I don’t need a certificate to beat you in chess

by P

Just submitted my “Testing Our Assumptions” proposal for the upcoming Open Ed Conference (Oct 25-27 2011). I am interested in hacking certification – and was happy to accept David’s invitation to act as a Strand Champion for “Open credentialing, open competency certification, and open degrees” at the conference.

Rather than submit a more formal presentation or poster session, I thought I’d try to get some people to help me think through a fundamental question related to certification, “do we really need certification?” The format for “Testing Our Assumptions” is brilliant for these kinds of questions. And besides, traveling half-way around the world to give a presentation and speak at the smartest people in the open education space, rather than speaking with them, seems like a wasted opportunity.

Here is my proposal. Feedback welcome, and I hope to see you at the conference.

One of the most interesting topics in the open education movement focuses on certification and credentialing of learning achievements by participants in open learning environments. The underlying assumption is that we need some form of certification, to validate what we have learned. In this session, I would like to to suggest (slightly tongue-in-cheek) that if we can re-imagine learning as a process that is authentic, social, and open – we might not require a separate certification process. Achievements can be evident in the learning itself.

Does learning require certification?

Certification is a signal or currency, that lets us transfer achievements to those outside of our learning community. As a student, I don’t need grades to signal my skills to those I studied with – but to those who don’t know me, my abilities, or my achievements.

If I beat you in chess, you know that I can play

Jim Gee calls testing “primitive” and the result of poor learning design, and compares students to game players. There is no need for testing in games, because each stage of the game requires some form of mastery and achievement before the player can enter.

Does good learning create evidence, which can replace credentials?

If we follow Gee, we must ask if the problem with credentials is not rooted in the design of learning environments and experience. Can we borrow lessons from game design to make learning so authentic, engaging, and social that it produces all necessary evidence of achievements as a byproduct of the learning? (Or the other way around, does the learning become a byproduct of achievements?)

I should add that I am a terrible chess player – with or without a certificate.