Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Needed: A Learning/Career Concierge Service

For the individual learner, regardless of age, the digital dimension is not something that you can just walk across a bridge and enter, by buying or developing access to a computer. Two critical barriers face learners entering the digital dimension.

First, increasingly, you don’t have a choice of whether to enter the digital dimension or not. Put one way, the penalties for not accessing this world are growing every day. The opportunities for both academic and economic advancement are rapidly shifting to the world with the digital dimension. This means that even when the digital divide is conquered, learners with access to computers and the internet still face serious and enduring obstacles to maximizing their potential.

This is the second barrier. The digital dimension is a world learners need to understand and know how to navigate. It has multiple dimensions and innumerable opportunities. But not everyone, and certainly not every learner who enters the digital dimension, is going to be able to navigate without a map. So even before we look at the impact of the digital dimension on jobs and employment, we need to think about how learners can put the digital dimension to work for themselves, to meet their learning and career needs. 

As they struggle to make personal sense out of thousands of courses, modules, assessments, and other learning resources, the impact of abundant information on individual learners is a dizzying experience. And, indeed, if they actually find the MOOC or the service that they want, how can learners get a reliable long-term relationship that is learner-centric, that assures them successful performance will be rewarded with appropriate recognition academically, and also lets them tie the learning they are doing to the career they envision? Put another way, how can an individual learner select and organize those resources in a way that is personally useful for their learning and career plan?

Needed: A Learning/Career Concierge Service

We all are familiar with the hotel concierge. S/he helps us understand the bewildering options available in a large metropolitan area – entertainment, historical sites, athletic and cultural events, and, of course restaurants. The concierge cannot guarantee our happiness or satisfaction, but s/he can help us map out our personal visitation plan.

Although some believe that the digital dimension will allow for an extension of the traditional model, — where the institution knows best, organizes the information, and the learners consume the curriculum — I believe that its value and power far exceed that visible horizon.

Imagine a free Learner/Career Concierge Service that helps individual learners think through the right MOOC, the right college, the right career fit, the right scholarships, and the right assessment of their prior learning, both formal and experiential. (For a look at an early version, visit the pages for StudentAdvisor and LRC100:Documenting Your Experience for College Credit)

The Learner/Career Concierge Service helps the learners decide for themselves what their right path might be, educationally and economically, instead of trying to anticipate their needs and mass produce the response. From mass production to mass personalization, if you will. Stay tuned


  1. Peter--I couldn't agree more on the increasingly dizzying array of options with which learners are being presented, and find the concierge analogy to be a useful one. The problem with concierge services has always been that they do not necessarily have your best interests at heart--most concierges receive a commission or spiff of some kind from the restaurants, tours, and services they recommend, setting up a natural conflict of interest. I am now dramatically more likely to use yelp or a similar crowd-sourced service to identify the best options in a new town rather than subject myself to the mercy of which restauranteur does the most favors for my concierge. Similarly, in academia, we would need to identify two things about this new service: 1) what would we want to drive the recommendations it provides (data vs. highest bidder vs. some other method), and 2) If the intention is that it be free, what is the sustainability model to keep it thriving? I have a point of view on these questions but would be interested in your take and others perspective as well.

    1. Both great points. As a metaphor, it may be flawed. The data I am thinking about would be neutral and tailored to the individual. Still working on monetization, but it seems to me that when someone does something with their learning, like enrol in a college or get it assessed, that would be the time for money to change hands. Not before.