We live inside a broken system.
No, I’m not talking about politics — broken as that may be.
I’m not talking about health care, either — which, sadly, is likely to get worse before it gets better, no matter who’s in charge.
No — right now, I mean our education system.
It’s got all sorts of issues. Some of the worst…
- Our public schools are failing our kids, with test scores that routinely rank middling-to-back-of-the-pack in international ratings
- About 35% of people are graduating college right now. That looks good compared with years past… but looks awful considering a college degree is table stakes for almost any middle-class job or above. Today’s college degree is a lot like the 20th century’s high school diploma
- The 35% of people who become college graduates are leaving school an average $30,000 in debt. And that’s not counting the average $35,000 in debt their parents are taking on to help them through
- Since the U.S. has adopted a draconian immigration stance, the number of international students attending higher education in America has plummeted. You might not think that too pertinent — until you realize that international students are some of the few who can afford to pay full freight, actually helping hold down tuition costs. Take away the international students and everyone else will need to pay more… or, more realistically, go further into debt
- Once upon a time, you could prepare yourself for a career and then practice that career the rest of your working life while moving up the ranks. That’s not the case anymore. The average young millennial is switching jobs four times by the time they hit 32 (Gen X was switching twice during the same ages). The very definition of career is changing. Lifelong? That’s just not the case anymore.
I mention all this because — with our educational system breaking down… sending fresh graduates out into the world with mountains of debt and no real plan for what happens next — we need something new to fill the gap.
And we’re already starting to see it.
College degrees from four-year schools are wonderful. They will likely always be a premium option (at a premium price).
But more and more people are looking at inventive alternatives to supplement current knowledge… add new skills… and, in some cases, replace the traditional university system entirely.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to every vocation. If you want to be a paleontologist, for example, you’ll need to study at universities and will probably do something paleo-related most of your working life.
But what about managing an office or working in customer service? Think you might have the chops to code software? Would it be a dream come true to use statistical analysis to help your favorite team draft the right players?
Or perhaps you are tired of your chosen profession and would like nothing better than to work the hours of an electrician with that nice specialist paycheck.
Looks like college might not be so important anymore…
What matters now — the biggest growth sector within education — is specialized skill and knowledge. Conveyed as quickly and cheaply as possible.
That’s what today’s article is all about.
The following are some of the best places to pick up new knowledge and skills — for fun or for profit.
Some of these spots also give you the chance to pass on the wisdom you’ve earned over the years — again, for fun or profit.
Whether you’re just starting out… you’re in the midst of a third career shift… or you’re looking for ways to keep your brain active in retirement, the following sites are for you.
Coursera is the closest thing to the traditional system available online. The courses offered online all come from highly respected universities — like Johns Hopkins and UPenn. Around 1,700 different companies — including heavyweights like Procter & Gamble and Airbus — use Coursera to teach new skills to employees.
If you so desire, you can get a full degree online. This remains one of the priciest online options — but it’s still a fraction of the cost of a traditional four-year college experience.
And given how much coursework and lecturing is done online now anyway, you can have a pretty similar experience.
This is a great place to go if you want your sheepskin — or an in-depth, technical look at a new skill — without the usual costs.
Alison is a lot like Coursera… but without the brand names or the cost.
Alison is highly focused on job skills. You can find theoretical courses or general-interest courses as well, but this is the place to go when you want a fresh start — or a fresh skill.
Many courses come with diplomas — which, in this case, just show that you’ve taken the course and mastered the skills. They are not a substitute for a college degree.
Udemy is my favorite online learning site… and I’ll tell you why:
- It is user-generated — so you get the widest possible variety for everything from teaching styles to subject matter
- It is dynamically priced — with frequent sales and lower retail prices than most other options
- It offers certifications for job skills — but also offers courses that you can take just for the fun of it.
Udemy also gives anyone a chance to be a teacher — and, in some cases, make serious bank.
The top-earning instructors make seven figures, far more than your average teacher. And online instructors get that for work done once, creating a course and then leaving it online to pile up the cash.
Granted, to get to the top of the pile often takes a little marketing… but that’s a small price to pay for literal millions. Or you can do none of that and still do well without any extra effort once your course is created.
Any of these sites can work very well for you. What you want to learn — or what you need to get out of a course — should guide your choice.
Personally, I think everyone should have a course or two up on Udemy. We all have an expertise in something — and someone out there wants to learn from it. You might as well be the person to get paid… over and over, for spending a few hours talking into a camera.
Meanwhile, if you want to take advantage of student opportunities, this course seems especially useful — especially for UCW readers.
It goes through the best practices for selling antiques and collectibles on eBay — including how to market, set prices, even when to post. Pretty useful info for anyone interested in turning a collection into an investment…
But these sites are full to the brim with useful info. Today — thanks to this growing revolution in education — you get to plot your own course… around your own interests… for pennies on the dollar.
Our education system may be broken. But for those with initiative and desire, there has never been a better time to be a student. Or a teacher.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. Interested in learning how to best bid — and, most importantly, sell — items of high collectible value on eBay? We’ve arranged a special deal for you on that course, available right here. And if you want to learn about something else — or kick off your instructing career — you can find all that here as well.
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...