Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rethinking the Diploma

I have had ongoing debates with friends and colleagues about the usefulness of the liberal arts education in today's working environment. While it should teach critical thinking and analysis aand provide reasearch and writing capabilities, it doesn't quite prepare students for jobs.

It appears that Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman agrees - in order to make higher education more effective and affordable he wrote that we have to completely overhaul education -

“To do this, we need to apply new technologies to the primary tool of traditional certification, the diploma,” he wrote. “We need to take what now exists as a dumb, static document and turn it into a richer, updateable, more connected record of a person’s skills, expertise, and experience. And then we need to take that record and make it part of a fully networked certification platform.”

This on the heals for the Chamber event yesterday where the panel noted that there is a steep disconnect with what business needs and what higher ed is providing.  

Some cool companies highlighted in the article that are unbundling the degree:

"In various ways, a few companies already reveal what digital degree alternative might look like: startup Smarterer (see disclosure) offers lifelong learners and job candidates ways to measure and prove skills acquired outside the traditional classroom setting through crowdsourced tests. And job search site Bright gives employers a quantitative way to assess and rank applicants’ experiences and education.

But Degreed, a startup launched by a member of the founding team of ed tech company Zinch (which later sold to IPO-bound textbook rental site Chegg), comes closest to matching Hoffman’s vision of technology-driven credentialing. Its slogan (“jailbreaking the degree”) lines right up with Hoffman’s goal of “disrupting the diploma” and its service is very similar to the design specs he lays out.
The company, which has raised $900,000 in funding and just graduated fromKaplan’s TechStars-powered ed tech accelerator, gives users an online, updateable and machine-readable repository for tracking all of their learning — from a Harvard education to classes on Coursera or iTunes to educational books and videos. It also aims to score those experiences so that users and employers have a modular way of understanding a person’s collection of skills. Sincelaunching last year, the company says, users have uploaded 1.5 million pieces of credentialing information to the site."