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Online Education Borrows from the Boy Scouts

The revolution in American education is moving much faster than most of us understand. Now the Chronicle of Higher Education is singing the praises of a new trend toward achievement “badges” modeled on those earned by Boy Scouts as an alternative to the expensive and cumbersome degree system that could provide education credentials to make job candidates attractive to potential employers in many fields.

Employers might prefer a world of badges to the current system. After all, traditional college diplomas look elegant when hung on the wall, but they contain very little detail about what the recipient learned. Students using Mozilla’s proposed badge system might display dozens or even hundreds of merit badges on their online résumés detailing what they studied. And students could start showing off the badges as they earn them, rather than waiting four years to earn a diploma.

“We have to question the tyranny of the degree,” says David Wiley, an associate professor of instructional psychology and technology at Brigham Young University.

Flexibility, openness to innovation, pragmatism: these have always been America’s greatest strengths. These qualities are now at work reshaping our educational system — and not a moment too soon.

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  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Finally, an alternative to the University degree system, which will get rid of the whole system of redtape, admissions, degrees, geography, scheduling, and learning speed.

  • dloye

    Where do I sign up to issue the math badges! The ones you have to earn before you study physics.

  • BillH

    Back in my day (’40s-early ’50s) universities issued transcripts showing course work completed and grades. A look at the school’s catalog would reveal the seriousness of the courses taken and the competence of the faculty.

    As graduation neared, and afterwards, I had to pay my University to send a transcript to everything I applied for, including several graduate assistantships and fellowships, chemical companies, and the U.S. Air Force. (Of course back then, course grades meant something.) No one has ever asked to see my diploma.

    I wonder what information one of these achievement badges would contain that a transcript wouldn’t?

  • Luke Lea

    Great idea! You could wear them on your clothing when you come for an interview.

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