If you passed through an American college in the past 20 years you’ll be unsurprised to hear that nearly half of all graduates last year felt unprepared for entry-level jobs (source). Our education system is hopelessly disjointed from the needs of our modern society and, as technical innovation accelerates, that gap will widen.
The problem is that our education system is made to be static. When a new technology creates new skills, demand for that labor appears immediately, but it can take years for a university to offer a new class. That’s because universities are overly verticalized. Curriculums must be planned in advance, teachers must be vetted and relocated. Education as a whole often sits backseat to other priorities like community cultivation and brand building.
Luckily, web3 offers us a new way of doing things, by unbundling higher education and reorganizing efforts to compound from the bottom up instead of the top down. By usurping the grip of educational institutions on all aspects of higher learning, we can create a system that’s more democratic, scalable, and adaptive.
Here’s how we see this playing out over the next 25 years:
1. Educators go independent
Enabled by platforms like youtube and tiktok, educators will join the creator economy and meet their audience directly. Some will make a lot more money this way. It will be the “substack moment” of education. Piecemeal educational histories will become more accepted by employers. You take one class over here, you take another class over there.
Institutions no longer have a monopoly on demand.
2. On-chain credentials will provide credibility
Educators will use platforms like ours (101.xyz) to issue NFT credentials showing exactly what was taught, creating an irrefutable reputation for themselves and their students. This will allow for more transparency into who’s doing a good job and who’s not. With on-chain data, we can see more than just who was taught by whom. We can also see what happened to those people after they finished the course. Did they become valuable contributors within the ecosystem? This type of data can help us understand the true efficacy of a given curriculum.
Institutions no longer have a monopoly on credibility.
3. Institutions become community builders only
Universities will focus on their strengths: providing the non-scalable human layer of community: small study cohorts, extracurriculars, 1-to-1 mentorship. The educational content is critical, but this is the 2nd half. The educators will act more independently, joining forces with a university like an artist who signs to a record label.
When a university wants to offer a new curriculum in response to a new technology, all they need to do is consult the on-chain data of who’s teaching what and sign their favorite teacher, bringing their courses under the umbrella.
4. "Metaversities" will rise to compete
Traditional universities will go head-to-head with web3 native educational communities aka "Metaversities". These communities are native to an online setting and powered by web3. Membership cards are NFTs. Extracurriculars are video games. Study sessions are discord audio rooms. Participation points are ERC-20 tokens.
Competition between the old and new will create a powerful force of progress. Innovate or die.
5. NFT memberships will become the business model
Metaversities will make revenue selling NFT memberships and earning royalties on secondary sales. Some may fix the supply, to cater to small cohorts at a time. We’ll see a lot of experimentation in these models.
A few of these “Metaversities” have already popped up and are doing amazing things. Most notably, ZenAcademy and Invisible College
6. Corporations will provide scholarships
When learning outcomes are reflected on-chain, it's a lot easier to link scholarships to educational outcomes. Companies like the Ethereum Foundation, Gitcoin, and Consensys will lead the way, directly paying for the education of qualified students. Big tech companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon will enter the game too as their supply of skilled labor continues to shrink.
This decentralized future of education allows all players to focus on their strengths, and for competition within those spaces to surface the best of the best. Educators focus on educating. Community builders focus on community building. Corporations focus on capital allocation. Our current system is undeniably broken, but with new tools offered by web3, we might have a chance at fixing this. By building modular, compatible systems on-chain, I believe we can build a world where everyone has access to a world-class personalized education.