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Will Woz U Work as a New Model of Tech Education?

Apple’s legendary co-founder Steve Wozniak recently announced the founding of an institute, named Woz U, to offer computer training. As Business Insider points out, Woz U will not be alone, as Udacity, founded in 2012, offers similar courses and has trained an estimated 1.5 million people since its inception.

At roughly the same time, Google announced that it was partnering with another massive open online course (MOOC) provider, Coursera, for a similar set of courses. Woz U plans to focus on information technology (IT) support and software development, and both Woz U and Google/Coursera will focus on the rapidly growing field of cybersecurity.

Are courses like this the future of tech education?

Some observers think so.

The Future of Tech Education?

Both ventures noted that, while there are certainly many colleges offering degrees in computer science, it is difficult for 4-year institutions to keep up with what industry demands. As industry publication Education Dive put it, only 1% of business leaders believe that 4-year colleges are doing a good job of preparing students for the labor force – which is in sharp contrast to the over 96% of higher education leaders who think they are.

The other issue is ballooning student debt. The courses are planned to be affordable, with Woz U specifically saying that a motive force was to allow students to attain computer proficiency without having to undertake a large burden of student debt.

Finally, of course, they might be the future of tech education simply because similar programs seem to work in getting students jobs. There are currently estimated to be 150,000 unfilled IT jobs in the U.S. General Assembly, a New York-based computer course program that trains people for IT jobs, says that more than 95% of its graduates find jobs within six months of taking a course. Woz U spokespeople themselves note that the institution assumes attendees will have a college degree. Critics of the MOOC model feel that, while individual courses may assist students in getting lower-level jobs, positions with promotional potential will still go to college graduates. College graduates can offer an exceptional amount of knowledge, however, those without a degree shouldn’t be overlooked. Some candidates without degrees can actually be great candidates for IT jobs, especially since some of them go out of their own way to take additional exams to set themselves apart from the other candidates. Recently, more people have been applying to take the cap test as a way of giving themselves some different IT skills. This test shows employers that these individuals have knowledge of maintaining authorization on information systems. This is a skill that a lot of people don’t have, meaning that those who take tests like that can actually offer more unique skills to employers.

Many of the courses are online, although some also have physical sites.

Multiple Roles

Perhaps the real answer to the question of “is this the future of tech education?” is another question: “what is tech education?” The plans for Woz U are multiple, mentioning the growth of up to 30 physical sites as well as online courses, as well as courses designed to whet the curiosity of would-be coders, courses planned to land IT support jobs, and eventually, courses in data science and fighting cyber threats.

Woz U also plans to play an active role in the K-12 arena, reaching out to STEAM students (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) – a wider tent than even STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

In fact, tech is one of a number of industries that have always combined 4-year and advanced degrees with industry- and company-specific knowledge, ranging from the Bell Laboratories of the 1950s to the Intel of the 1980s and the Apple of the 1990s. As innovative companies and industries, their need for continuous learning is, well, continuous. The MOOCs, and Woz U, will likely work in tandem with college educations, not in opposition.