Google Introduces 6‑Month Career Certificates, Threatening to Disrupt Higher Education with “the Equivalent of a Four-Year Degree”

Update: You can find the first of the Google Career Cer­tifi­cates here. They’re also added to our col­lec­tion 200 Online Cer­tifi­cate & Micro­cre­den­tial Pro­grams from Lead­ing Uni­ver­si­ties & Com­pa­nies

I used to make a point of ask­ing every col­lege-apply­ing teenag­er I encoun­tered why they want­ed to go to col­lege in the first place. Few had a ready answer; most, after a deer-in-the-head­lights moment, said they want­ed to be able to get a job — and in a tone imply­ing it was too obvi­ous to require artic­u­la­tion. But if one’s goal is sim­ply employ­ment, does­n’t it seem a bit exces­sive to move across the state, coun­try, or world, spend four years tak­ing tests and writ­ing papers on a grab-bag of sub­jects, and spend (or bor­row) a large and ever-inflat­ing amount of mon­ey to do so? This, in any case, is one idea behind Google’s Career Cer­tifi­cates, all of which can be com­plet­ed from home in about six months. Find the first ones here.

Any such remote edu­ca­tion­al process looks more viable than ever at the moment due to the ongo­ing coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, a con­di­tion that also has today’s col­lege-apply­ing teenagers won­der­ing whether they’ll ever see a cam­pus at all. Nor is the broad­er eco­nom­ic harm lost on Google, whose Senior Vice Pres­i­dent for Glob­al Affairs Kent Walk­er frames their Career Cer­tifi­cates as part of a “dig­i­tal jobs pro­gram to help Amer­i­ca’s eco­nom­ic recov­ery.” He writes that “peo­ple need good jobs, and the broad­er econ­o­my needs their ener­gy and skills to sup­port our future growth.” At the same time, “col­lege degrees are out of reach for many Amer­i­cans, and you shouldn’t need a col­lege diplo­ma to have eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty.”

Hence Google’s new Career Cer­tifi­cates in “the high-pay­ing, high-growth career fields of Data Ana­lyt­ics, Project Man­age­ment, and User Expe­ri­ence (UX) Design,” which join their exist­ing IT Sup­port and IT Automa­tion in Python Cer­tifi­cates.

Host­ed on the online edu­ca­tion plat­form Cours­era, these pro­grams (which run about $300-$400) are devel­oped in-house and taught by Google employ­ees and require no pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence. To help cov­er their cost Google will also fund 100,000 “need-based schol­ar­ships” and offer stu­dents “hun­dreds of appren­tice­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties” at the com­pa­ny “to pro­vide real on-the-job train­ing.” None of this guar­an­tees any giv­en stu­dent a job at Google, of course, but as Walk­er empha­sizes, “we will con­sid­er our new career cer­tifi­cates as the equiv­a­lent of a four-year degree.”

Tech­nol­o­gy-and-edu­ca­tion pun­dit Scott Gal­loway calls that bach­e­lor’s-degree equiv­a­lence the biggest sto­ry in his field of recent weeks. It’s per­haps the begin­ning of a trend where tech com­pa­nies dis­rupt high­er edu­ca­tion, cre­at­ing afford­able and scal­able edu­ca­tion­al pro­grams that will train the work­force for 21st cen­tu­ry jobs. This could con­ceiv­ably mean that uni­ver­si­ties lose their monop­oly on the train­ing and vet­ting of stu­dents, or at least find that they’ll increas­ing­ly share that respon­si­bil­i­ty with big tech.

This past spring Gal­loway gave an inter­view to New York mag­a­zine pre­dict­ing that “ulti­mate­ly, uni­ver­si­ties are going to part­ner with com­pa­nies to help them expand.” He adds: “I think that part­ner­ship will look some­thing like MIT and Google part­ner­ing. Microsoft and Berke­ley. Big-tech com­pa­nies are about to enter edu­ca­tion and health care in a big way, not because they want to but because they have to.” Whether such uni­ver­si­ty part­ner­ships will emerge as falling enroll­ments put the strain on cer­tain seg­ments of the uni­ver­si­ty sys­tem remains to be seen, but so far Google seems con­fi­dent about going it alone. And where Google goes, as we’ve all seen before, oth­er insti­tu­tions often fol­low.

Note: You can lis­ten to Gal­loway elab­o­rate on how Google may lead to the unbundling of high­er ed here. Lis­ten to the episode “State of Play: The Shar­ing Econ­o­my” from his Prof G pod­cast:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

200 Online Cer­tifi­cate & Micro­cre­den­tial Pro­grams from Lead­ing Uni­ver­si­ties & Com­pa­nies.

Online Degrees & Mini Degrees: Explore Mas­ters, Mini Mas­ters, Bach­e­lors & Mini Bach­e­lors from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Google & Cours­era Launch Career Cer­tifi­cates That Pre­pare Stu­dents for Jobs in 6 Months: Data Ana­lyt­ics, Project Man­age­ment and UX Design

Google Launch­es a Free Course on Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Sign Up for Its New “Machine Learn­ing Crash Course”

Google Launch­es Free Course on Deep Learn­ing: The Sci­ence of Teach­ing Com­put­ers How to Teach Them­selves

Mal­colm Glad­well Asks Hard Ques­tions about Mon­ey & Mer­i­toc­ra­cy in Amer­i­can High­er Edu­ca­tion: Stream 3 Episodes of His New Pod­cast

Niet­zsche Lays Out His Phi­los­o­phy of Edu­ca­tion and a Still-Time­ly Cri­tique of the Mod­ern Uni­ver­si­ty (1872)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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