The Great Bundling of Work-Force Development

Inside Higher Ed

by Ryan Craig

Colleges may be facing pressure to separate their credentialed learning from their other offerings, Ryan Craig writes. Our work-force development system, meanwhile, could learn a thing or two from higher education.

In the past, I’ve been critical of bundles.

In my 2015 book, College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education, I describe degree programs — the economic engine of higher education — as bundles of remedial course work, general education courses and advanced courses in the major. What’s more, this bundle of instruction is itself bundled with a range of tangentially related services, as Anant Agarwal, president of edX, has enumerated: “Admissions, research, facilities management, housing, health care, credentialing, food service, athletic facilities, career guidance and placement, and much more.”

There’s a good reason to bundle college. Many products and services are easier to use when they’re bundled, and often easier to market and understand. The impact can be profound. The bundle known as the iPhone has transformed lives in a way that no disconnected set of hardware, software and services ever could. Similarly, over the past 50 years, the college bundle — no less audacious and seductive than Steve Jobs’s vision for the iPhone — has dominated public attention and wallets to become the only pathway from youth to a remunerative and respected adulthood, at the expense of other forms of human capital development.

The bundle has been highly rewarding for higher education. Colleges and universities are now a $500 billion industry employing over four million faculty, staff and administrators. The bundle has helped to build and support… (continue reading)