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  • E-interview with Mr. Danny King

    Danny King sees a great shift in the progress of education. Advancing technology brings quality education to places once deprived. They are encouraged by technology's potential to democratize opportunity by breaking down geographic and economic barriers to learning and by working to change the way knowledge is recognized.

    1. How does Accredible overcome the skepticism about online education and digital certification?

    Accredible's premise is simple: if you have knowledge or skill and you can demonstrate it, then you should be credible regardless of how or where it was obtained. Employers often express skepticism towards online learning because it is harder for them to be confident that the learning was high quality and that the participant actually did all of the learning that is claimed. Accredible lets learners build a new type of free credential with the proof of learning built into it. They consist of three sections. First, the official course documentation, such as a PDF certificate of completion and grades, if it exists is displayed. Second, and most importantly, a portfolio of evidence of the knowledge or skills gained. This is often written notes, projects, assignments, screen recordings (self proctoring of assignments and examinations) and short video diary entries of themselves explaining the key concepts on the course. Finally, learners can gather short text references from other course mates, colleagues, mentors and professors which are linked to the referee's public LinkedIn profile for verification. This is all packaged into a beautifully presented and easy to share webpage with a short, unique URL that you can include on your résumé or embed on your LinkedIn profile. See www.accredible.com/u/dannyking for some examples.

    2. Can Accredible benefit those outside the IT and Technology sector?

    Absolutely. At the time of writing, 4 out of the top 10 courses that Accredible users have participated in are unrelated to IT, so whilst the majority of our users have a technical focus, there is a strong community of people outside of the tech sector interested in improving their skills and showcasing their knowledge. One of the strengths of using Accredible to bolster your credibility is that the learner has control over how they demonstrate that credibility. This flexibility allows for almost any skill or knowledge to be demonstrated in a credible way, including non-technical skills. As long as it is possible to digitize that evidence, it can be used on Accredible.

    3. What are your plans to attract the attention of more job seekers and employers?

    We've already had good interest from one type of employers: startups and small companies. These employers usually suffer from a big problem: if they make a wrong hiring decision it can be extremely costly and sometimes even fatal. They usually want to know as much as possible about potential job candidates before making an offer. Accredible excels at this, so we have started to nurture relationships with startup employers and they are helping us to design our credential pages. I think the strongest way to attract the attention of more job seekers is to have a service that is so useful that they want to tell their friends. We are building many features into Accredible to make the whole learning journey easier - not just the final result. Accredible now has a comprehensive catalogue of online courses, tools to help you organize, schedule and document your learning and community forums on top of our credentialing tools.

    4. How do you see the future of higher education accreditation five years from now?

    I believe accreditation will look very different in five years because I believe that the way people will learn is going to be very different. The way we learn is evolving; increasingly, it's not access to money, geography or a person's social graph that determines the extent and quality of their knowledge. Motivation and an Internet connection are all that are necessary to access high quality learning content for free or very cheaply from the world's best universities. Companies such as Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, Treehouse, Futurelearn, Dualingo and others are spearheading this evolution, putting out world-class educational content, often for free. UNESCO have predicted an extra 98 million tertiary education students by 2025, which would require the construction of four large universities each week until then to meet that level of demand. The traditional education system can't scale that fast, so online education and self-education are predicted to play a very significant part of the future of education.

    Millions of people are now getting highly educated through online self-education but they aren't getting credentialed – traditional paper-based credentials simply can't scale to meet the demands of and challenges faced by online learning. We need a new way of thinking about credentials that meet the following criteria in order for credentialing to evolve in pace with education:

    Scalable - credentials must be credible regardless of the number of students participating in a course. Many online courses have tens of thousands of concurrent students; grading of traditional exam-based credentials is not practical in the emerging learning environment.

    Flexible - learners should be able to showcase their knowledge or skill in the way that demonstrates it best for them, rather than having 'one size fits all' evaluations. Credibility need not be obtained by jumping through hoops, but rather by gathering and demonstrating knowledge or ability. In addition, should be less binary; if a learner completes only half a course, they should get half a credential. It need not be all or nothing.

    Ongoing - credentials should not be a snapshot of ability at one point in time. They should evolve and update as people progress through life and add to their skills and knowledge.

    Comprehensive - It should not matter where or how something was learned, whether in a formal learning instruction or through self-education. If something has been learned, it should be credentialed, regardless of whether an institution can vouch for the learning.

    5. What are the questions about online and future education that need to be answered by further research?

    I think that the three most pressing questions we need to answer regarding online education are:
    1. How can we provide employers and other stakeholders with confidence in learner outcomes from self-directed online learning?
    2. What are the pedagogical implications of a more self-directed and digital learning environment? This is something that the Open University in the UK has been researching for many years and which has recently culminated in the launching of the online MOOC provider FutureLearn.
    3. How can we maintain the social aspect of learning if it is increasingly done in isolation on a computer? How can we facilitate cross-germination of ideas in the same way in which universities currently excel?

  • E-interview with Mr. Dale Stephens

    Dale J. Stephens, founder and CEO of UnCollege (www.uncollege.org), is a sought-after education expert. UnCollege is a social movement changing the notion that college is the only path to success. It provides resources for students that wish to define their own educational paths, whether in or outside of traditional higher education models. Stephens' first book, Hacking Your Education, was published by Penguin in March 2013. He has appeared on major news networks including CNN, ABC, NPR, CBS, Fox, and TechCrunch. His work has been covered by the New York Times and New York Magazine to Fast Company and Forbes. He speaks regularly at conferences around the world. In 2013, Forbes recognized him as a 30 Under 30 Leader.

    What type of knowledge, skills, values and capacities does Uncollege seek to develop in students?

    UnCollege teaches the types of skills you're supposed to learn in school but that no one ever bothers to teach, such as time management, social capital, motivation, negotiation, and more. These skills are useful across disciplines and are essential that every adult master. We call these meta-learning skills.

    What is the difference between the focus of traditional education and the approach of UnCollege?

    Traditional education focuses on teaching content. UnCollege focuses on helping people become better learners. By becoming better learners, UnCollege fellows will be able to more quickly master hard skills.

    What would you consider as the ideal system of education and how would it differ from what is offered in universities today?

    I think an ideal university system must be relevant, iterative, and accountable. I want to see a system that teaches useful skills, that frequently adapts its curriculum for the world, and is only kept around if the curriculum helps its students find success.

    What capacities are needed in 21st century career market and how can youth best acquire them?

    The kinds of skills UnCollege teaches are the exact capacities that are needed: building social capital, communicating effectively, giving and getting feedback. These skills can be learned over time, but focusing on learning them expressly in a program such as Gap Year is far more efficient.

    How might the UnCollege approach, if widely applied, impact on the problem of unemployment?

    If the unemployed were to become better learners, then they could teach themselves the required skills instead of waiting for someone else to do it. As it stands, we don't motivate the unemployed to learn - we simply encourage them to do what they already know how to do, which is a remarkably bad idea seeing as they are likely unemployed because their current skills aren't valued.