Posted by: crudbasher | March 8, 2011

The Disaggregation of College Begins

dis·ag·gre·gate (v) – To divide into constituent parts.


If you look at the way the Internet transforms businesses and systems, I think the biggest impact is disaggregation.

For example, the music industry had a very integrated model. The record companies found an artist, signed them, produced the album, promoted it, printed the physical media, distributed it and then funded the concert tours. This whole process was expensive which was why the artists went to the company in the first place. Through the whole process, the company took a cut of the profits. In recent decades, it was a very large cut with new artists.

What has happened now is that whole process can be done piece by piece by other means on the Internet. It can also be done much more cheaply. You don’t need a record company to do the whole thing anymore.

One of the best parts of a Personal Learning Network is occasionally you find out about people doing things you had only thought about in theory. I watched a great video from David Wiley and he mentioned something called Western Governors University. This school offers no classes. Instead they offer degrees in an interesting way. They don’t care where you got the information from, they will just assess what you know in a very rigorous way. If you pass, you get the degree. Basically they are just the credentialing function of a university.

Wow what a concept! I have said for a while now that for many universities, their only main value is their credentialing function and now here is proof! In the future I think we will be able to take classes from universities from around the world and then get certified on what we know. Imagine being able to customize how you get your information, in what form works best for each student.

I think we will see many, many more institutions like WGU appear rapidly. In fact as college becomes too expensive for people to attend, there will be a push for alternate certification systems.

The disaggregation of high education is now underway just like it happened to music, publishing, newspapers and the film industry.

Disaggregation is a big, dark cloud in the onrushing Stormfront.



  1. Very correctly observed. But please note that Excelsior College of Upstate New York (and formerly called Regents College, a part of the State University of New York) has been doing this kind of important work for over 40 years, and it, in turn, learned to do it from Great Britain, which has a long tradition of awarding degrees and certificates based on rigorous examinations.

    • That is an awesome bit of info. That’s why I love blogging, I learn so much from the experience! Thanks Fredric!

  2. […] Every time mention was made in the article about reducing costs, the word “quality” was mentioned. If you change the teacher to student ratio, quality would be affected. You can’t have staff teach more or else quality would suffer, etc… Here’s the big question, do students actually care about quality? Teachers think students are buying an education but students think they are buying a degree. Oh sure, in college there are many motivated students, but not in every class. Universities have many classes you must take that students generally dislike. So what if those courses are taken online from a partner university? Right now those courses are being taught by a TA anyway so will the students care? I doubt it. Ok then, once you establish you can take a course from another school and still get a degree, which schools will you partner with? How about a school in India that provides the course very cheaply? Once you are taking courses online, it doesn’t matter where the course comes from. Could we someday see a university that just credentials learning and offers courses from other schools? (see The Disaggregation Of College Begins) […]

  3. […] arise institutions that do nothing else but credential people. (ie Western Governors University (more) ). This could be very attractive to schools with valuable names. Imagine a Harvard Assessment […]

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