Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official

Digital credentials, such as badges or other open credentialing, are discussed in this NYT article which frames the traditional diploma as opaque.  What does it mean?  The work done for the degree is not apparent, the quality or what differentiates a job applicant from many others. “Diplomas and transcripts provide few means of distinguishing the great from the rest….”  Digital credentials can solve the problem, as they are more specific and can related directly  to necessary work competencies.   They are transparent and provide much more information about what was involved in achieving the credential.

I agree with the points made in the article.  I’m just not sure how fast a change like this can happen.  There are some industries that might be more likely to shift their mindset and adapt to digital credentials, but there are far more that have been using degrees and schools as a preliminary filter for many years.  It would require an entire education of the HR industry to understand what these new credentials mean, how to utilize the transparency, the power of  online learning – even traditional degrees earned online still carry stigma – and what digital artifacts and assurances of learning really portray.  There are many sides to new types of credentialing – educating the schools, the students, and the people who will ultimately hire them.


“Most important, traditional college degrees are deeply embedded in government regulation and standard human resources practice. It doesn’t matter how good a teacher you are — if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, it’s illegal for a public school to hire you. Private-sector employers often use college degrees as a cheap and easy way to select for certain basic attributes, mostly the discipline and wherewithal necessary to earn 120 college credits.”

via Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official –

Workplace Performance: Embedding Learning in Work: The Benefits and Challenges



Organizations with strong informal learning capabilities (Bersin) are 300% more likely to excel at global talent development than organizations without those competencies.  It’s no wonder.  We learn best in context, and using ADDIE or a formal learning course usually does not embed learning in work.   Having short learnings available at point of need, or as performance support, is a way of filling in the gaps of experience.  This can improve not only individual performance, but team and organizational performance as well.  Article by Charles Jennings.


“A common finding that has emerged from study after study over the past few years is that learning which is embedded in work seems to be more effective than learning away from work. If people learn as part of the workflow then this learning is more likely to impact performance in a positive way.”

via Charles Jennings | Workplace Performance: Embedding Learning in Work: The Benefits and Challenges.

From Courses to Communities

The long tail of open learning – free online courses of any type, cMOOCs, xMOOCs – is the community that forms around each one.  This has been my personal experience, and one we don’t usually hear discussed.  The course may not ever be completed, but the people we virtually bump into often share common interests and become a part of our PLNs.  In some cases we already know them from other virtual learning environments.  Interests intersect, and we bump into others – nodes in our networks.  This has been so valuable.  This article is from DML Central.

“When I started collaborating with Mitchel Resnick and Natalie Rusk at the MIT Media Lab we set out to design and offer a somewhat different online course. It would be easy to say now that creating an online learning community was our intention from the start, but the truth is, we were a little surprised ourselves, surprised and excited. Learning Creative Learning, the online course we created, became a springboard for learning with family, friends, and colleagues and turned into an ongoing community.”

via From Courses to Communities | DMLcentral.

Digital Tools Can’t Magically Create Connections


There are a number of digital tools used to make social connections, all with different purposes.  danah boyd’s recent book, “It’s Complicated, The Social Lives of Networked Teens” shares her as-always profound understanding of how networked spaces work.  In this article from DML Central, Nicole Mirra shares a review of one of danah and Harold Jenkins’ recent book talks and suggests ways in which some of the points made in the discussion geared for parents can also be used as catalysts for meaningful conversations between educators and their students.

1. “Tools that can connect us don’t do so automatically — online spaces are often just as segregated as other social spaces.”boyd and Jenkins explained that while it may appear that digital tools automatically inspire connection across boundaries, the reality of how people use them often produces increased isolation socioeconomically and ideologically……”

via Digital Tools Can’t Magically Create Connections | DMLcentral.

Academic Branding – Your Online Presence, By Design

Establishing an online presence as an academician increases dissemination of research and improves impact.  It also allows for discovery of others with similar interests, potential collaborations, and richer knowledge construction.  This is how PLNs are born and expanded.  The presentation below by Sidneyeve Matrix is full of excellent suggestions.


What Technology Does What: An #edtech Chart For Teachers (and everyone else)

This thoughtful compilation of digital tools is directed at teachers, but is equally helpful to everyone in education or the workplace.  Applications are separated by functionality, so they can be referred to based on what the user is trying to accomplish.  There’s a link on the page to a living document where readers can contribute as well.  Thanks to TeachThought for putting this helpful list together.  “This is what we hope will be an ongoing collection of the most effective ways to use technology in the classroom. We’d like to see it crowdsourced, so we may convert it to a public document/wiki-type file at some point. We’ll also try to add to it ourselves as technology suggests itself that we haven’t considered or just plain forgot about. We’ll also try to add more links, categorize more neatly, etc.We may even just crowdsource it–open it up as a wiki and let you add your expertise. If a list like this isn’t updated frequently–which takes a crowd–it’s next to worthless in a hurry. If you have an idea on how to optimally format a list like this, let us know in the comments.Maybe something like this? Edit away and let’s see what happens. For now, on to the growing list.”

via What Technology Does What: An #edtech Chart For Teachers.

Unizin – Higher Ed’s Own Path to Scale

Unizin is a pro-active, offensive approach to pressure mounting inside higher education institutions.  It puts Universities in control, and lets them achieve economies of scale by joining together and sharing resources, costs of licenses, assets, services for infrastructure, and leveraging contracts through bargaining power with publishers and other content providers.  The founder of the group of institutions is Brad Wheeler, CIO of Indiana University, who had the vision and was able to execute the opportunity.  Higher Ed has always focused on independence, rather than interdependence, but that’s the path to scale, he states.  So far, Indiana University, University of Michigan, Colorado State, and University of Florida have officially joined (thanks Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein, who uncovered Unizin well before it happened.)  Phil and Michael also reported six other universities who are reportedly joining, but it is not public yet.  “The Unizin Consortium is universities coming together in a strategic way to exert greater control and influence over the digital learning landscape.  It enables each institution, its faculty, and students to draw on an evolving set of tools to support digital learning for residential, flipped classroom, online courses/degrees, badged experiences for Alumni, or even MOOCs if desired.  Unizin supports the differing missions and strategies of universities.

via Unizin.

From Badges to Breakthroughs: Unleashing Learner Potential through Competency-Based Achievements

Focused on personalized learner outcomes, a new program at Northern Arizona University utilizes OER as well as customized content for a program that enables participants to earn a degree in a model that is both high quality and efficient.  Students can test out of parts, or sometimes all, of each class.  The classes offer content in many modalities, and learners decide when they are ready to take the final assessment which can be a project, paper, or test.  There is no such thing as failing – the student continues to do work until they are able to pass.  Badges are collected as they complete.  This is pedagogy of the future – a fantastic idea.  Research from Educause.  “Students in the Personalized Learning bachelor-degree programs in computer information technology, small business administration, and liberal arts work with a mentor faculty member before enrolment to develop a personalized learning plan to help them successfully achieve a life, work, and school balance. Once students are enrolled, they talk with their mentors at least once a week for the first six months. In subsequent subscriptions, students and their faculty mentor work out an appropriate level of contact. The curriculum is interdisciplinary and prescribed — there are no electives.”

via From Badges to Breakthroughs: Unleashing Learner Potential through Competency-Based Achievements EDUCAUSE Review |

Leadership for Education Innovation

The United States has for the first time reached a high school graduation rate of 80%.  Our next challenge will become how to get them to succeed in a post-secondary environment.  A number of cities (including Philadelphia and NYC) are experimenting with new types of school design where students draw on the assets of the whole community and its broad base of leadership – an ecosystem for learning.  With that type of design, learners graduate with competencies and opportunities that are relevant and necessary.  They can be college or workforce ready.  This article in Getting Smart by Michele Cahill focuses on how Design principles enable this type of environment.  ” Design thinking gives real roles to partner organizations in a learning ecosystem. New approaches are pushing the boundaries, as digital and blended learning open up new opportunities for educators to think creatively about how to credit student work accomplished outside a traditional classroom in an expanded learning time framework. From an equity perspective, building a eco-system that affords access to learning opportunities that extend and enrich academics is highly promising, as economically advantaged families are dramatically increasing their investments in student talent-building activities and experiences in the out-of-school time hours.””

via Leadership for Education Innovation – Getting Smart by Guest Author – edleadership, Innovation, smartcities | Getting Smart.