Nanobreweries (scaled-down, individual-run microbreweries) may provide a model for reinvigorating higher education.
After months of preparing to release a series of e-books on my website, “Gig-Ready Jazz Bassist,” I decided to develop the content into a series of online course to include video demonstrations, instructor feedback, and self-assessments. In addition to producing the six proposed courses, my ultimate goal is to help freelance instructors like myself develop quality instructional materials (with a bit of an assist from my mother/Instructional Design guru).
Here’s why I think individual-run “nanoversities” are the wave of the future:
- You have to have specialized content to stand out. If I wanted to market myself as a generic bass instructor, I’d have to compete with thousands of online and classroom instructors. However, if I market myself as an intellectually-rigorous, occasionally funny, yoga-practicing jazz bass instructor, my only direct competition is my evil doppelganger – who I’m obligated to kill.
- Institutions of higher education can’t support that kind of specialization. Setting aside the fact that colleges/universities are in major crisis right now, the fact is that I couldn’t go to a school with my curriculum and expect to be able to teach it. There just aren’t enough people in Seattle (or any other part of the country) to fill session after session of classes about jazz bass. However, by making my content online and strategically marketing it (still working on that part), I should be able to develop a global audience of interested learners.
- Getting an advanced degree preps you to make quality materials. There are tons and tons of online courses out there and the majority of them are, shall we say, less than great. It’s really hard to make a course with high-quality content and production. While a master’s or doctorate isn’t a guarantee that you’re going to make high-quality instructional materials, it’s (hopefully) prepped you by giving you teaching experience and holding you to very high standards. After I left academia, I realized that while I had made the right choice, the PhD had given me rare and valuable skill sets. Both my current project (Gig-Ready Jazz Bassist) and forthcoming one (the as-yet-unnamed guide to building a “nanoversity”) will allow me to integrate my experiences in and outside of academia.
If you’re an instructor, what would your dream “nanoversity” look like? If you’re a learner, what kind of “nanoversity” would you like to study at?