Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Do It Yourself (DIY) Guide to Credentialing

The cat's out of the bag and more and more people are awakening to the fact that a college degree is no longer what it was cracked up to be.  If you are convinced, there are a few people who are doing a great job of sharing ideas for alternatives that are less costly, more meaningful, and result in real evidence of demonstrated knowledge that say more about qualifications than numbers on a transcript. 

First up is Anya Kamenetz who wrote "The Edupunks' Guide to a DIY Credential.
College takes time. College is expensive. College is exclusive.
College is no longer the only way to get a great education.
This guide explains how and is supported by some big hitters like the Gates Foundation and received support from the fabulous Dennis Littky of Big Picture Schools and College Unbound.  Here are some of the topics the guide addresses:

How To
  • Do Research Online 
  • Write a Personal Learning Plan
  • Teach Yourself Online
  • Build Your Personal Learning Network
  • Find a Mentor
  • Get a Credential
  • Demonstrate Value to a Network
Open World (non-accredited, open learning, professional networks) 
  • Open Content 
  • Open Social Learning 
  • Open Learning Institutions 
  • Dan Diebolt’s independent learning methods 
  • Reputation Networks
Here is the guide which I am not endorsing as I have yet to read it completely. I am simply offering it as one of a number of resources that are coming out around the topic.  Stephen Dowes has a less than favorable review of the guide here

Next up is someone whose work I am more familiar with.  Dale J. Stephens is doing great work with his "UnCollege Movement" which empowers people to take ownership of learning and credential themselves.

UnCollege is founded on three principles:
1. Introspection is essential. It is vitally important that you know yourself before you pursue higher education.
2. Passionate action outweighs school. Real-world success proves more than homework.
3. Self-motivation is requisite for success. Taking initiative is more valuable than completing assignments.

Stephens suggests the following reasons for joining the UnCollege Movement:
Stephens recommend joining the UnCollege movement if you
  • Hope to hack your education;
  • Will be enrolling in college;
  • Want to complement your college experience;
  • Are past your college years but want to give higher education a second chance;
  • Want to be an educational deviant;
  • To get the BEST education possible.
Stephens has also written the UnCollege manifesto entitled Your Guide to Academic Deviance.  

Here are a few things you will learn:
  • How to bust societal expectations about college;
  • The value (or lack thereof) of a college degree;
  • Why life and education are interrelated;
  • What being a contrarian entails;
  • Introspective exercises;
  • Twelve steps to self-directed learning.

The guide is intelligently written with smart ideas.  You can click here to open or download the manifesto. For more information about UnCollege go here.


  1. this sounds like something that rich kids can do, they have access to resources, materials, and K-12 education that poor kids don't. DIY edupunk might create a false hope for the kids who can't "afford" to take a risk on doing the non-traditional. and in some ways, marketing without attention to these risks just further replicates keeping these kids (kids like me) on the fringes believing that we can take shortcuts, when we really can't because we've already been cut enough.

  2. I agree with you anonymous - these programs will work better for people who are already better off, they have the connections to make a go of showing this as an alternative method. Studies show that college is actually most beneficial to students who are the first in their families to go, to get that foot up and in the door. It is so unfortunate that funding that helped is being put on the chopping block while tuition fees go up.

  3. I was by no means a "rich kid". The only advantage I would say I had is reliable access to the internet (and by that I mean 3 days a week I could use the computer). But nowadays computers are so cheap and almost everywhere you go has wifi it shouldn't be (as much) of an issue. Not to mention there's at least one computer in your public or school library.

  4. The computer or lack of one wasn't what I saw as the barrier to the credential.

  5. Awww, its too bad the people who left comments are so quick to judge....definitely a sign of lack of emotional intelligence. I give you major props for this excellent post & thank you for sharing it. ^^

  6. Anonymous, with out having the opportunity of reviewing all the material, yet having been researching this topic; getting an education with out paying an arm and a leg. Really, this applies to anyone who wants to develop the discipline of learning. Provides you with the information that a college would expose you to, a world class college as a matter of fact. Where else would you be exposed to TED conferences? The point of the Individualized Learning Plan, much the same you would get at a college working though an Advisor, well if you get a good one. Don't knock it before you try it! One course , goal at a time with out the tuition, or college parties. I am sure you can thrive, if learning is what you want to pursue , just do it. The barriers in your way at this point are your own. No one will hold your hand in college either. And if you have learning gaps look for a mentor who will help you, and direct you to the correct sources. I think you looking here is a good step in the right direction.

    While much is computer based, there are also professional organizations, museums,Meetups.. many opportunities outside of classroom to learn. I would even say audit a college class.. really some are so big no one will notice. Make comparisons to online learning and sitting in some class as Anonymous.