Accreditation: Something better will replace it

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Today’s commentary at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy leads off with my article about where accreditation is heading.

Accreditation is an idea that makes sense if you think of universities as factories:

Accreditors were supposed to be the quality control department of the factory.

That factory model is crumbling, however, shaken by new technology. This is the “Year of the Massive Open Online Course” in which technology-enabled teaching to global classrooms of 100,000 students has been the subject of feverish coverage by virtually everyone with an interest in the dire condition of American higher education.

MOOCs may be an over-hyped fad, but the educational landscape has been forever changed.

Change will revolve around outsized characters like Stanford’s Sebastian Thrun and Daphne Koller. They are the whiz-kids whose weekly inventions incite great thoughts about what college might become.

Accreditation is, well, boring. Accreditors are the green eye shade players in the drama of higher education.  It’s hard to get excited about green eye shades, buttoday—improbably—I  find myself  excited by accreditation. To bemore exact, I am excited about what will replace it.

This is an era in which the value of credentials is being reexamined, and the focus of quality assurance is shifting from institutions and programs to individuals and personalized, lifelong educational experiences.  Traditional accreditation — costly and largely ineffective — must certainly adapt or risk being marginalized.


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