Some Assembly Required?

Posted by Debby on 1st December and posted in Bright Ideas

I came across an article about “General Assembly“, an entrepreneurial educational program that works outside the traditional academic paradigm.

It’s not a degree-granting college; it’s not a high school; it’s not a traditional trade school. It’s something new–augmented education, a stopgap for the startup economy. It’s an intermediary that gives the postcollegiate crowd real-world skills they didn’t get at their alma mater: exposure to the way business is done on the ground. The school focuses on technology and entrepreneurship, covering everything from fundraising to wireframing.

This is an idea that seems to be gaining momentum.Recently I had a friend contact me about starting up a similar type of school for computer programming, with an idea to partner with prospective employers to give students real world experience by training them in the skills that the employers are seeking.

In some ways, General Assembly is like an Ivy League college: It creates a selective, aspirational network, mixing promising newbies and people who have already made it. Entrance to this community is at least as important to students as the skills offered in the classes themselves.

The community aspect and the formal and informal mentoring that goes along with that are a key component to the success of a program like this. It brings students into contact with people already in the industry and gives them a realistic look at what a job in the field is really all about.

Whatever form it takes, this kind of education favors practice over theory, evolves quickly in response to the real needs of students and connects communities of practitioners. Augmented education both complements and moves beyond the Ivory Tower, and that’s why it’s here to stay.

It will be interesting to follow this story, as well as other organizations striving to fill the gap between formal education and real world application.

The Startup League’s Big 10

Free or paid, online or face-to-face, U.S. or abroad–these (mostly unaccredited) programs aim to prepare you for the fast-evolving startup economy.

A free site with a million registered learners in 200 countries and more than 150 ad-supported digital and IT courses.

// The Foundry
This business-ed incubator helped the University of Utah beat MIT for number of tech startups created in 2009.

// Hyper Island
A Swedish school for creatives in digital and interactive media. “Courses” are actually projects with real clients.

// The KaosPilots 
The Danish business school and consultancy focuses on social entrepreneurship and personal development.

// Knowmads Business School 
The Amsterdam-based program creates “tribes” of students to learn with paid business assignments.

// Mixergy
A digital library featuring video interviews with luminaries like Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, plus online courses.

// My Entrepreneurial Journey
The nonaccredited outpost of the Acton MBA program mixes digital content with real-world mentorship.

// School for Social Entrepreneurs
A practical, can-do program for social entrepreneurs, with a high success rate.

// School of Webcraft 
The Mozilla Foundation and not-for-profit P2PU have created this free online community for open web development.

// WaSP InterAct
A free, college-level web-development curriculum with six tracks, designed by the not-for-profit Web Standards Project for future tech professionals.

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