May 3, 2012

Alternative Certification Badges: Rethinking Higher Education

This week, we are discussing the entity of Higher Education. The costs, the curriculum, the desired outcomes, and the alternatives.

Yesterday, we explored some of the amazing, world-class, and very FREE educational resources sprouting up due to the wonders of technology - that could essentially replace, at the very least, the "liberal arts" part of a college education.

But, this only works if either:
A) Colleges recognize this alternative as official transfer credit, essentially halving one's out-of-pocket costs for a college education
B) Human Resource managers stop caring whether or not you have a degree

But right now, having a bachelors degree is the single easiest assurance a company has that you'll be a productive fit. After all, you made it through college. Your degree is an field related to the skills we're looking for. You can't be a complete bozo?

But some of the free resources we went through yesterday aren't just "equivalent" to Gen Eds, but in many cases, are arguably superior to them? And if I'm a hiring manager, and see that a prospective employee enrolled in Khan Academy, I might actually prefer that individual? After all, they're intuitive, tech-savvy and resourceful. As long as I can prove they actually "attended".

Because at a traditional college, you are penalized if absent from class (your body if not your mind), and tested to measure some sort of knowledge retention (regurgitation).

But, the Khan Academy is doing that, too. They have implemented testing and "badge" certifications. Once you test proficient in all skills related to a particular subject, you receive a "Proficiency Badge" in Calculus I, Algebra I, Geometry I, etc. Mozilla is trying to help create a universal Open Badges System to mainstream this idea. Other institutions like Microsoft don't offer the education itself, but offer the certification test itself that you can prepare for in whatever way you desire.

For example, let's say someone learns graphic design on their own time. Through library books, and YouTube tutorials.

Two candidates walk in your office.

One has their degree in Graphic Design from Bradley University.

One has their Liberal Arts education Proficiency Certification from Khan Academy, Crash Course certifications in Color Theory, Typography, Logo Design and Digital Photography, and Adobe Master Certifications in InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Flash, Premiere and AfterEffects.

Now, I'm not sure what looks better. I think the first is still safer.

...but the second one is FREE.