Learning is everywhere. People learn by watching and doing. We do this every day and may not even realize this. The 70-20-10 rule may not be provable, but it’s certainly palpable. It just feels right. It makes sense.
I realized this some time ago in observing how my children learned various skills and behaviors. They learn best by observing and then practicing (Do as I say, not as I do, right?). As I was sharing a favorite movie of mine, Disney’s 1982 sci-fi film, Tron, with my oldest boy (We like watching sci-fi and superhero flicks together), I was also reminded of this by a memorable scene from the film. The chief enforcer of the villainous Master Control Program (MCP), Sark, is instructing some new conscripts on their upcoming roles and responsibilities…
[Sark displays his own disc to the crowd]
Greetings. The Master Control Program has chosen you to serve your system on the Game Grid. Those of you who continue to profess a belief in the Users will receive the standard substandard training, which will result in your eventual elimination. Those of you who renounce this superstitious and hysterical belief will be eligible to join the warrior elite of the MCP. You will each receive an identity disc.
Everything you do or learn will be imprinted on this disc. If you lose your disc, or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate deresolution. That will be all.
Now, in the real world, failure to follow commands won’t result in deresolution (a pixelly, computerized form of death for characters in The Game Grid), but it certainly can result in you not being able to advance your career or even your eventual termination from a position.
A key difference in the approach taken by screenwriter Steven Lisberger and the way that the real world works is that you have no identity disk. In a sense, you have documents that may perhaps “prove” who you are and what you know (your ID, SSN, your college degree[s] and resume), but there is little to no way to both verify that information and “Everything you do or learn” are truthful and have occurred. What have you learned “program?” How do you prove that to others? How do you take that verification with you when you change jobs or re-enroll in another educational program to test out of prerequisites?
In short, the answer right now is that you can’t. When you change jobs, you’ll have to take that same Red Cross or Sarbanes-Oxley Act course again. You’ll need to verify that you know how to use an SAP system or Salesforce.com again to your new employer. This is frustrating for both the worker and the employer. The wasted time and effort caused by unneeded training and recertification is done at an incalculable cost.
Not being able to take your credentials and professional experience with you results in a huge challenge in the professional world, where people are regularly changing jobs, and even careers. In addition to this key shortcoming, there is another big gap in the world of skill certification and verification.
Re-training and adult continuing education is a massive area in need of change right now. With the unemployment and underemployment numbers still much higher than we are used to, it’s clear that something has got to give. In some spots, there are a glut of workers seeking jobs, and in other markets, there is a dearth of skilled candidates. Re-education is an expensive proposition for many (even associate’s degrees are not cheap these days), but it is needed in order to move from one line of work to another. You can’t simply walk into an interview and proclaim that you are qualified or certified for that software job you saw on Monster.com since you’ve gone through 2-3 MOOCs, a curriculum on software development on UDEMY or iTunes U, and completed a bunch of courses at Lynda.com.
But what if you could?
It’s clear that with mobile, social, local, and a variety of other educational tools out there now – such as CodeAcademy, Learnist, Khan Academy and a long, long list of other resources – that there have never been more ways to learn in a variety of styles, platforms, and timetables. The problem comes in proving to others that you know what you say you do.
Sure, networks like Tappestry exist. CEU credits and certificates can be earned by completing certain workshops and programs. But what about that universal open platform and format that allows you to take your learning record, including your certifications, with you as you grow and progress in your personal and professional development endeavors?
The Tin Can API is emerging as an option to track and store, transport and share your learning records. It’s still in its very beginnings, but it can certainly be seen as an attempt to coalesce all the things you learn, do and experience in the real world. The idea is that you learn by doing, and these experiences, no matter how droll or monumental they may be, all combine to create the being that you are. Tin Can echo Sark’s proclamation: Everything you do or learn will be imprinted on this disc.
These experiences are all well and good, but what about verification? How do these things you say you do get proven? A diploma or master’s degree is verifiable. What about the fact that you say you went through 25 courses on Web design by yourself and say you are capable of handling the job that you are interviewing for?
Enter Open Badges. The Mozilla Foundation’s foray into educational software is an interesting one, to say the least. Part Boy Scout badge, part digital certificate/signature, the Open Badges is an attempt to award a recognition of mastery or skill acquisition and also verify the skill via a third party (e.g., an educational institution or a publisher such as O’Reilly). These badges are earned by completing the curriculum, attending workshops, passing assessments, performing tasks or any other sort of benchmarks set forth by the issuing body. It may be easy to initially dismiss these badges as trite examples of gamification gone wild (with all the backlash you would expect). However, with a measured approach, it is easy to see just where something like this could be taken in a positive light as well.
Want to make a career change? Take night classes in a MOOC, pass it and earn badges. Go through an apprenticeship or internship successfully and earn badges. Attach these badges to your resume or CV, and offer a simple verification process to HR professionals and interviewing companies to prove you have the skills to make the cut to the next round of discussions or interviews.
On the other side of the table, consider yourself looking for a vendor that has the skills or certifications you need to complete a job. You can try someone out via a recruiting service or freelance directory and hope they have the chops, or you could look in a directory that shows all certified independent professionals that can do what you need. No real guesswork needed.
It’s clear, thanks to Tin Can and Open Badges, that learning will look very different in the near future. Will you be ready to recognize it? Time to read up and get things moving if you want to be part of this push.
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