Regina Saphier: Get Credit for Everything You Ever Learn

The Startup that Aims to Get You Credit for Everything You Ever Learn: Degreed

People keep complaining about the changes in higher education, while they should rather embrace and utilise those changes. The main complaint appears to be related to THE DEGREE and THE MEASUREMENT of KNOWLEDGE. No degree, no knowledge? Come on!

First of all, a lifetime of devoted work gives you enormous insight, yet where does it show up on your degree? Nowhere! Also, who the hell cares about your rigid degree 10 years from now when expectations, necessary work skills and the technology will be dramatically different. Sure, I know a lot because I went to Teachers College of Columbia University over 10 years ago, but I know so much more because I constantly learn and interact online, ever since. I have been observing a promising US based startup for a while, called Degreed. Their plan is: jailbreaking the degree. I happened to be one of the “founding scholars” according to their website, but that just means I am a “super early adopter” of anything that shows promise during these revolutionary times when higher education and the measurement of knowledge change forever right in front of our noses. Even in front of the noses of those who are not paying attention to these changes. Those shall be very surprised.

I would say, this below is more of a concept video, the system is not yet as smooth, but it is what the team envisions:


Anyway, if you get a profile, you can start entering your classes, be it traditional or nontraditional, MOOC or experience based… conference, video, or reading based… Being a “founding scholar” also means that you get to test the system as it develops. It also means you are a test person with a lot of test worthy data, user experience and user interface design feedback. Until now the process was pretty frustrating, because believe me it is not easy to create a system that incorporates your every educational move in life. I really admire the teams persistence in the face of this huge undertaking. Obviously, more automation would be marvelous, because e.g.: I posted hundreds of articles and videos via facebook over the years that I read and watched and I definitely won’t start adding those again on Degreed manually. And there are the hundreds of TED Conference talks I live blogged… and the dozens of TED videos I subtitled in Hungarian. And the three different blogs I write… If the Degreed system would just magically pull my video, article, blog, translation, etc. data and calculate an aggregated number in each area for example, that would reflect my knowledge level in some areas based on lets say: word analysis… I would have a meaningful number saying that I know a lot about Coursera, E-learning, MOOCs, etc. Even better, if my bookmarks could be analysed in my browser, it would show a huge number of articles read and videos watched. It could also show how many videos I watched in “uncompleted” Coursera courses (that I did not even start with the aim to complete with an exam, just wanted to add the content to “my mental matrix of the world”). I know I did  not even mention actual university based education… you can enter the institution, the courses, the degree… In a way Degreed aims to show your dynamic educational “Klout”, but the system is still work in progress. It is totally normal for a startup.

Lately, I am startup hunting and mentoring online (I am a complete outlier in my immediate environment), and so I am observing new and promising organizations every day, globally. While other people read the local news full of hopelessly repetitive stupidity, I am reading global startup news and that is very interesting, never boring. Unsurprisingly, I noticed that Degreed got a bit of funding for actual growth and development, plus added a new COO. Congratulations to the core team of Degreed! Keep up the good work! So, I am now more hopeful that 2014 is the year Degreed grew up and went mainstream… I mean the waves Coursera is making globally… all that MOOC energy… all those thousands of people compiling certificates via all sorts of MOOC platforms (mostly people with degrees), those people might benefit enormously from a platform for validation and lifelong learning result accumulation in a meaningful way.

Sure, you can now post your Coursera certificates on your LinkedIn profile, also Coursera is now offering “Specializations”, sequences of related courses with Verified Certificates, but you still need to bring all your results into one system that helps others to decipher your actual abilities as an employee or leader. A highly developed Degreed profile in the future, together with your LinkedIn profile could be more precise and dynamic, compared to your static paper based degree and transcript (relics of past centuries). If done in a smart way, if Degreed deployed some marvelous artificial intelligence and community/peer effort, we could see brilliant solutions coming our ways. We need fully integrated, dynamic, machine and human readable educational online narratives!


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