Accreditation and Learning

We are entering a brave new world of learning, and – by extension – education (I hope). However, there is one aspect that has remained elusive, at least to me. That is the recognised accreditation of the learning that is taking place.

There are a number of pundits that scoff at the very idea of accreditation as something that belongs to the age of big, centralised institutions, with the big institutions claiming that this is what will legitimise them in the brave new world. Others have proposed a loose form of accreditation such as badges – a recognised symbol, but what does it mean?

I am concerned about accreditation. What I worry about is the recognition of earned authority. On the internet, anyone can set themselves up as an authority about anything, and they do. Fringe groups, radicalisation, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories – all of these (and more) rely on expertise and authority figures to drive them forward. With the big institutions controlling the recognition of learning, these activities have remained on the fringes, and are not recognised as mainstream or legitimate activities. As new forms of learning and knowledge exploration have arisen, so have the activities of these groups. If there is no ubiquitously recognised method of legitimately recognising and accrediting learning, it will be increasingly difficult for novices to be able to differentiate between authentic authoritative sources and a self proclaimed authority with no foundation.

I’m not talking about subject matter – this is a whole different discussion. What I’m talking about is recognising the authority of an expert, in any field, and providing me with a reason to trust this persons judgment within the area of their expertise.

This has been the motivation for my last two posts, we, as a learning community, have to come up with a universally accepted way to recognise and accredit learning. Being interested in a topic isn’t enough to be authenticated. We have to, somehow, be able to display the credentials that are both recognised and trusted by society at large. Knowing that someone has been awarded a PhD from a recognised university provides us with expectations about that person that you gain, simply by knowing they have a PhD.

Using a system like the one I wrote about in my post on learning thresholds  from earlier this week would be a beginning.

Next week, I’ll start outlining what we would need to put into place to realise this fairly simple concept that would allow us to accredit the, fundamentally important, memorisation component of learning.


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