Business Strategy | Leadership / Management | Technology & Social Media

I’ve seen the future, and it’s EPIC

I'll be honest: I've worried about the future of education.

In a world of change and chaos and technological advances, education has seemed woefully mired in the past, a profession frustratingly resistant to move away from its lectures-and-chalkboards tradition.

Then I saw EPIC 2020.

My boss, Jackie Brown, shared it with me recently. It's a video in which a handful of forward-thinking educators imagined the future of higher education. It starts with this gut-buster:

"In the year 2020, most colleges and universities no longer exist. Academia is no longer the gatekeeper for education. Tuition is an obsolete concept. Degrees are irrelevant. What happened to education? And what is EPIC?"

The 10-and-a-half-minute video serves as a futuristic timeline that charts the path higher education takes through 2020. Among its predictions:

  • The elimination of Pell Grants and the end of student loan protection from bankruptcy.
  • The collapse of the student loan industry. "Scholarship funders begin shifting their focus from providing individual student loans to funding organizations that provide free online course content," the video predicts.
  • A student revolt over the cost of higher education.
  • Mergers of Apple with Amazon and Kindle with iBooks "to form the largest educational content distribution system in the world."
  • The fall of traditional colleges and universities, which sit on the sidelines as "Applezon" and Google battle for "world student market share."
  • Finally, the creation of the Evolving Personal Information Construct (or EPIC), which "not only understands everything that you know but also knows everything that you need to know to be successful in your professional, social and personal life."

Incredibly, the video envisions all of this happening by 2020.

Now, back to reality: There's no way in hell all of that will happen in the next six and a half years.

But that's not the point. In a profession that's anchored in tradition, here are a handful of forward-thinking souls who are brave enough to start a conversation about where they should be headed.

That's how greatness happens.

In a comment on the EPIC 2020 site, Martin Van Der Werf writes, “Will higher education collapse in this manner? No, this is far too simplistic. But are there grains of truth and seeds of nightmares in this? I would argue yes. This video should inspire a mixture of guffaws, inspiration, and feelings of dread in just about anyone who watches it. So, if nothing else, (it) has succeeded in starting a dialogue that any college thinking seriously about its future needs to have."

Wanna know a secret? The CPA profession is having those same conversations as we speak. They're being led by people like Jason Blumer and Michael Hsu and Jody Padar.

The challenge now is to get the rest of the profession to pay attention. Believe it or not, that's where we're headed.

Are you coming along for the ride?


Bill Sheridan