“All students can learn and succeed, but not on the same day in the same way.”
~ William G. Spady
We’ve all been standing in line at Starbucks and heard it, right? The “I’ll have a triple, venti, half-sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato” for the semi-calorie conscious. Or the “Make mine a grande, quad, non-fat, one-pump, no-whip, mocha” for the caffeine addict who doesn’t have access to a caffeine-drip at the moment. Or the “Decaf, soy latte, with an extra shot and cream” for the lactose-intolerant in denial. Then the final order of “a venti, non-fat Frappuccino with extra-whip and chocolate sauce” because getting a diet Coke with a super-size meal is just silly.
As annoying as these orders may sound, they are welcomed. Starbucks has grown a brand around selling a customized coffee experience. They aren’t selling coffee, they are selling a solution. A handcrafted, caffeinated, solution that gets 90% of Americans up and running every morning and provides a mid-day pick-me-up when needed. They have provided an opportunity for a human connection in a world that is shifting from the Industrial Age to the Technology Age. And we love it.
We have bought into the idea of handcrafted experiences. It is no longer about products or services, but experiences that invoke feelings and connections to inanimate objects. In a world of right now, this is how consumers tell us that we need to slow it down. Consumers are willing to wait for the handcrafted experience as long as they know the experience will live up to expectations.
While change is needed within higher education, thoughtful change is needed even more. The student population has changed within the past several decades. Student learning occurs throughout life, through various experiences, and outside classroom walls. Students want an education that acknowledges past achievements, awards credit for demonstrated competencies, and meets quality expectations. They want a handcrafted educational experience that enables them to succeed.
It’s important to keep three facts in mind when handcrafting education:
Half-caf: Students want the best of both worlds. They want the option of a traditional education paired with the opportunity to pursue alternative learning models when life inevitably gets in the way. Alternative learning models include competency-based education, stackable credentials, coding boot camps, and online learning. While none of these models are new, they are still struggling for acceptance within higher education. Students need flexibility to use methods that best meets their learning style when they are ready.
Non-fat: Students deserve to understand all the options. Too often, students are unaware of educational opportunities because they were never told. Students are conditioned in high school to prepare for a 4-year university by participating in community service, studying to earn high SAT scores, and choosing a lucrative major. This works for 25% of the high school population, but what about the other 75%? We need to remove the traditional higher education stigma and allow students to pursue options that meet their educational, professional, and personal goals.
Extra-whip: Students need a personalized education. The shift from an Industrial Age to a Technology Age has proven that the need for widget-makers is dwindling and the world is in need of innovators. Higher education must foster an institutional culture that allows students to be creative and to fail. Unexpected innovations and opportunities for change are the result of learning that occurred after failures. Students need exposure and accessibility to a variety of disciplines in order to create solutions for a changing world.
Starbucks understood that if it delivered a consistent experience, a solution to the morning grind, that consumers would respond. Higher education needs to understand that if it delivers thoughtful, consistent, quality education that meets students’ needs it will produce the next generation of innovators. Ultimately, higher education needs to invest in solutions for the new traditional student and seize the day.