Redesigning Higher-Ed

Michael Greenberg
4 min readMar 19, 2018


I’ve had an idea for a re-designed university bouncing around my head of years. This is the latest iteration. Critical feedback is not only welcome, but encouraged.

To me, the university has three primary functions:

  1. To ease communication in groups of people interested in similar subjects.
  2. To match students with mentors.
  3. To verify the completion of a course of learning.

What we consider to be “top-schools” include a fourth function:

4. To act as gate to the establishment of tight knit, but powerful, communities.

The fourth function is the goal of any exclusive and private organization, so I will not argue it here.

My concerns are more on the other 99% of the population who will never near those doors. It is most importantly with designing a university like organization that operates with a different approach to function three.

Rather than verifying a course of learning, it will verify a course of doing.

This shift opens the door for a whole new realm of possibilities. When the organization is stripped bare a more democratic approach can be developed, counter to the top-down beaureacracy of higher ed today.

Key Rules For The School

  1. The discipline, project, and proof must be verifiable.
  2. The primary directive should be to verify an individual’s work or portfolio so that they can prove their expertise in a skill.
  3. Mentorship should be a required continuous service to remain in the community.
  4. The goal should be to have a community of experts. The subject matter should not matter in the end.
  5. The initial joining of the community should be by invitation from an existing member to submit work for verification.
  6. The goal is to be open, transparent, and distributed.


Some skills are easier to verify, or at least harder to lie about, than others. The digital skills are all easy to build portfolios of analytics, code, and other data to verify. Scientific and mathematics disciplines are similarly more easy to verify. While we may not be able to verify that they did the work upon first glance, a series of interviews and presentations on the subjects covered should make it difficult to falsify.

Using some sort of recording device during the research process will probably be required to verify the humanities and other more theoretical subjects.

Experts Should

  1. Be working in their field or have over a decade of experience and past success with at least 2 recommendations
  2. Mentor at least 4 hours per year,
  3. review 10 submissions,
  4. or provide for an apprentice


  1. Is a service and does not pay
  2. Can require any sort application process for students


  1. Can be a fixed curriculum
  2. Project Based
  3. Or more like occasional workshops

If you would like to be a paid teacher, those hours count as mentorship hours. You can set your own rates or link out to another course website. We manage verification, not education.

If a teacher sells more than $2,000 in digital courses courses (max value $100/course) and gives us 25% of total sales, that satisfies their requirements as well.

Certification Of Expertise

Is done by a panel of peers varying in age and time within the organization. I think 5, 7, or 9 would work well. Certification will have to cost a fixed sum, perhaps $4,000, to cover their time and to help fund the ongoing expenses of the greater organization. This must include scholarships, apprenticeship funding, and internships with partner company.

A verifiable portfolio of accomplishment is the marker of success. Critical feedback from all in the committee will be required so that the candidate may improve afterwards. The process will include the initial submission of the portfolio, an interview with each member of the committee, 1–3 rounds of email questions, and a final group presentation and Q+A.

Initial Acceptance into the community

Is via an initial project to submitted and reviewed by a single expert of the submitter’s choice. An expert may choose whether or not they would like to be publicly listed as accepting applications, may apply criteria to apply through them, or do whatever else they like.

Why is this better…

Everyone learns differently. Furthermore, many skills are best learned outside of textbooks and classrooms. We have too long relied upon function #4, higher ed as a gate, to weed out those who couldn’t comform to limited and narrow-minded standards. Knowledge is more readily available than ever before through online courses, blogs, free videos, and books. While the benefits of colocation are numerous to students, I don’t see why this function must be such a large capital expense to an organization that otherwise could be quite efficient. The simplest version of a school is a community of learners. I see this format as a way to do so while also fulfilling the economic function of certification so important to employers today.

A Few Rules For Success

  • We can help organize the rental of spaces for a minimal or non-existant service charge, these could be for both living and studying/working.
  • The community will need to be built online, so a priority should be placed on building a remote and digital community.
  • Initially, the lack of mentors/members will require active recruitment in targeted disciplines. Business is the area I’d recommend appraoching first.
  • An organization like this can be run using a team several orders of magnitude smaller than size of the community. Avoid bloat.



Michael Greenberg

Owner @ — A boutique authority and content marketing firm. This is my personal blog about stuff and things I like to think about.