On Open Accreditation

There have been some good comments on my post from yesterday, and interesting posts elsewhere around the net. I realized I needed to clarify my model a bit after reading Stephen’s comment:

A slightly different model has emerged in George’s and my Connectivism course. We have the 20 for-credit students at the University of Manitoba, and the open access students. We’ve published the details of all the assignments. We had a student who signed on as an open access student but who would be submitting her assignments at her home institution, for assessment there. This distributes assessment, allowing for assessment to be basically open-sourced.

In my Introduction to Open Education course, I had 8 or so normally enrolled students at my own university, and dozens more at no university at all who just followed for fun or for the “homemade certificate” which the Chronicle called a “diploma” again and again. But I also had another 8 students or so who were at their own universities, signed up for an Independent Study or Independent Research or Directed Readings kind of course (whichever was least painful to get enrolled in and would count toward their degree). I marked all their assignments and simply submitted a grade to the supervising professor at the end of term. I couldn’t really “outsource” the assessment piece of the course to these students’ supervising faculty, because there was no one at the students’ home institutions who knew anything about open education (hence their desire to take the course from me).

It occurs to me now, though, that this in and of itself is an interesting hack of the higher education system. These students paid tuition and took a course that partially fulfilled their graduation requirements, and my class is not in the universities’ course catalogs and my name is not on their faculty rosters. How much of a degree could you do this way? In a PhD program like the PhD in Instructional Psychology & Technology at BYU, each student is required to complete at least 18 hours in their area of specialization. This is a fairly common model in US graduate schools. In practice there is a huge amount of flexibility in the specialization courses taken, adapted to each individual student’s needs and interests. So if a student took all Independent Studies for these specialization courses and a sequence of six courses from the Edupunk Un-iversity (or Anti-university or Alter-university or Meta-university or whatever it is), they could potentially take 20% of their entire PhD program this way.

Open accreditation may be much closer than we think. We just need to continue to find creative ways to hack our courses into the existing university systems around the globe. At the same time, we need to establish a recognizable brand name for the collection of courses we would offer, so that folks will have heard of them. Until then, we’ll have to ride the strength of our names.

“Dr. Smith? For my specialization courses I’d like to start with a three course sequence from the Edupunk Un-iversity.”
“The what?”
“You know, those classes that David Wiley and Brian Lamb and Stephen Downes and those guys offer online.”
“Oh, sure. Sounds great. Which three?”

Now, these courses may not fit well outside of Instructional Technology type programs, but hey – we’ve got to start somewhere, right? Throw your thoughts about what should be offered over on the new Edupunk Un-iversity page on the OpenContent Wiki. I’ve thrown up some starter ideas, too. And we already have our first student waiting to enroll as per the comments on yesterday’s post – so what are you waiting for? Let the experiments commence! =)