From the blog

Changing the Face of Education: An Interview With David Blake

Imagine that the skills you teach yourself or the things you learn while traveling could be in some way quantified so you could put them on your resume. 

Or if, say, how to dig a truck out of deep desert sand or that you spent 3 months teaching yourself Photoshop on Youtube were perfectly acceptable additions to your Additional Skills.

David Blake and the co-founders of Degreed are paving the way to make these a reality.

I first heard of David when i read his article on Techcrunch, Jailbreaking the Degree. After chatting with him over a somewhat crappy Skype connection, I found him to be smart, well-thought-out and undeniably positive and honest about, well, everything we discussed.

I hope this interview will be only the first in a line of possible collaborations between Cloudhead and Degreed.

WHAT IS YOUR EDUCATION?

 I went through the traditional school system and very much aspired to the perfect GPA. Thing is, I didn’t really know much about the world. I realized this right as I started college.

Now, I’m a freshly minted autodidact.

I break education into three parts. The first is foundational learning. I believe you have to work consistently over a period of time in order to build a strong base of knowledge and information. Right now, I’m teaching myself CSS/HTML. I’m doing it online through Lynda.com

Once you have that base, it enables just-in-time learning. That’s the kind of learning we do whenever we are confronted with a new situation or challenge. For example, when my web designs don’t work in Internet Explorer, I am able to google the problem, learn what I need to do and sort out a solution. This just-in-time learning always requires that foundation of learning from which to build.

And then, there’s just-because learning. Those are the things you learn because you want to. Right now, my just-because goal is to read Les Miserables.

HOW NECESSARY IS COLLEGE?

We can’t be too quick to dismiss what colleges are good at doing. In many cases, colleges and universities are very good at providing the foundations we need to be competent Just-in-Time Learners for the rest of our lives. 

I want to be clear, though, that we are not anti-college. We will all evolve together. That is what Degreed stands for.

College is necessary for professions that are highly regulated and require a highly structured education, medical for example. You want to have a high degree of confidence in the person who cuts your heart open.

For many professions, though, you could ostensibly skip college altogether and build for yourself the foundation you’d need for many professional services. Software engineering, for example, has had resources online for the last decade. Other more mainstream careers, such as accounting, are only just on the cusp of having the necessary resources to teach yourself online.

HOW DO YOU SEE PEOPLE USING DEGREED ALREADY?

We’re prelaunch now but already I can see how Degreed represents the possibilities of the future.

People are anxious for solutions. On our website right now, we ask people to make signs saying “Education Is Broken. Someone Should Do Something,” and post it on our Facebook page. Just this last week, someone wrote this message on their college diploma (!) and added, “Sorry NC state, no hard feelings, but I hope my children never have to get a degree.” That is reflective of my own attitude—I believe my children will have more options for their education than just going to college.

I want to be clear, though, that we are not anti-college. I love my alma mater and had a very happy, fulfilling college experience. At the same time, I feel there is a lot plaguing education, and we need to embrace the changes that are stirring. We want to work together collectively to address as many of the problems as we can without putting people in the current system at risk.

We will all evolve together. That is what Degreed stands for.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST ISSUES IN US EDUCATION? WHAT IS BROKEN?

The relevancy and the cost are two of the biggest problems. Right now, there is about a 9% unemployment rate for college grads and a 40% malemployment rate for college grads. Mal employment being students graduating with a degree and never using it for their career. Only 50% graduate after 6 years.

Those statistics suggest that college is losing its relevancy. This might be sustainable if college were more affordable. Right now, it’s not.

If we have access to a world-class education online, such as MIT’s open courseware, why do we still pay for college? We pay because we need the credentials to show potential employers.

Those statistics suggest that college is losing its relevancy. This might be sustainable if college were more affordable. Right now, it’s not.

Employers rely on the idea that a degree from a university with a good reputation means a potential job candidate will be the kind of employee they want. We spend years of our lives and thousands of dollars on our education and then it turns into a single bullet point on our resume. What an unsophisticated signal that is.

Degreed provides a way to validate your education in a meaningful way from any source. It opens the door for people to pursue education through multiple channels.

Another thing we’re excited about is what’s beginning with the Mozilla Badge Project.  They’re creating the way for anyone out there to validate a learning experience.

WHAT IS THE BUSINESS MODEL BEHIND DEGREED? IF THE SERVICE IS FREE TO LEARNERS, HOW DO YOU MAKE MONEY?

Employers are the paying clients. They pay to access the database to recruit for candidates. We believe this is win-win and brings additional value to users participating on the platform.

Employers don’t actually care if you have a college degree. They care about several specific things. Do you have relevant knowledge? Can you complete a task? In the past, there has been no good way to validate the things they care about.

Employers will be empowered to get better information from their candidates than they ever were before.

HOW DOES DEGREED AIM TO FIX THE PROBLEMS WITH EDUCATION

 It doesn’t address them all, at least not directly.

Part of the problem with education is that we’ve bundled so many tasks into one institution. Universities are responsible for providing the teacher, building, curriculum, football games, alumni network and more. All the roles a university places have been conflated and confused.

To find the path into the future of education, we need to slowly peel back the layers and unbundle education as we know it, thus allowing people to address each piece individually and more effectively.

We are trying to help people unlock opportunities through validating their lifelong education from any source.

 

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4 comments
Dr Jessie Voigts
Dr Jessie Voigts

Amazing interview, and something I wholeheartedly believe in. Can't wait til they are live - this is something for everyone!