The new movement to give college credit for the things you already know.
In fact, the cutting edge of nontraditional credentialing increasingly can be found outside the realm of college altogether. LearningCounts, Knext, and Excelsior can help you get college credit without attending college. Other people are developing systems of credit that have nothing to do with “college” at all. The Open Badges movement, sponsored by the Mozilla Foundation (creators of the popular Firefox Web browser), is helping build whole online, information-rich credentialing systems for all manner of knowledge, expertise, and experience, much of it acquired in the workplace, local and virtual communities, and other places far from the traditional lecture hall. Start-up companies like Smarterer (not a typo) are building test- and badge-based systems that allow people to catalog, organize, and prove their knowledge in a variety of ways. The recently announced edX initiative, bankrolled by Harvard and MIT, will give students formal recognition of what they’ve learned in free online courses. They won’t be “Harvard credits” but they will be something creditlike, issued by someone closely affiliated with Harvard. After decades of monoculture, new forms of credentials are proliferating in wild and interesting ways.
All of which points toward a world where people have many options beyond their local college for getting the equivalent of college credit. That’s a welcome development and a huge net positive for dynamic labor markets in which people form associations with organizations and other people far outside of their local communities and need credible proof of knowledge and skills. The more the sum of human knowledge and skill is represented in credentials that can be used to access jobs and education, the better off we’ll be.
Excelsior’s philosophy is “What you know is more important than where or how you learned it.” That was true in 1971, but it is far more true today.
[Return to The Future of Success in America]
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