In part one of this mini-series, we looked at online learning in ELT as one of the 5 key EdTech trend identified by Edudemic. In part 2, we look at what are described in the US education system as ‘alternative credentialing platforms’, and see if they have any relevance to ELT.
What the hell is an alternative credentialing platform?
Basically, we’re talking about ways in which student achievement can be recognised and validated in some way other than via than an exam leading to a formal qualification. This is a big deal in the world of MOOCs, where the natural link between studying a course a attaining a qualification is not yet in place. The majority of students participating in MOOCs are doing it for the inbuilt value of the course and because they are (usually) free. If there are hundreds of thousands of people studying online but without formal qualifications, then doesn’t that still mean they’re acquiring knowledge and skills that are useful to employers if only there was some means of validating them?
Some MOOCs are now starting to offer their own certificates, although it’s unclear whether they have any real value at the moment. Startup Degreed aims to combine credits from both traditional university study and MOOCs to show an aggregate score. There are plenty of other similar services springing up, which seem to have some in common with good old e-portfolios.
‘Credentialing’ in ELT
In English language learning, ‘credentialing’ is of course dominated by the big exam boards, especially Cambridge English Language Assessment and ETS. OUP and Pearson and trying to move into assessment, too. But low stakes assessment has always been important, and will grow in importance as the range of online learning options increases. It’s pretty standard now for English courses to have some kind of assessment available as part of the package. Obviously, your typical end of course test supplied with a coursebook isn’t going to added to a student’s CV and is unlikely to mean much to potential employer. However, there’s a trend for courses to add something a bit more heavy-duty which, combined with an e-portfolio, does start to provide something that a student might find worth mentioning on their CV.
Providers of online and blended courses are beginning to offer their own certificates. Those certificates and alternative exams are nowhere near toppling the likes of IELTS, TOEIC etc, but this is early days. The need to prove what you’ve learned is growing as English language learning becomes ever more goal focussed. Having a certificate from your course provider to show what you’ve done is going to become more valuable, especially as the assessment provided with courses becomes gradually more rigorous. Is that going to put pressure on the exam boards and possibly lessen the value of their exams? Not in the foreseeable future, but it’s an evolving situation. What we’re not seeing (that I’m aware of) is anyone yet offering anything equivalent to Degreed or the other US-centric credetialing platforms in ELT.