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I have been thinking about the ongoing conversation related to the $10K Bachelor’s degree that +Myk Garn held at the SREB Technology Cooperative and +Barry Dahl has continued on G+ over several posts. The higher ed value/cost proposition conversation is also going on in many other contexts.

One problem we have is the fixation on a bachelor’s degree. Universities are right to protect the meaning of a degree to include all of the associated experiences that people expect from college. I think this justified protectiveness is a part of the problem when we start talking about “cheap” degrees. Most everyone would agree that bachelor’s degree represents more than a simple assessment of skill level.

My question is this: we have a GED for high school. It does not imply that the person went through the whole high school experience but shows that they have certain, specific knowledge outcomes that might be expected of a high school graduate

What about a BDE? A BDE is a Bachelor’s Degree Equivalency assessment program that demonstrates an expected college knowledge competency level without implying the rest of the college experience. Such programs might open doors for adults, AND protect the significance of earning a bachelor’s degree.

Perhaps the BDE is combined with other micro-certifications or industry-specific credentials to help people show they have a baseline technical knowledge level and also have the general ability to write, think critically, etc. at a college level.

To be successful I think a BDE would have to be:
Valid and reliable (no small task)
Extremely inexpensive
Delivered by reputable organizations/universities
Accepted by employers (this would take time to happen – just like the GED)
Transparent in every way it is designed (both to those taking the assessment and employers)

Are there states/institutions with similar programs today? Would this concept make a difference in the ongoing conversation? Interested in Friday out-of-the-box thought...
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I'm working towards a competency based degree through WGU.
+Kate Potter WGU is a great program - it is one we have discussed at length at our institution. They do a great job at competency-based learning programs and can be much less expensive than a typical bachelor's degree, depending on how long you take to finish. They have a strong reputation for providing good instructors and working with adult students. I wonder whether they could offer a really low-cost option or other pricing models.
It's $2900 every six months and you can do as much as you can get done during those six months so basically it's how much work do you want to put into it determines your cost. I'm doing about 18 CU's a term right now.
One kind of alternate assessment being discussed is a system of "Badges for Lifelong Learning." This is a competition being held this year under the Mozilla Open Badges Project. Basically it's a way to have organizations, peers, institutions, etc. be able to offer something aside from a degree that acknowledges skill. Much discussion and information can be found at, and You can also search #dmlbadges on Twitter.

If this was brought up in the original post, I apologize.
+Emily Bembeneck It was not in the original post but it is another part of the conversation. New types of credentials are starting to emerge but there still seems to be a gap between a degree and various "micro-certifications."
Hi Rovy. Nice to hear from you. Not surprisingly, I find my self much in agreement with your thoughts. As I've been writing those $10Kdegree posts I've been nagged by the thought of whether or not such a different approach to learning is a new type of baccalaureate, or whether it is something different and not yet defined by the traditional college experience. Your concept of a BDE sounds pretty similar to what I was thinking, but didn't find a way to articulate it so it would make sense. When I finish my posts about what the 10KU could look like, I think you'll agree that it really doesn't look like many, if any, existing bachelor's degrees. I'll be really curious to see whether you think the idea has merit. Cheers.
+Barry Dahl In many ways the substance to what I am describing is no different that what you are writing about. I think it is, in part, trying to frame unique approaches in ways that allow accommodation or at least familiarity that might give some of these ideas legs in new places. Look forward to the rest of your series.
I fall on the critical side of the badges debate so I wouldn't try to convince you that they are the be-all, end-all by any means.

I do recognize the gap between degrees and what you term micro-certifications. I wonder if the micro/macro nature of such assessments would be more determined by the over-arching institution that accredits alternate assessment rather than by the implement itself, whether badge/degree/something else.

It seems to me that both ideas are seeking to solve the problem of unqualified-but-skilled members of the community who could be part of the workforce but for the absence of this paper. It also seems that both potential programs would need to be accredited by something higher in order to hold weight with employers at least until they have shown themselves to be true indicators of skill.
+Emily Bembeneck You've definitely hit on some of the core issues: who determines assessments, source of program accreditation, employer buy-in, etc. While the Mozilla/P2PU approach addresses the first point in part and the last point in full, it actually seeks to circumvent the the "accredited by something higher" issue and I think this is probably easier said than done.

I'll note that one of the reasons +Rovy Branon and I have started using the terms micro-certifications and micro-credentialing are to highlight the fact that badges (with all the baggage they carry) aren't the only way to approach the grain size issue that our current modes of certification present. This is a distinct but closely related issue to the bigger framing problem of providing a common signifier for skilled/employable but un-credentialed people to utilize with prospective employers.

A third related issue involves generally qualified individuals who have moderate continuing education needs (i.e. acquiring new skills or updating existing ones, preparing for a horizontal career change, keeping current with the cumulative impact of progressive changes to a field, etc.). I raise this point just to indicate that we're looking at a tangle of related issues that I believe are tractable, but will likely require a host of interconnected solutions.
Late to this discussion. But essentially what you're saying, +Rovy Branon, is that "equivalent" degrees aren't fully equivalent, just partially. On the other hand, probably most of us would acknowledge there is little equivalency between a bachelor's degree from Cal Tech or Williams College (on the one hand) and from Regional 4th Tier Public University or Pick-Your-Favorite For-Profit that takes all comers.

I suppose if a university would accept a BDE plus GRE for grad school admission, that would be a vote of confidence.

Interesting discussion.
+Mark Notess I think my head is wrapped around the idea that a GED does not imply someone had all of the experiences someone with a high school diploma might have. They have, however, demonstrated equivalent base knowledge outcomes. The high school diploma retains its distinctiveness but the GED is another option. Just as many colleges now accept a GED+SAT, perhaps in the future a BDE+GRE and life experience might open the grad school door but potential employer recognition would be more important.
+Barry Dahl Anyone following this topic should read your posts. They are a thoughtful exploration of value/cost/benefit of higher ed.
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