In the future of education, incentives matter
How to structure learning environments that are aligned with the learner's incentives
“Show me the incentive and I will show you the outcome.” - Charlie Munger
To build great online education institutions (network universities as I call them), we must create learning environments with a strong incentive to learn.
Learning by doing is an effective way to learn. But, we can go further.
Learning by doing work that aligns with your own self-interest is even more effective because it creates a strong incentive to learn.
MyMBA and The Tech Progressive have been focused on learning through writing. I've learned that writing works well in an online education model because learners are incentivized by the personal benefits gained from writing online.
When writing online, the incentive to learn is not to get an A from your professor.
Rather, the incentive is to build your personal brand, make connections with others through the writing, and learn about topics you're interested in (among other benefits).
Extrapolate the incentive to write online to Y Combinator - a popular startup accelerator.
At YC, you're not learning startup fundamentals to pass a test. Rather, you're incentivized to learn the material so that you can build a unicorn.
As I've written before, the future of education looks like YC not Harvard.
Here's a thought experiment thinking further about creating a learning environment with a high incentive to learn.
Imagine the network university's "investing cohort."
An investing cohort participant joins a 7 day cohort to deploy 1% of their personal capital in crypto.
This is something the participant wants to do anyway (the incentive is there), and the network university surrounds them with community, structure, and learning material/teaching to make it happen.
By the end of the week, the participant will deploy 1% of their capital, they’ll meet some other smart investors, and they’ll learn from prepared material and teaching. But, they’re incentivized to learn the material because they want to make the best possible investment decision for themselves. It’s their hard earned money!
Imagine a similar model with no-code where the cohort builds a prototype to send to a startup they want to work for. The incentive to build the prototype aligns with their own interests as Sahil explains.
Cohort-based courses operate in a similar manner as they typically are action oriented.
The network university is different from a traditional university first and foremost because it is centered on building and creating.
Building, creating, and doing is incentive aligned with the learner because by the end of the learning experience, they create something of value. For themselves.
Learnings from MyMBA
Through countless iterations of MyMBA, we've learned that building is where the learning happens. During MyMBA, we bring a cohort together to take online courses through Coursera, write weekly essays, and connect with business leaders.
From interviews with MyMBA Alumni, we've learned that writing is almost always the most powerful part of the experience.
People love the environment to build, experiment, and talk with others about their creation.
Some important notes:
Experienced, knowledgeable teachers have an important role in the network university. Of course, YC wouldn't be YC without Paul Graham.
Cohorts are the best way to run these incentive aligned learning groups.
Focus and definite purpose are key to the success of the network university.
In conclusion, incentives matter.
Learning by doing is an effective way to learn.
Learning by doing work that aligns with the learners own self-interest is even more effective.