Udacity guarantees its “Nanodegree” will lead to a job within six months.
“Alternatives to traditional college diplomas,” such as competence tests, would let students “pursue their own best options for learning” and “demonstrate educational mastery to prospective employers,” says a new report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Colleges would have to cut costs to compete.
“Even as IT and the Internet have created new ways to research, learn, and impart knowledge,” colleges have no incentive to innovate, the think tank observes. Helping students learn outside the classroom “would cut into their revenue.” Raising standards might “drive away customers.”
Students meanwhile have little incentive to push themselves harder than necessary to earn their degrees, since degrees are opaque, deriving their value from institutional brands rather than clear measures of academic achievement.
The report goes beyond “attempts by the Lumina Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the Measuring College Learning project and other reform-minded players to determine the right competencies or desired learning outcomes for academic disciplines or degree tracks,” reports Paul Fain on Inside Higher Ed.
The think tank calls for the federal government to encourage “standardized assessments from outside groups, not colleges or other education providers,” to measure learning normally certified by a college degree.
And those assessments should not discriminate based on where a student achieved the necessary proficiency, whether through learning on the job, by taking MOOCs, studying on their own or by attending a four-year university or a community college.
When hiring, federal agencies should require proof of competence, not degrees, the report said. Student aid should include alternative learning options, such as MOOCs.
Glenn Reynolds wraps up the case against college for all: Most students won’t learn much and many won’t find jobs that use their degrees, he writes. Meanwhile, tuition and debt keep rising.
Udacity’s online Nanodegree comes with a job guarantee: Find work within six months or get your money back. Students pay $299 a month to qualify as an “Android Developer,” “iOS Developer,” “Machine Learning Engineer” or “Senior Web Developer.”