Reimagining Credentials for Personalized Learning

For anyone imagining a future where traditional credentials are no longer the gold standard for confirming learning and securing employment, KnowledgeWorks offers a set of scenarios that clears this hurdle to personalized learning.

KnowledgeWorks promotes a future of learning at the intersection of competency, personalization and technology. Futurist Jason Swanson redefines what degrees represent and how they work in all four scenarios. In his baseline scenario, we still use degrees but have multiple ways to demonstrate competency. In the first alternative scenario, the employment sector accepts and promotes new forms of credentials, especially microcredentials. In the second alternative scenario, technology tracks every informal and formal learning experience wherever it might occur. The wild card scenario is a Sci-Fi leap into the future of neuroscience, but not an implausible one, with neuro-fingerprints to maximize cognitive capabilities and social and emotional skills.

In all scenarios Swanson anticipates K-12, higher education and the employment sector draw closer together. New roles emerge like career connectors and job jockeys to guide students and cyberscouts to recruit and develop employees with the right skills.

Microcredentials become either a way to recognize specialized skills or a way to stack up short competency-based learning experiences that add up to or displace a degree (or led to a nanodegree). Then there’s what he calls the “Brand of Me” credential that combines formal and informal learning experiences, including social media thought leadership. (Isn’t that why most people blog?)

I can imagine higher education institutions finding much more to dislike than K-12 educators in these scenarios.  Their numbers are likely to be fewer and their core identity as learning institutions seriously challenged. These scenarios only fuel the debates about whether the purpose of higher education is learning for life or vocation.

As someone who just wasted 30 minutes trying to find the course materials from a MOOC I did in the past year, I absolutely see the benefit of what Swanson calls a learning record store. If I could have a technology-enabled learning portfolio, I would order the app today.

The role and perspective of the learner is the only thing I see missing from these provocative scenarios.  Students have more responsibility for managing and demonstrating their learning in any alternative credentialing scheme.  Even when we have the best technologies to support us, will we have the self-actualization or drive or grit or whatever term might best describe our socio-emotional readiness for a world where we are the only obstacles to what we truly want to learn and do?