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Why the “Open” Education Alliance Matters

I expressed my frustration yesterday about the infuriatingly inaccurate name of the “Open” Education Alliance. Despite the obvious problems with the name, this new initiative demonstrates a critical move I described a 2011 post, Or Equivalent:

The high-level vision of the project is this: Many job descriptions include a requirement like “BA or BS in EE/CS/CE or equivalent experience.” We want to create a collection of badges that a top employer, like Google, will publicly recognize as “equivalent experience.” This goes straight for the jugular, demonstrating that badges are a viable alternative to formal university education.

While the “Open” Education Alliance relies on Udacity’s own proprietary credentials rather than Open Badges (wow! yet another way the Alliance isn’t open), the corporate partners clearly have the same goal in mind – an end run around formal degrees. Google, AT&T, Intuit, Autodesk, nvidia, and others will design their own courses to teach and test exactly what they want their future employees to know. Udacity will offer the courses for free to hundreds of thousands of people. Some pass with flying colors, demonstrating that they have the core skills the employers are looking for. This demonstration will qualify them for the “or equivalent” loophole in the companies’ job descriptions and WHAMO – you get hired into a premium paying job at a very reputable company without a college degree. And it scales.

Despite its seriously annoying name, the Alliance announcement is much bigger than we thought. Keep watching for more details. This is the first time in years that we’ve seen a serious increase in the water flowing through the crack in the dam of formal degrees.