The death of degrees? 9 alternative credentialing approaches

Online courses stand poised to dish out a lot more knowledge in 2013, but figuring out how to measure that knowledge, let alone determine how to grant credit hours for MOOCs, remains a problem.

With college education costs rising, and employers as interested as ever in evaluating what young hires know, alternative credentialing methods are popping up everywhere. As a result, numerous sites and services are giving users with prior learning experience—whether it comes from an incomplete degree, MOOCs or the military—a chance to present their skills to prospective employers.

Education Dive is always on the lookout for new alternative credentialing providers, and these are nine of the most innovative examples we have seen:

1. MOZILLA OPEN BADGES
Mozilla’s Open Badges project recognizes that learning today happens everywhere and seeks to implement a system that acknowledges this reality. In the Open Badge system, a “Badge Issuer” such as an after-school program, free online course or vocational institute can award a badge to a learner, which they can then display across a range of sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Wordpress and Tumblr.

2. MOOC CERTIFICATES
Massive open online courses such as Udacity's "Interactive Rendering," edX's "Introduction to Biology," and Coursera's "Foundations of Business Strategy" offer certificates verifying a learner’s successful completion. While the value of these certificates has been widely questioned--even by Coursera founder Andrew Ng. Regardless, they still represent having learned something and efforts are under way to ascribe a more concrete credential to the free online courses.

3. BADGES FOR VETS
Badges for Vets is a free website funded by the HASTAC Initiative and MacArthur Foundation that provides U.S. military veterans with a means to indicate relevant military training and experience to prospective employers. Examples of available badges include translator, engineering construction, law enforcement and finance, and employers are able to browse the Badges for Vets database to match specific qualifications or find qualified veterans in their local community.

4. DEGREED
If you’ve taken a few courses at a traditional university, but you also have a few MOOCs under your belt, Degreed will provide you with an overall score, as well as scores for each academic discipline, based on your total academic experience. Degreed is a free service that, in effect, “jailbreaks” a user’s education experience by validating what they’ve already known and opening the door to new employment and educational opportunities.

5. SKILLS
With Skills, users can tag themselves and their friends with a variety of skills and interests, whether they involve actual jobs, hobbies or future dreams. The idea is that the tags act as a sort of “social endorsement” tool. With a Chrome or Firefox browser extension, Skills tags can even be viewed directly in your Twitter feed.

6. LEARNING JAR
At Learning Jar, users can learn new skills that others have posted and post their own path to learning a skill. Promoted as a site for autodactiles, the 2012 SXSWedu LAUNCHedu winner has users complete challenges to demonstrate the skills they’ve learned and create a portfolio to share that work with everyone from friends to potential employers.

7. SMARTERER
Another badge-based system, Smarterer tests users on a specific skill via multiple choice questions and award a badge displaying how much they know. The more than 500 subjects available include topics like Photoshop, Powerpoint, Java, corporate finance and accounting, and after you’ve completed a test, the site lets you know what you still need to learn so you can improve.

8. ACE PRIOR LEARNING ASSESSMENT FOR MOOCs
The American Council on Education’s prior learning assessments program has been around for over 60 years as a method of evaluating workforce and military training for higher education credit. Recently, however, ACE announced it would evaluate MOOCs for prior learning credit recommendations. So far, the organization has arrangements in place to evaluate MOOCs from Udacity and Coursera for credit.

9. TEACH NOW
Since 2003, the National Center for Alternative Certification has offered full descriptions of alternative routes to teacher certification in all 50 states free via www.teachnow.org. The organization also now offers a $5,000 online certification program that takes advantage of a flipped classroom model and uses curriculum based on InTASC standards.


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Top Image Credit: Flickr user Wonderlane