New players in higher education may be upending the concept of a degree. Instead of pursuing a traditional degree over a number of years, more college students may opt for a much shorter path to a “microdegree.”
According to a report in Campus Technology, Udacity stirred up some chatter at the Google I/O conference with its new Android application developer program, which enables students to achieve the credential within 12 months. Udacity offers five other skill-based programs leading to a “nanodegree,” a term the company has trademarked. Coursera also has a number of shorter-term study programs that award microdegrees upon completion.
Campus Technology noted that “the concept of an institution-agnostic microcredential isn’t new,” but the fresh angle is that for-profit companies such as Udacity and Coursera are partnering with major companies to create the course content. That ensures the curriculum meets the needs of potential employers and gets students through the program quickly so they can fill positions.
“A growing number of industries are open to the idea of employing people with portfolio backgrounds—that is, people without four-year degrees who have done different things and can show you what they’ve done,” said Cathy Sandeen, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and University of Wisconsin-Extension, in the article. Wisconsin is taking part in the Lumina Foundation’s project to construct a “credential registry” for students.
Others think microdegrees won’t replace traditional degrees, but will allow people to add credentials as they proceed through their career. “It just means that those four-year programs that are best able to integrate with ‘nano-,’ ‘micro-,’ and ‘meso-’ certificate programs will be more likely to thrive,” said Alexander Halavais, associate professor, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arizona State University.