Reid Hoffman’s blog post last week about disrupting the diploma is aligned 100% with what we’re doing at Merit:
Imagine an online document that’s iterative like a LinkedIn profile (and might even be part of the LinkedIn profile), but is administered by some master service that verifies the authenticity of its components. While you’d be the creator and primary keeper of this profile, you wouldn’t actually be able to add certifications yourself. Instead, this master service would do so, verifying information with the certification issuers, at your request, after you successfully completed a given curriculum.
Over time, this dynamic, networked diploma will contain an increasing number of icons or badges symbolizing specific certifications. It could also link to transcripts, test scores, and work examples from these curricula, and even evaluations from instructors, classmates, internship supervisors, and others who have interacted with you in your educational pursuits.
It’s a powerful vision for how colleges and universities, as well as every learning experience students take on, can build a living professional presence for all people. Reid points to the Mozilla Open Badge Initiative as a potential platform. But there’s a big question that needs to be answered.
Why will anyone award certifications this way? In other words, from the perspective of schools, educators, intern sponsors and others: What’s in it for me?
Just look at the comments to Kevin Carey’s article in the Chronicle proposing something similar to Reid: overwhelming opposition to the idea that colleges and professors owe students anything that employers might find useful. Worse, the vast majority of leaders and educators at 4-year colleges don’t believe that the employability or preparedness of their students for work is a measure of school quality.
So who’s going to take responsibility for moving certifications and measures of learning outcomes into a new type of diploma? There has to be payoff for someone on their own terms of success, not just as a contribution to a larger good. Solutions have to recognize self-interest and personal incentives to work, which is why worthy but un-sponsored solutions like Mozilla’s will die quietly.
On the other hand–and immodestly–Merit harnesses self interest in the service of that larger vision, which is why more than 15% of the U.S. college population now enjoys the type of networked diploma that Reid envisions. With more to come.