MOOCs have yet to de-stabilize and/or transform higher education to the degree (pun!) intended by their advocates, but their place in a larger portfolio of educational offerings would probably be made more clear by the kind of ongoing certification or dynamic degrees being suggested by a number of people, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman among them, as reported by [GigaOm].
The best known of these efforts is Mozilla’s [Open Badges], but there are others with names like Smarterer and Degreed. While LinkedIn’s approach is social, asking connections to “endorse” each other, Mozilla seems to want to establish a kind of basic architecture for documentation of a skill and who can issue certification in it.
I think it’s a fascinating prospect, but I don’t see it so much as a replacement for the traditional degree but more as a form of supplement, a richer form of continuing education where you get credit not for simply taking a class but for actually learning distinct content or acquiring a distinct skill. It opens up new possibilities for universities to address a wider arrange of topics and issues, but to offer more flexible kinds of programming, universities are going to have a more flexible framework within which faculty can work.
So long as everything remains focused on credit hours, and, *sigh*, increasingly at my institution on the number of butts in seats, then faculty are not going to feel free to develop smaller, more particular forms of engagement. The universities that look to the strategic future and not to the tactical present when business interests have come to dominate how we think about education are the universities that are going to thrive.
[Open Badges]: http://openbadges.org