The prospects for crowdsourced credentialling replacing university accreditation

Excerpted from Emlyn:

“As far as I can see, unis provide students roughly these pieces of value:

* learning (largely replaceable with free online content / study guides)

* networking (replaceable online, in fact a lot of why nerds built the net in the first place)

* credentialing – this is still the hard one

Credentialing is the force behind the higher education bubble. People pay more and more to get that piece of paper. It’s an unjustifiable, unproductive, exploitative money pump. If you could route around that, you’d blow this industry to pieces.

Now one way to split credentialing off from the rest of the concerns of “education” is to provide something like “recognition for prior learning”. All kinds of institutions, like TAFE in Australia, or like lots of little accreditation bodies, dabble in this already. But, it’s tough; you have to test people rigorously to figure out if they deserve a credential or not, and you can easily make mistakes. That’s why we prefer the Unis, because we know the person had to more or less sit through X many years of study, so there’s some minimal learning assumable even if everything else fails.

But I’m wondering, can we crowdsource credentialing? Take a social network, or even better a professional network like LinkedIn. Let people just add “qualifications” they have (“skills”? Is there a more appropriate word?). Then, crucially, get others to rate them.

To make this work, you need some kind of credibility rating for the raters.

Credibility should be domain specific, and also person specific:

* if the rater is an expert in field X, they have higher credibility in field X

* if the rater has worked closely with person Y, they have higher credibility with respect to rating person Y

But also, a rater should have a general credibility factor – do their ratings match reality, or are they bullshitters? Maybe higher for more ratings, lower for ratings outside area of expertise, modified by how much their ratings match other people’s ratings in the context, maybe lowered for complaints registered about them.

How do we know you’ve worked closely with someone? It’s on the resume. Hard to game this without it being very visible. How do we know you’re an expert in X? Because of your highly rated “skills” in X, calculated as above. And so the loop closes.

The resulting skills above aren’t really credentials per se; they’re a little fuzzier than that. However, we don’t *actually* want credentials. We want a way to pick the best person for the job from a crowd, or determine whether a given person is capable of some given thing. This approach potentially works better than credentials.”

1 Comment The prospects for crowdsourced credentialling replacing university accreditation

  1. Kevin CarsonKevin Carson

    Hey, Emlyn! I’ve just got around to reading this, although I had it saved for some time.

    What do you think about voluntary certification through somewhat more formal arrangements? For example:

    Professional associations or guilds certifying the ability of members, and providing continuing education, with the incentive to avoid “grade inflation” being the need to maintain the credibility of their “brand.”

    Voluntary courses in various skills, with certain course providers becoming the “gold standard” based on their reputation.

    Apprenticeship programs conducted through guilds or professional associations.

    Possible credentials for plumbers, software designers, machinists, whatever, would be:

    “I was trained as a master plumber under Joe the Plumber.” “I took the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ coursework and passed their certifying exam.” “My customer satisfaction rating on the Podunk, Iowa Darknet local economy platform is five stars.”

    It’s much like a kosher butcher or organic farmer posting a sticker of approval from some accrediting agency on their front window.

    Even without state-mandated licensing or college accreditation, one’s credentials would still carry weight based on the degree of public confidence in the reputation of the accrediting agency.

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