What this will change is the opportunities for the 50-year-old laid-off engineer. He could now show that he still has the analytical skills and brain plasticity to work alongside 22-year-old college grads in a 21st-century job. It would allow the smart, young, single-mother to re-engage with a real career. It would allow recent college graduates to prove they have skills beyond what can be gleaned from their majors and grade-point averages.
This unbundling of credentialing is also one of the hypotheses we have for investing in education at USV (see Christina’s blog post). We have seen the Internet bring dramatic unbundling to newspapers which historically pulled together news, commentary, sports scores, classified ads and more and expect to see a similar trend in higher education albeit with slower adoption due to regulation.
But unbundling generally doesn’t mean simply splitting up the pieces. It often means coming up with something different. For instance, when newspapers were unbundled breaking news went in part to Twitter which is unlike anything that existed before. Similarly, classified ads went in part to Craigslist, but job classified went in part to Indeed which presented a completely different model of classified by replacing the “publish” model with a search model.
So unbundled credentialing will likely come in forms that are quite different from simply having separate tests. For instance, github, StackOverflow and Behance are all examples of a broader view of unbundled credentialing. They all provide ways for individuals to demonstrate knowledge and have a community evaluate the contributions. What is appealing about these types of peer-produced credentialing systems is that they make it much harder to cheat than most traditional test taking as reputation is built over time.
There are also several startups targeting credentialing, such as Degreed and LearningJar. Mozilla also has something going there with their OpenBadges and it will be interesting to see what EdX, Udacity and Coursera will provide here.