I wrote this letter to a colleague th…

I wrote this letter to a colleague this morning.  I don’t know why I don’t embrace the epistolary style more often in writing blog posts. I feel like all my posts are to my few but fine audience.



I just finished reading an article in Wired about “microcredentialing”.
I have always considered ideas like this as pandering and the death knell for the university, but I am changing my mind.  It would take almost no effort to transform my comp classes into microcredential classes.  For example, instead of teaching E100, I might have a comp class where I might teach the following among other things:
1. How to summarize a journal article
2. How to create a useable research question
3. How to interview someone online
4. Using Zotero as a research tool
5. How to critique an argument
6. A zillion other processes, skills, and concepts to be learned and combined
There would be no grades, only credentials or no credentials.  You could combine this with MIT’s blockchain credentialling system to get a whole new way for students to earn cred.  The useful thing about this is that even students who drop out might earn something for their money instead of nothing.
It is not hard to look at a syllabus and do this.  I worry about gen ed as a sustainable model.  I would love to work with CITL on a pilot of this in the classroom.  Unfortunately, this kind of alternative learning model, like the C19 virus, would be deeply subversive, but it might be what the university needs to survive another millenium.  Just wanted to do a little blue sky moment while I was thinking on it because I knew you might be an attentive ear. Thanks.



  1. // Reply

    Hi Terry

    I have always been reticent (understatement) towards microcredentials/badging et al. However, I have been working with them for the past 4-5 years and for the last two with the European Union. I am working on a chapter concerning them. I still have many concerns as regards their use in social credit schemes (as in the case of China) and other fascist or corporate (where is the dividing line?) uses of individual data. Also I am concerned as to the concentration on the individual. But any form of recognition is community/social/cultural dependent. And I can absolutely see a potential for advancing humanistic/ecologically/trans communal values with means of recognition.

  2. // Reply

    Similar caveats and worries. Badges have such a negative connotation these days, but I have always been reluctant to use the term. And, of course, there are and will be many attempts to coopt the idea of alternative credentialling–by governments, by corporations, by quasi-corporate/governmental institutions (read “universities). Faux capitalizm will always game the system because, in the end, all capitalist systems seek the lowest topographical point–monopoly. Universities have the monopoly on credentials issuance in the U.S. just like the police have the legal monopoly on violence. I am not sure if we can reform any such system. Blockchain might help. The idea behind blockchain is that the transcript becomes a personal ledger owned by the learner. All credentials issuing groups can be included in that transcript if the learner wishes to make it so. That might level the damned playing field, but as usual with any complex system, your mileage might vary.

    So glad to see your fine words here, Simon.

    1. // Reply

      She likes the idea, but like most of my suggestions they really aren’t going anywhere. I have broached this idea in my own department, my college within the university, and with our “Center for Innovation, Teaching, and Learning”. All with one result: crickets all the way down. But I am still interested if only to suggest that the Carnegie Unit is an untenable and useless idea. Students are paying for a premium product and getting something very sub-standard.

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