How will Accreditors survive in a #FutureHigherEd marketplace?

 

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Prof. Dan Ryan from Mills College posted another thoughtful piece on #FutureHigherEd, posing the question what will the regulation of academic quality look like in a Flat World?

We can imagine the emergence of both disruptive skill/knowledge certifying enterprises that operate at the individual level and certification accrediting enterprises that operate at the program level.  To generate a healthy ecosystem of such “regulators” we will need to think not in terms of government regulation of educational institutions but rather of some collective regulation of regulators.

Ryan has in mind a collection of marketplace solutions that together will: :

  • free institutions to be more innovative in how they deliver learning
  • provide clearer signals to potential students about what institutions are most effective
  • provide clearer signals to employers, etc. about what people know
  • push one another to create ever more efficient and effective ways to assess teaching and learning and the organization of education
  • free individuals to acquire skill through multiple channels but still obtain recognizable credentials.

In short, these are reforms that should foster innovation.  It was the first thing that occurred to me in 2012 when the MOOC phenomenon started to reshape my thinking about technology-enabled learning:

Letting learning outcomes speak for themselves in a Linked-In network of referrals, accrediting course repositories rather than institutions, and crowd-sourcing ratings to help students choose among competing courses and curricula are all experiments that are under way.  Whatever their outcome, the future of accreditation will not be the same.

I was pretty critical of accrediting agencies back then, but over the past four years I have found myself returning over and over again to the idea that the same Flat World rules that inspired Dan Ryan can also breathe some new life into this necessary part of education:

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, but today—improbably—I  find myself excited by accreditation. To be more exact, I am excited about what will replace it.

 

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