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mehaffydc on 2012-01-31"Credentials, Good Will Hunting & MITx
It’s no secret that the authority to bestow credentials is a core source of value for higher education institutions; it’s also a key means by which the institution protects itself from unwanted competition from non-sanctioned education providers.
The importance of credentials to higher education is what makes the recent announcement from MIT particularly interesting.
MIT has received a great deal of positive attention in response to the MITx announcement - a "game changer", argued Forbes. It may well turn out to be just that, but I think it's useful to see this initiative as part of a broader trend that began in earnest six or seven years ago: the creation and (slow) legitimization of new types of learning providers, ways of learning, and credentials.
As soon as access to the Net became commonplace, innovators saw the potential to offer learners educational opportunities outside of established educational institutions. (You might recall oft-repeated quote from John Chambers, CEO of Cisco: "the next killer app is education over the internet (New York Times, Nov 17, 1999). The innovations took a number of forms, but for those of us in higher education, possibly the most interesting of the bunch were those that were presented as direct challenges to higher education. Here are a few of the more interesting examples:
- “UnCollege" was started by college dropout, Dale Stephens, who declared there are better ways to learn than what is being offered by US colleges and universities.
- The "Personal MBA" argued that spending 80k (plus lost wages) on an MBA was unnecessary, and set up an online community to allow people to learn outside of institutions.
- Peter Thiel offered 100,000 per year to 20 students that would drop out of college to launch a business.
- And possibly most significant is the creation of "badges" that allow people to demonstrate mastery of subjects in a variety of ways.
These initiatives have a fascinati