Personal University

Over on Cool Tools Kevin Kelly has just pointed his favourable finger at The Personal MBA. The idea is that one doesn’t need to spend a fortune on a (US) MBA: just read the right books, talk with interested and interesting people, and get some real world experience. Josh Kaufman has put together a list of 69 books, created forums for people to discuss their reading, and offers coaching (even the most motivated self-educators sometimes benefit from a little structure and guidance).

This is an amazing thing.

Are there more sites like this, for different subjects? Imagine a “Personal University” website where these reading lists, structured and put together by people who know their fields, are organised and where one can find people around the world to study with, without the cost and upheaval of attending a conventional course.

One of the disappointing aspects of my masters in Future Studies was that the university was out in suburban south east Houston and only attracted students from as far away as suburban north west Houston, rather than from the many people around the world fascinated by the future. I often felt I’d left behind a more exciting and future-oriented environment in London. The people one studies with contribute a huge amount to the learning experience — if a group of the clever and lovely people I’m lucky enough to call my friends, both near and far, decided to get together and follow a programme like the Personal MBA I’d love to join in. In some ways the topic is almost irrelevant.

I’ve been fascinated by the reading lists of university curricula for years. I thought about a site that collated these lists, aggregating them according to topic. It could then magically produce the definitive reading list for any subject, also working out the single book one should read as an overview. (There was a site, that attempted to create a directory of the definitive single books for many fields, but I’ve lost the link…)

Before someone says it, yes, one would miss out on the individual knowledge of professors and wouldn’t get the benefit of having to write papers. But, despite my penchant for formal education, there’s a lot to be said for real-world experience and exchanges with knowledgable peers (I didn’t learn web development etc. at college!). Sure, some subjects — acting and medicine spring to mind — need the facilities and/or people that an establishment provides, but otherwise… I want to see more things like the Personal MBA please. And more years in which to learn.

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Thursday 3 January 2008, 2:41pm

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3 Jan 2008 at Twitter

  • 5:16pm: Bored of reading half of the conversations my friends are having with their friends. Like sitting in a train of noisy phone conversations.
  • 1:38pm: Sitting in a hat and the gloom, figuring drawn curtains will keep the cold out of our chilly upstairs room.

3 Jan 2008 in Links