Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jailbreaking the Degree

David Blake / May 5 2012

Editor’s note: David Blake is the Founder of Degreed, the new degree for the new world. [snip]

Jailbreak verb. 1 To get out of a restricted mode of operation. 2 To enable use of a product not intended by the manufacturer.

Currently, the degree is the only meaningful “unit” of education to which employers give any credence. Of this dependency, TIME magazine writes, “The tight connection between college degrees and economic success may be a nearly unquestioned part of our social order. [snip].

The traditional degree, with its four-year time commitment and steep price tag, made sense when the university centrally aggregated top academic minds with residency-based students. Education required extensive logistics, demanding deep commitment from students worthy of being rewarded with the all-or-nothing degree.

But education isn’t all-or-nothing. College and its primary credential, the degree, needn’t be either. The benefit of modern, online education is that the burden of logistics and infrastructure are greatly reduced, allowing for the potential of a fluid, lifelong education model. The problem, to date, is that formal, online education is still being packaged in all-or-nothing degree programs, falsely constraining education innovation. [snip].

Technology creates efficiencies by decreasing unit size while increasing utility.  To falsely constrain anything to historically larger canons is to render technology impotent to do what it does best.

Clayton Christensen predicts, “I bet what happens as [higher education] becomes more modular is that accreditation occurs at the level of the course, not the university; so they can then offer degrees as collection of the best courses taught in the world. A barrier that historically kept people out of university [is] blown away by the modularization and the change in [course-by-course] accreditation.”

[snip]

Seth Godin writes, “Transparency in… school might destroy it. If we told the truth about the irrelevance of various courses, about the relative quality of some teachers, about the power of choice… could the school as we know it survive?”

To be explicit, in seeking to evolve beyond the four-year degree we need not be anti-college. iTunes didn’t render the musician irrelevant just the album. But just as Napster, YouTube, iTunes and Spotify evolved the paths, careers, and distribution of musicians and their music, the role that the university plays will evolve dramatically.

[snip]

Jailbreaking the degree and making courses the “unit” of education will unlock a flood of unmet demand and a new wave of possibilities in how we learn and consume education.

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