Don’t miss this good look at how academic credentials are morphing as a result of the rise of digital education. The piece by Sean Gallagher is on Harvard Business Review.com.
In a market that continues to prioritize formal educational credentials, the once free-of-charge MOOC upstarts have found a business model — and today it is squarely focused on online degrees and other fee-based educational credentials. MOOC platforms such as Coursera and EdX have transitioned to focus on the thriving online degree business, a market also long-served by publicly traded education companies such as Pearson, Wiley, and 2U. The MOOC platforms that birthed new credential products such as the “nanodegree” and the “MicroMasters” (both trademarked terms) are now competing in the established, two-decades-old market for online degrees — one of the only growth segments in American higher education.
Rather than sweeping away degrees, new types of online credentials — various certificates, MicroMasters, badges, and the like — are instead playing a complementary role, creating the building blocks for newer, more affordable degree programs. This represents true innovation in terms of the fundamental cost inputs (including faculty labor), pricing, and service expectations associated with the delivery of degrees. By leveraging algorithms and operating at truly disruptive price points, these programs are less expensive for colleges to operate and market, and less expensive for the student.
The growing digitization of credentials also heralds a new era of greater transparency for educational outcomes — providing more and better data on which corporate leaders can make hiring decisions. With learning occurring online and increasingly being represented in digital credentials, employers should ultimately be better positioned to assess candidates’ and workers’ skills and competencies. This can help optimize college recruiting strategies; the setting of hiring qualifications; and investment decisions about learning and development and executive education.