Posts tagged ‘credentialing’

January 29, 2013

University of Wisconsin to offer lower-cost online bachelor’s degrees

by Grace

University of Wisconsin to Offer a Bachelor’s to Students Who Take Online Competency Tests About What They Know

No class time will be required for most degrees as Wisconsin begins “decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting”.

Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity.

No classroom time is required under the Wisconsin program except for clinical or practicum work for certain degrees.

Competency tests will determine if course credit will be given.

Under the Flexible Option, assessment tests and related online courses are being written by faculty who normally teach the related subject-area classes, Mr. Reilly said.

Officials plan to launch the full program this fall, with bachelor’s degrees in subjects including information technology and diagnostic imaging, plus master’s and bachelor’s degrees for registered nurses. Faculty are working on writing those tests now.

A way to lower college costs

The charges for the tests and related online courses haven’t been set. But university officials said the Flexible Option should be “significantly less expensive” than full-time resident tuition, which averages about $6,900 a year at Wisconsin’s four-year campuses.

There is concern that programs will be “watered down” versions of traditional degrees.  I think they’re making a mistake by not requiring proctored testing.

Based on the examples given in the article, this new degree option will mainly attract older students.

Beth Calvert, a 35-year-old registered nurse at a Milwaukee hospital, hopes to enroll in the program to earn her bachelor’s in nursing. Between working overnight shifts and caring for her 3-year-old daughter, Ms. Calvert said she has little time to move beyond her associate degree but knows that it increasingly is important to her employer, which she said offers a pay raise to nurses with higher degrees.

June 6, 2012

Will a portfolio replace a college degree?

by Grace

If we are experiencing a higher education bubble, characterized by skyrocketing costs for degrees of questionable value that are increasingly only affordable by assuming growing amounts of debt, what comes after the bubble bursts?  Glenn Reynolds writes about how portfolios could replace some degrees as the credential of choice for employment.

Another opportunity exists in alternative methods of certifying knowledge. A college diploma serves as a basic signifier of its holder’s basic competence, but with costs running well into the six figures, it’s an awfully expensive credential.

MIT/Harvard will start certifying online students, and that may be just the beginning. The Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson suggests that people should accumulate knowledge in life, then build a portfolio that will directly demonstrate their knowledge to future employers. He calls it savoir faire: (Literally: “know how to do.”)

One sign of a higher education bubble is that too many unprepared high school graduates are enrolling in college.  So instead of enrolling in a four-year degree program that will leave him paying back loans for twenty years or more, it might make more sense for a student to focus on the key skills needed for his career of choice.  He could then create a portfolio of credentials or “badges” that demonstrates his capabilities for a job in technology, customer service, healthcare, human resources, or any number of fields.  This makes more sense than the broken system we have now, where an urban studies major struggles to pay back student loans while working as an administrative assistant.

It’s hard to predict exactly how such a significant evolution would take place, but it might be useful to remember the days when it was rare that want ads for administrative staff included “college degree preferred” in their requirements.  That change probably happened over twenty years or more, but the move to a new credentialing system could take less time.

Writing is one skill that could benefit from such a change.  I can see how high school graduates could become better writers by taking a few targeted courses instead of spending most of four or five years studying partying on a typical college campus.  Employers should welcome this new type of credentialing since they now have a difficult time finding qualified employees to hire among recent college graduates.

ADDED:  A new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce says that certificates are the fastest-growing postsecondary credential awarded and have demonstrated increasing clout … in the labor market.

February 2, 2012

An important step in breaking higher education’s credentialing monopoly?

by Grace

On the road to the dismantling of  higher education’s expensive monopoly on credentialing comes an announcement of new online testing options for students.  

First, a review of economics.

If the price of something rises a lot, people look for substitutes. Resources (dollars) are scarce, and individuals want to make the best use of them. They “maximize their utility” by shifting away from high-priced good or service A to lower-priced good B.

Students and employers are stuck in our current system, where colleges hold credentialing monopoly.

With regards to colleges, consumers typically have believed that there are no good substitutes–the only way a person can certify to potential employers that she/he is pretty bright, well educated, good at communicating, disciplined, etc., is by presenting a bachelor’s degree diploma. College graduates typically have these positive attributes more than others, so degrees serve as an important signaling device to employers, lowering the costs of learning about the traits of the applicant. Because of the lack of good substitutes, colleges face little outside competition and can raise prices more, given their quasi-monopoly status.

As college costs rise, however, people are asking: Aren’t there cheaper ways of certifying competence and skills to employers?


New competency tests as college alternatives:

The search for alternative ways is leading to other entities offering credentials for much less than the $30,000-$60,000 per year that colleges charge.  New agreements between Burck Smith’s StraighterLine, the Education Testing Service (ETS), and the Council on Aid to Education (CAE) to offer online competency tests have just been announced.

Students can tell employers, “I did very well on the CLA and iSkills test, strong predictors of future positive work performance,” and, implicitly “you can hire me for less than you pay college graduates who score less well on these tests.”

Will it be more “fair”?
The suggestion is that employers will be a driving force in the move to alternative credentialing as a way to keep salary costs in line.  This could be true, pointing to a possible increasing class divide between high and low earners, with only graduates of elite residential colleges in the running for top salaries.  On the other hand, employers would be able to spurn the graduates of the many expensive-but-mediocre colleges in favor of alternatively credentialed employees who would be able to compete for jobs on a true merit basis.

More:  How quickly will the Higher-Ed Revolution happen?

It’s happening, almost overnight: what could be the collapse of the near-monopoly that traditional brick-and-mortar colleges and universities currently enjoy as respected credentialing institutions whose degrees and grades mean something to employers.

Related:  Higher education is a prisoner’s dilemma

November 11, 2011

How to get a free education

by Grace

Unfortunately, this free education comes without the credentials.  Only traditional institutions of higher learning can offer those.  For now.

Marc and Angel Hack Life put together a list of 12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free, ranging from Khan Academy  to Open Yale Courses  to my new favorite, Bio’s Best.

Those people who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own are the only ones who earn a real education in this world.  Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of.  Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.

Have fun!

Related:  Is higher education on track to lose its credentialing monopoly?

June 16, 2011

Is higher education on track to lose its credentialing monopoly?

by Grace

Higher education may be at a crossroads, facing the possibility of losing its role as the main merchant of career credentialing.  Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote about this in her commentary on Peter Thiel’s initiative to lure entrepreneurial students away from college.

Colleges have long been engaged in an odd deal with students and their parents. Paying for a college education — or taking on a huge amount of debt to finance an education — is a transaction in which most of the buyers and most of the sellers have fundamentally different understandings of the product….

In the college transaction, most parents think they’re buying their kids a credential, a better job and a ticket, economically speaking at least, to the American dream. Most college professors and administrators (the good ones, anyway) see their role as producing liberally educated, well-rounded individuals with an appreciation for certain kinds of knowledge. If they get a job after graduation, well, that’s nice, too.

The students, for the most part, are not quite sure where they fit into this bargain. Some will get caught up in what they learn and decide to go on to further education. But most will see college as an opportunity to have fun and then come out the other end of the pipeline with the stamp of approval they need to make a decent salary after graduation.

Here’s a dirty little secret that’s quickly becoming common knowledge.

Thanks to the wonders of grade inflation and the lack of a serious core curriculum, it is possible to get through Harvard and a number of other high-price universities acing your computer science classes and devoting very little effort to anything else.

College students are spending less time studying, graduating with minimal evidence of academic growth.   Their course work often consists of random bits of dumbed down fluff classes.

Beyond the top tier, there are also gaping holes in higher education. Executives at U.S. companies routinely complain about the lack of reading, writing and math skills in the recent graduates they hire. Maybe they too will get tired of using higher education as a credentialing system. Maybe it will be easier to recruit if they don’t have to be concerned about the overwhelming student debt of their new employees.

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