The Rise of Fast Education as Consumer Pedagogy

Dr. Ashwani Kumar and Dr. Bachitter Singh

What’s a Man’s age? He must hurry more, that’s all, Cram in day, what his youth took a year to hold”.

– Robert Browning

The emergence of a fast-paced culture in modern society is evident in phenomena such as fast food and fast fashion, which entail the production and consumption of standardized, low-quality, and disposable goods. A similar trend can be observed in the modern education system, which is shifting towards a mode of ‘fast education‘ that resembles the logic of fast food and fast fashion. It provides a rapid and accessible learning experience, catering to the need for immediate knowledge acquisition and skill development. This article will explore the implications of fast education and consumer pedagogy for the development of learners’ agency, identity, and citizenship in a globalized world.

Fast Education
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Fast education can be analyzed through the theoretical framework of George Ritzer’s concept of the “McDonaldization of Society“, which refers to the application of the principles of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control to various domains of social life. These principles are manifested in the modern education system through practices such as standardized testing, streamlined curricula, and technology-mediated instruction. These practices resemble the assembly-line logic of fast-food restaurants, which prioritize quantifiable results, uniformity, and the optimization of educational processes.

The rise of fast education is also evident in the increasing popularity of intensive short courses, boot camps, and micro-credentials, which offer quick and convenient ways of acquiring skills and qualifications. These educational products are designed to respond to the demands of a rapidly changing job market, where workers need to constantly update their knowledge and abilities to adapt to new challenges and opportunities. Institutions and online platforms strategically design curricula to cater to the consumer mentality, where students seek to acquire a myriad of credentials quickly, rather than engaging in a deep and sustained learning process. This approach aligns with the contemporary emphasis on employability and the need for individuals to stay competitive in a dynamic workforce. However, it also raises questions about the quality, validity, and recognition of these educational products, as well as their impact on the learners’ identity, agency, and citizenship.

The fast education phenomenon has boomed with the help of EdTech platforms like Coursera, edX, SWAYAM, and LinkedIn Learning, which offer a wide range of short-term courses and micro-credentials. The learners acquire specific skills in a condensed time-frame, without having to commit to a long-term or formal educational program. The digital badges and certificates earned through these platforms serve not only as markers of achievement but also as commodities that can be traded and displayed in the labor market. Moreover, most of the major universities have adapted to this trend by offering flexible online curricula for graduate and postgraduate courses, which allow learners to customize their learning paths and schedules. These developments reflect the consumerization and commodification of education, as well as the changing expectations and demands of learners and employers in a fast-paced society.

The advent of self-paced online courses are the tools of fast education, which cater to the modern lifestyle where individuals juggle multiple responsibilities. These courses offer flexibility and convenience for busy professionals and learners with time constraints, but they also align with the consumer-oriented approach, allowing students to ‘consume’ education at their own pace, much like any other commodity. This may reduce the quality and depth of education, as well as the interaction and collaboration among learners and educators.

Online workshops, seminars, and conferences are also essential ingredients of the fast education phenomena. These events, often organized by educational institutions and industry players, contribute to the consumer mindset by offering a rapid exchange of information and opportunities to accumulate diverse credentials from different corners of the world, all from the comfort of home or office. This may enhance the accessibility and variety of education, but it may also undermine the continuity and coherence of education, as well as the development of a sense of community and belonging among learners.

The concept of dual enrolment, where students enroll in college (graduate) level courses while still in high school, is another manifestation of the consumer-oriented educational paradigm. It allows students to amass college credits quickly, positioning education as a commodity to be acquired efficiently rather than as a holistic developmental journey. This may accelerate the academic and career advancement of students, but it may also compromise the quality and relevance of education, as well as the personal and social growth of students.

The convergence of these trends of fast education leads to the proliferation of consumer pedagogy, where education is treated as a product to be consumed, and credentials act as the currency of validation. This trend may result in credential inflation, as sociologist Randall Collins suggests in his book ‘The Credential Society’. Collins’ theory argues that as educational credentials become more common, their value decreases, leading to a rise in qualifications required for jobs. He claims that credentials often serve as symbols of social status rather than genuine measures of skills, with educational institutions acting as gatekeepers in this process. Collins emphasizes the performative aspect of obtaining credentials, which reinforces social hierarchies and class differences. The market forces at play, driven by the demand for quick and tangible returns on educational investments, contribute to the transformation of students into discerning consumers in the educational marketplace.

The fast education phenomenon compels educational organizations to design consumer pedagogy, thus emphasizing quick, consumable credentials as indicators of learning. Online platforms and market forces play instrumental roles in shaping this landscape, promoting a culture where education is viewed not only as a means of personal development but also as a collection of marketable credentials. As the educational market continues to evolve, it is essential to critically examine the implications of this consumer-oriented approach on the nature and purpose of education in our society. This approach may have some benefits, such as increasing the accessibility and diversity of education, but it may also have some drawbacks, such as diminishing the quality and meaning of education. Moreover, as institutions of the market become the guiding force for education, it becomes a matter of concern, especially for developing countries like India. There is a risk of losing control over educational pedagogy, as foreign degrees continue to hold more market value than degrees from native universities. This may undermine the autonomy and identity of learners and educators, as well as the social and cultural values of education.

The Fast- Education is the greatest propagator of the ‘Illusion of Competence‘, which is the belief or rather a false belief that you know the course and that you are competent in the course you have undergone as there is a difference between- “ knowing something and internalization of something”.

Thus, fast education may have some benefits, such as increasing the accessibility and variety of education, but it may also have many drawbacks, such as diminishing the depth and value of education. As Ardent and Baudrillard argued, education is profoundly compromised when youths are viewed as consumers and not as social investments.  Therefore, it is important to critically examine the effects of fast education on the nature and purpose of education in our society and to seek a balance between the fast-food logic and the humanistic values of education.

The views and opinions expressed by the authors in this article are their personal opinions and do not represent the views of PureSociology. You can contact the author/s at The details of the authors are:

Dr. Ashwani Kumar is an Assistant professor in Sociology at Gurukashi University.

Dr. Bachitter Singh is currently a Faculty in the Department of Sociology, Ramnagar Campus, University of Jammu.


8 thoughts on “The Rise of Fast Education as Consumer Pedagogy”

  1. Dr. Bachitter and Dr. Ashwani, your articles are truly fabulous and informative. We eagerly anticipate more contributions from both authors. Please continue sharing your insights with us.”

    1. Especially, the issue of online conferences is a valid consideration. Even I have observed many reputed faculty members joining conferences and online training solely for the sake of a certificate. Thanks, Dr. Ashwani, for raising this important education issue.

  2. Shabnam tabassum

    Fast food , fast fashion n fast education ,, follows the law of change .change is must to make society more inclusive .. it is double edged sword like bridging gap of rural and urban devide , gender equality etc prior to this digital culture most of the girls couldn’t realize potential now fast education is working on that front .at the same time it has reduced quality and interactive learning to some extend .. I would rather conventional forces were mking the principal of elimination more successful n fast education is bridging that gap to . Amartya Sen once wrote the need of separation of power within market economics benefits and intrest markt forces in decision making of govt is a receipe for disaster ,
    adam smith on invisible hand , took a middle path to mke blend of both possible to make society more inclusive and gender just ……

  3. Detailed exploration of fast education raises important concerns about its impact on the quality and purpose of education. The analogy to the “McDonaldization of society” provides a thought-provoking framework to understand how efficiency and standardization may compromise the depth of learning. The discussion on online platforms, dual enrollment, and the emergence of education as a commodity reflects the evolving dynamics in the educational landscape.

  4. Dr.Divya Kapoor

    The concern about losing control over educational pedagogy, especially in developing countries like India, and the potential erosion of cultural values and autonomy is a valid consideration.

  5. It’s a unique take on the contemporary realities, it displays the author’ student – centric and true academic spirit and concern of the author as an educator……….
    An insightful and hypermyopic view

  6. The viewpoint is both insightful and intensely focused, providing a unique take on contemporary realities from an educator’s perspective.

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