, there is a lot of debate about what software should be taught and what skills should be taught (and where). There are also different views on when training should start and when it should end — some think that it should start as soon as possible, others think it should only occur at the end of the program.
And then there is the issue of whether or not IT education is actually useful — if anything Internet-based learning can be seen as complementary to traditional schooling (if not replacing it altogether). Is the question then if IT education is useful at all if it doesn’t offer any real value (or if there are other factors that make IT education worthwhile)? And if so then what value does it offer and how can we measure its worth?
These are all questions that were addressed in two excellent articles by Ben Horowitz: Here and Here. In his view, technology has changed everything; learning has been done away with. He sees two big incentives driving this change: 1) competition 2) marginal cost 3) opportunity cost 4) an increase in social capital 5) globalization 6) consolidation 7) mobility 8) automation 9) identity 10) networked computing 11) radically simplified products 12) platforms 13) social engineering 14) deep learning 15) artificial intelligence 16) autonomous machines 17 ) AI 18 ) Net Neutrality 19 ) Google Fiber 20 ) Facebook 21 ) Uber 22 ) Blockbuster Video 23 ) Amazon 24 ) Apple 25 ) Google 26 ) Apple Store 27 ) LinkedIn 28 ) Uber 29 ) Facebook 30 ). These reasons have led to changing expectations around what an industry professional needs. For example, he believes that we lost our way by trying.
4. Challenges to IT Education
You may be asking yourself why the subject of education is even on this list. This question is one that we get asked regularly and it is a question that we feel acutely and it is an important one. Educating students in the 21st century will be an essential part of the future of IT, and every company needs to have a plan for how to prepare students for their careers as well as their future careers. In this post, we’ll discuss what you need to know about IT education in the US and what you can do from here.
5. IT Education In The Future 1
A lot of people say that IT education is dead or at least dying. What they don’t realize is that it has changed so dramatically in the last 3-5 years, that they may not even be able to recognize it. In this post, I will try to summarize the biggest changes we have seen in the last 5 years and explain how some of them are creating a more vibrant future for IT education.
Let’s begin with who we are and where we’re going:
In 2011, 1 million students were enrolled in IT related degrees. By 2013, that number was down to about 600,000. Today, there are roughly 30,000 students enrolled in master’s programs and about 60,000 enrolled in doctoral degrees.
We’ve been through a lot together
Where do we go from here? The answer depends on how you look at it. If you think of trends as a long line of dots emerging from one direction (like a graph) then you can see that all the dots point towards an upward trend. At the very least, we are heading towards some form of exponential growth (though I think most likely towards linear growth). The question is whether there is enough upside to make up for some of the downward trends (e.g., 1M + 600K = 600K – 1M; or even 1M + 300K = 300K – 1M). We will have to see where these trends take us in order to judge if they have gone too far or not far enough (and if their trajectory has been smooth enough yet).
The trend lines can get pretty messy when looking at trends over more than a few years (which isn’t all that uncommon), but what has emerged over the last few years seems fairly stable: graduate degrees for technical professionals continue to rise while professional degrees for anyone else continue to decline. This seems like an upward trend until you consider that people change jobs and start new careers every day, but maybe career paths also tend to follow trends — hence why professional degrees declined fast between 2008 and 2010 before picking back up again recently; maybe not — maybe this was because its just part of life… Maybe professional careers are becoming less prestigious than others (I don’t know because I’m not doing one…), or perhaps there was just too much innovation happening at any time period over a long enough period of time — but I think these are important questions.
6. IT Education In The Future 2
Many people have asked me what the future of IT education is. After all, the field of IT education is still in its infancy and is not as well known as other fields such as science or engineering (although I think this will change in the next few years). I thought it would be useful to share my view on the topic and to present some thoughts on what we can do to advance the field.
I believe that, like many other areas in modern life, it’s important to not only recognize that IT education is a global phenomenon, but also to understand that it will continue to evolve worldwide. While there are differences between countries and cultures (and even more between different generations), it’s important to remember that we are all capable of learning how computers work. For every country with a strong tradition of computer science education and training, there is a country that has never had much of anything (or at least very little).
The differences I see between countries can be detected by looking at how certain concepts are taught:
In Japan: understanding math concepts through playing games (e.g., counting by doing things like building paper ships)
In Korea: understanding math concepts through reading textbooks rather than playing games (e.g., “learning math” through memorizing formulas)
In Finland: focusing on algorithms rather than thinking about computational problems (e.g., learning computational thinking through teaching coding)
In India: focusing on solving problems using a computer rather than worrying about computation itself (e.g., using computers for learning programming rather than “computer science”)
It seems clear that these different approaches exist around the world and can be used effectively within any given country or culture. This suggests that we need to think about how those approaches should be integrated into our teaching of computing in order for them to enhance students’ ability to solve problems with computers — even if we don’t consider ourselves educators by any stretch of the imagination.