Accreditation has been a very important part of the education sector for decades. As technology has changed access to education (especially home-based learning), many traditional ideas about education have been questioned. Since accreditation is supplied by organizations tasked with maintaining tradition, the need for accreditation is also being questioned.

From Home

The idea of gaining a university education from home is nothing new. It dates back to at least 1892 when the University of Chicago began offering university-level courses via the US Postal Service. Various other institutions developed distance learning courses and programs as technology advanced. A university-level education was offered on the radio in 1921, television in 1963, online via satellite in 1985, and fully online in 1993.

Since the advent of online courses in the early 90s, many students have gotten degrees from accredited universities either online or with a combination of online and on campus. Some graduates have even furthered their education using Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), all from the comfort of their own homes. As technology has advanced so too has the methods of education. Online tools such as video chats and social media platforms have enabled online courses to more effectively simulate an on-campus education.

To Competency

Now, competency-based learning is gaining traction in the US and around the world. Competency-based learning is focused on educating people who may not perform well in a classroom environment but are still capable of doing the work that employers require. And employers are responding favorably with competency-based hiring policies.

Now, unaccredited courses and programs are being recognized by employers because of the focus on competency over grades. So, the choice is no longer about whether to take online courses but whether to take accredited courses at all. High school graduates have to decide if getting a traditional, university degree is worth the time, effort and money required for attending an accredited institution. MOOCs offer a more self-guided learning process that is easily adaptable and relevant for the student.

In the Gig Economy

The future of work appears to be steering more and more to a gig economy. In other words, most of us can kiss goodbye any hopes for a permanent position with a reputable company. That may mean your education would need to change as often as your job does. Would anyone really care if your degree is accredited when the direction of your education changes that often?

Employers are already developing relationships with MOOCs, and they may care more about the merits of particular courses and the teachers than the school or its accreditation. So, many students may focus more on attending the courses and schools that a particular company deems worthwhile. At that point, the University of Google might actually accept students from any level with the intention of employing them at Google once their competence is proven.

About Learning

Ultimately, the question of accreditation still boils down to what the student wants to achieve. Every worker – whether they are employees, business owners, or freelance contractors – will require some combination of learning from an institution and from their organization.

  • Business owners need training on a range of topics from a variety of sources. So, MOOCs make sense because they offer the range of topics, and no one cares about accreditation if the business’ products and/ or services are of a high standard.
  • Employees will need specialized training within their organization regardless of how much education they have. In fact, the less time their education takes, the shorter their training will need to be according to one small study.
  • Freelancers who work from home benefit from MOOCs because of the ability to customize their education and narrow their unique selling proposition.

Therefore, your most important skill, no matter who you are, will be learning how to learn. Teaching how to learn is not a strength for most accredited institutions. Perhaps, the most effective way to acquire those skills is to think through multiple futures and how those scenarios should affect your education now.

The above was originally written for Excel4theStreet

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