That’s the word! Credentialing.

I love it when I discover a new term for something that’s floating around in my head.  Today it’s credentialing.

Phase 1 of the online learning revolution is all about self-guided learning.  There are tons of resources out there to help a motivated individual to really learn things.  A few examples:

But learning is only half of the equation.  The other half is the recognition for what you’ve learned.  Many jobs have explicit or implicit educational requirements.  Are these jobs off-limit to independent learners?

Once I started working full time as a software developer I didn’t want to stop pursuing my interests.  So I decided to learn me some philosophy.  But I wanted structure and I wanted some recognition such that if I really loved philosophy I could pursue it further academically or professionally.  That meant I had to get an accredited degree.  Even though I was convinced I could self-study philosophy, I enrolled for a distance Masters degree from University of California.  Five years later I completed the degree (a great experience overall).  But I’m convinced that most of what I paid for was the credentialing.  The learning part I could have done using resources online (and at the library) and participating in online philosophy communities.

The officially accepted verdict was that I had, indeed, grappled deeply enough with the material to have earned a Masters. But I think it’s unfair that I had to pay so much for someone to assess my learning.

This is the big problem / opportunity for online learning.  There needs to be a more cost effective option for accrediting someone’s education.  Today, I came across the Kickstarter campaign for Degreed.  Encouraging, but I’m not sure about the direction they’re taking.  But I learned that the problem I am mulling is the credentialing problem.

What I would love is for an existing university with a good reputation to begin offering credentialing tests, that if passed would be sufficient proof of completing the course.  And with the proper courses completed, would grant an accredited degree.  This would have to be approved by the university’s accrediting board.  

Why is no university doing this?  Because too many students would elect for this route, and opt-out of paying high $ for on-campus learning and classes.  But I really think that this de-coupling of learning, and credentialing is the future of education.  And if an institution with a solid reputation would be brave enough to jump into credentialing they could sieze upon a huge opportunity – and really move education forward.

About brendansterne

Sr Director, Product Incubator
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