Credentialing of education


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I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn ~ Albert Einstein

A four-year university degree. Community college. Bootcamps. Certifications. It is critical to never stop learning over a lifetime, but the ability to attest to the skills and knowledge gained in a portable and interoperable manner remains a challenge. Some pointers and thoughts …

My opinion on the current state of practice is to a great extent being shaped by my perspective as a parent who is seeing a four year “distance education” degree being delivered to one of my children and being … underwhelmed.

Higher education institutions have not had to change or innovate in the way that they deliver education for a long time because of the prevalent view held by parents that a four-year degree for their child is the minimum credential needed for future life success. However, having the opportunity to directly see the in-your-face reality of said education during COVID-19 is …ah… thought-provoking at best!

Unbundling education

What is new in this space is, unsurprisingly, not coming from the higher education community but from big technology firms who see higher education as a market ripe for disruption and unbundling.

And no one has been more forward leaning in this area than Google with the introduction of the “Google Career Certificate” program. The certificate programs, designed and taught by Google employees who work in these fields, include certificates for IT Support Specialists, IT Automation with Python Professionals, Data Analysts, Project Managers and UX Designers.

What is even more interesting is their announcement that “… at Google we will consider our new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree for related roles,” as well as the more than 50 potential employers who have joined the effort.

Portable education credentials

As these types of certifications gain traction, the ability of a lifelong learner to manage the credentials they have earned in a manner that gives them maximum flexibility and utility becomes very important. Needless to say, security, privacy and interoperability of the credentials in a manner that allows for global usage and acceptance remains paramount.

For those interested in moving this area forward, I would urge you monitor and engage in the work of the W3C CCG Verifiable Credentials for Education Task Force and the T3 Innovation Network’s Learning and Employment Record (LER) Hub.

Way forward

There are both concerns and opportunities in this space.

A concern is that, as currently operated, higher education institutions see their Registrar’s office as a source of revenue e.g. Requests for official transcripts and degree verifications require payment to the university. So, asking a higher education system to design an approach and support an ecosystem where the earned credentials are under the control of the learner and not the university feels a bit like asking the fox to design a hen house!

On the other hand, by requiring and supporting open, standardized mechanisms for potential employees to present their credentials in combination with supporting non-traditional certifications, skills and qualifications for available jobs, employers can gain access to a global pipeline of talent. Are you ready?

cyberforge: random and relevant

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