Saturday, June 29, 2019

Digital Credentials Initiative from EdEx Universites

A consortium of universities is proposing a common standard for  digital credentials for degrees, professional certificates and online course.  There have been many such proposals, but Delft, Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, and  University of Toronto, have a tack record in tech based education with EdEx, which might make this proposals more viable.

A digital credential could use public key infrastructure, public ledgers, and blockchain to be technically secure, but it also has to be accepted. Some years ago I was delighted to be issued with a digital certificate, for graduate studies by a leading Australian university. But when I applied to study in North America, the digital certificate was not accepted, and I had to pay to have a paper copy certified and sent by courier. This was all a bit silly, as I could have easily faked the paper certificate.

However, the biggest challenge for Australian universities which  take part in such standardized credential activities is how it cuts across their existing business model. Australian universities use their reputation for excellence, particularly in research, to attract students.  They also use degree programs to retain students. If students can shop around, selecting courses from different institutions, and selecting where to study based on the quality of the education offered, that will require Australian universities to change what they do.

It might be argued that the overall improvement in quality will be good for everyone: "a rising tide will lift all boats". But this might be more like a tsunami: smashing the unprepared. ;-)

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