Rundown of Credentialing 2.0 Panel at Global Education Conference

The first panel of the Global Education Conference was titled “Credentialing 2.0. Is the degree the “currency of the realm” for employment and educational attainment purposed?  Is there an opening for micro-credentials and, if so, what is the opportunity?  Are there alternatives to accreditation as a means of validation?  The panel participants that attempted to answer that question were:

  • Anya Kamenetz(Author, DIY U)
  • David Levin(President &CEO,McGraw-Hill Education)
  • Bob Schwartz (Professor, Harvard)
  • Eric Waldo(Executive Director, Reach Higher, White House)
  • Moderator:Hunt Lambert (Dean,Harvard)

I’ve always found this topic interesting.  While I think every student that should get a four-year degree should do so, it clearly isn’t for everyone.  Vocational degrees have great value in the economy and I the skills gap (the gap between the educational attainment of students and the skill s actually needed in the workforce) in part exists – largely, I think – because society has so devalued technical certificates and similar credentials (and apprenticeships) that parents stop promoting them and students stop taking up such opportunities.

Thankfully, the panel addressed these and other topics.  In her main presentation, Ms. Kamenetz discussed a number of issues with micro-credentials and badges. In particular, she pointed out that the time for such innovations is already here and is being in use, although the “when if the future coming” crowd is having some difficulty in recognizing that the future is here.  She also made a good point about badges and other micro-credentials exiting largely in the context of specific communities.  This of course leads to the inevitable question of how do we get the badges to have value to people that aren’t members of the issuing community, or how to make the community bigger.  This leads us to accreditation and other forms of validation, which I will discuss in a later post at some point.

Professor Bob Schwartz had an interesting discussion about the value of vocational degree and discussed the Swiss system, which segregates kids (by choice, I believe) at age 16 into vocational tracks and academic tracks.  In addition, the system is strongly guided by employers who, after all, have so much to gain from an educated workforce.  He also discussed his study of the Swiss system, which sounds well worth reading.

Eric Waldo had a number of things to say about current administration initiatives in this area, but what resonated most with me is his telling of First Lady Michelle Obama’s difficulties as a first generation college student.  Having been in the same situation, I completely sympathize.  He discussed the First Lady’s ignorance of what classes to pick (she was a freshman in a senior seminar), what to bring and how to act.  Indeed, the social aspects of being at a college without a family history to guide you were, it seems for Mrs. Obama, more daunting than the class work.  We really do need to do more for students to get them comfortable with being in college.  I’m interested to see how her program – which Mr. Wald is running — will make high schools and colleges better able to address these concerns.

David Levin’s presentation was the most “blue sky” of the presentations.  Indeed, his emphasis on competency and other models being able to validate mastery of topics in a statistical way was very forward thinking.  I particularly liked how he used such ideas to divorce learning from seat time and how validation of learning could revolutionize the current transfer of credit models that too often inhibit students and extend time to degree.

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