Panel discussions tend to be hit or miss. More than once I’ve found myself listening to a group of panelists who are obviously experts in their field, but who just as obviously met each other twenty minutes earlier and don’t really know how to build on each other’s arguments.

Not so for last week’s Educelerate meetup featuring thee company founders, moderated by Christopher Nyren, and hosted in a conference war room at 1 S. Wacker Drive. Panelists included:

  • Howard Tullman, President and CEO of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy
  • Michael Markovitz, founder of the Illinois School of Professional Psychology (which morphed into Argosy University)
  • Jack Larson, founder of Career Education Corporation, Triumph Education, and board member at 2tor

Michael Markovitz opened by explaining how his career in the world of for-profit secondary education was actually his “Plan B.” Faced with roadblocks to becoming a tenured professor in Psychology, Mr. Markovitz more or less invented the Psy.D. doctoral degree as a practicum focused alternative to traditional research heavy Ph.D. programs in Psychology.

This capitalized on a huge unmet need in post graduate curriculum, and illustrated how entrepreneurs need to excel at problem finding before even getting to the problem solving part of building a business.

Mr. Markovitz also doubled down on his position that online tools are extraordinarily helpful but not a cure-all for the problems facing education. And I’d be hard pressed to disagree with him that the human element is integral to a quality learning experience.

Howard Tullman, also the founder of a brick and mortar school, agreed that in-person, collaborative education is still essential, but that “all arts education has to contract, and the relationship between schooling and jobs should be tight.” Mr. Tullman went on suggest that less costly, two year certificate programs designed to develop highly marketable skills are exactly what businesses and students are looking for—especially in a depressed economy.

Jack Larson also spoke in favor of inexpensive, online vocational courses. “Move toward online learning,” he repeated several times during the discussion. “That’s where everything’s headed.”

He also called America’s high school drop out rate “our national shame,” and challenged everyone working in the educational technology space to to view increasing the number of students who graduate high school as the ultimate victory for the industry.

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So it turns out the important conversation is not whether brick and mortar or online schooling has the advantage, but how each can evolve and work together in order to reshape education for the 21st century.

Keep a look out for next month’s Educelerate meetup, hosted at MentorMob’s offices in Catapult Chicago.