This blog is dedicated to the topics of Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education. it is intended as an information source for the college store industry, or anyone interested in how course materials are changing. Suggestions for discussion topics or news stories are welcome.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pearson Wins in Starbucks/ASU Initiative

It appears that Pearson Education may be the big winner in the program that allows Starbucks employees to earn online degrees through the Arizona State University. A new report said enrollment into Pearson’s online higher education segment increased by 24% during the first half of 2015 and a key part of that growth was the ASU Online program.

The growth couldn’t come at a better time for Pearson, which experienced a 40% decline in its stocks in the last three months, according to Brett Hershman, founder of Leverage Equity Research Group.

“This powerful connection will provide growth to ASU online enrollment for years to come,” he wrote. “With Pearson operating as a provider and manager of the online platform, the company will benefit from the growing online higher education segment.”

Starbucks is paying 100% of the online tuition fees for more than 140,000 full- and part-time employees eligible to participate in ASU Online. The initiative is helping Starbuck retain employees, while ASU has been named the most innovative college in the nation by national publications.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Video Lectures Are Not That Effective

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, have found that online lectures are not really very good teaching tools. Ken Koedinger and his team studied results of nearly 28,000 students who took massive open online courses (MOOCs) on the Coursera platform and found that video lectures were actually the least effective way to learn.

Students who only watched the provided video lectures did the worst on the 11 quizzes and final exam given during the 12-week course. Those students who used a combination of reading and video lectures did only slightly better. Students who did nothing more than complete the interactive exercises used in the course did about the same as those who combined reading and watching the lecture videos.

“People have such strong intuitions about their verbal learning experiences: ‘I learn from listening to a lecture,” Koedinger said in an article that appeared in U.S. News and World Report. “It sure feels that way. But in fact, lectures do very little to change your brain.”

The study recorded every mouse click to calculate how often a student read a passage, watched a video, or completed an interactive exercise, according to the report. Findings from the report were presented by Koedinger at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Learning at Scale conference.

“We have all kinds of assumptions about what works in learning and education,” Koedinger said. “But what we find out, not just in this field, but in almost every field, is that when you put those assumptions to the test, they’re more often wrong than right.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Regulatory Roadblock for CBE

There are still challenges ahead for competency-based education (CBE), but none may be bigger than the one from the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General. Michael Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute, said he believes the critical audit from the Office is preventing more CBE programs from being developed in higher education.

The audit criticized the way the Higher Learning Commission considered proposals for new CBE credentials. The inspector general panned the way the commission approved programs based on “regular and substantive” interaction between faculty and students.

“I, along with many others, have pointed out numerous times that this particular regulation makes little sense in today’s world of emerging online, competency-based programs—and we should instead be moving toward outcomes-based judgments around institutions,” Horn wrote  in a column for CompetencyWorks. “But the friction is also entirely predictable as competency-based education simply does not fit into the traditional value network and associated regulatory structures of higher education.”

Evaluating CBE programs using the same metrics employed to assess on-campus programs just doesn’t work, according to Horn, particularly when it comes to online interaction between students and faculty. The issues will eventually be worked out, but students who could benefit from CBE now will have moved on.

“At a high level, the solutions to these problems both have challenges today,” Horn wrote. “One is to stay out of the government funding streams, as some online, competency-based programs have tried but struggled to do, or to try to launch a more systematic effort at reform through a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act—an effort that will not be an easy climb with the various lobbying factions that will support the existing orders and thus would likely try to stifle innovation.”

Monday, December 28, 2015

Smartwatches Changing Wearables Market

Many college stores have found success selling wearable technology to students on campus, but that could soon change as sales of smartwatches are projected to outpace other wearables.

International Data Corp. (IDC) found that wearable shipments will be around 80 million this year, with smartwatches making up a quarter of the total. Shipments will increase to 111 million units by the end of 2016 and will double by 2019, according to IDC research.

The company estimated that shipments of smartwatches will rise from 34.3 million units next year to 88.3 million by 2019. Fitness bands will take a direct hit because of that jump.

“Cellular connectivity, health sensors, not to mention the explosive third-party application market, all stand to change the game and will raise the appeal and value of the market going forward,” IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said of smartwatches in a report for InformationWeek.

The Apple Watch will lead the category in 2016 with a 61% share of the market, with the Android Wear platform a distant second at 15.8%. Apple could ship as many as 45 million watches by 2019, according to IDC, but Android Wear will become a more formidable competitor by then, with a share of 38.8%.

At the same time, Rick Yang, a venture-capital partner at New Enterprise Associates, told CNBC that wearables will disappear next year in favor of newer and more fashionable products. He said luxury brands will soon enter the smartwatch field and that technology embedded into clothing and tattoos could become the next big trend in the industry.

“Our big thesis has been that wearables will mirror fashion.” Yang said. “I think tattoos are one of the ultimate fashion statements and so it’s only a matter of time before that gets penetrated by technology as well.”

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Holidays

From all of NACS Inc. staff in Oberlin, Westlake, and Cincinnati, OH, as well as our staff in California and Washington, D.C., have a safe and healthy holiday season.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Americans Spend a Lot of Time Online

A new study from the Pew Research Center found that Americans head online quite often. In fact, 73% of respondents said they use the Internet “almost constantly,” while just 7% reported using it less often than “several times a week.”

Younger generations lead the Internet charge. More than 90% of teens said they go online daily, while 36% of those ages 18-29 claimed they were in the “almost constantly” category. Time on the Internet dropped as the age groups got older.

More than 85% of the respondents who owned either a smartphone or a tablet, or both, said they used the Internet daily. Even 65% of those who didn’t have a smartphone or tablet reported logging in on a daily basis, according to a report in Pymnts.com.

Twenty-nine percent of college graduates reported being on the Internet more, compared to just 14% of those with a high school diploma or less. In addition, those earning $75,000 a year (28%) went online more than those earning $30,000 or less (14%).

One-in-five Americans – and 36% of 18- to 29-year-olds – go online ‘almost constantly’

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

New Polymer Could Change E-Reading

E-reading may be about to take a giant step forward. Researchers in Sweden have created a new material called power paper that can be formed into thin flexible displays storing an enormous amount of content.

One sheet of power paper has the capacity to store as much as 1 farad, or the same amount of information store by supercapacitors currently on the market. In addition, the material can be recharged hundreds of times and recharging only takes seconds to complete.

The cellulose material already set a world record for simultaneous conductivity for ions and electrons. It still must be developed at industrial scale to be practical, but has the potential to be used in folding or rollable screens and horizontal display technology.

“We could end up with e-paper devices that are actually paper thin, foldable, or rollable, and yet still fully powered,” wrote Paul St. John Mackintosh in a blog post for TeleRead.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Students Shop on Phone or Laptop, Not Tablet

College students prefer to shop online from their laptop or smartphone, rather than using a tablet or other computerized device.

In a new student panel survey from NACS OnCampus Research, 82.5% of respondents said they had shopped on their laptop at least once in the preceding 90 days. On average, they made 3.2 purchases via the laptop.

More than 70% indicated they shopped on their smartphone during the same time period, transacting almost two purchases on the device on average. In contrast, just 29.7% went shopping on a desktop computer, 28.2% on a tablet, 5.2% on a transformer or hybrid device, 2.2% on a netbook, and 1.4% on an e-reader.

Approximately 37.4% of students admitted to browsing for merchandise information or buying something on their phone every single day. Even so, shopping ranked just 11th on the list of 13 daily activities students conduct during the 5.2 hours they average on their phones. Topping that list, not unexpectedly, was text messaging (96%), searching the Internet (89.3%), accessing email (89.2%), social networking (80.7%), and phone calls (78.6%).

At the bottom of the list were video messages (11.4%) and reading books, magazines, and other materials (17.2%).

The survey also showed that many students don’t regard certain small electronics to be “mobile.” Nearly all students consider a smartphone to be mobile and 63.2% would apply that term to tablets. However, fewer than half of students think of iPods, laptops, e-readers, hybrid devices, and netbooks as mobile—possibly because they don’t use these devices away from home, unlike phones and tablets. Educators, marketers, retailers, and others who refer to “mobile” devices in discussions and promotions might want to clarify that for a student audience.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Teachers Want More Say in Ed Tech

There have been numerous reports on the growing use of technology in K-12 schools—tablets issued to students, educational software and games, online course materials, and much more—and a lot of speculation on whether it improves teaching and learning.

A new study, however, indicates that the majority of K-12 teachers say they weren’t included in decisions about educational technology at their schools, according to T.H.E. Journal. Yet, 63% of teacher respondents felt they really should lead the exploration of ed-tech platforms and applications to choose which are the best for students.

In most cases, the teachers pointed to school and district administrators and other leaders as responsible for making technology decisions, often with limited input from the teaching staff. “Forty-eight percent of respondents said they believe cost is the primary influence on ed-tech selection—much more so than student outcomes (22%) or teacher buy-in (9%),” said T.H.E. Journal.

Most teachers (62%) would prefer for someone else to do the basic research on ed-tech systems and provide a list of options to them for a final review and decision; only 26% would rather do all the legwork themselves. However, they don’t see much of a role for parents. In ranking all the stakeholders in order of importance in educational technology decision-making, 49% of teachers put parents dead last.

The survey of 4,300 teachers was conducted by TES Global, an online community for teachers, and the Jefferson Education Accelerator, which develops ed-tech solutions.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Shedding Light(sabers) on Learning

Forget adaptive learning. Toss out gamification and videos. Who needs lecture podcasts or any other educational techno-tool intended to help students learn better? If you want young people of any age to master academic concepts, you should head to a galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars may provide everything that instructors need to illustrate their lesson plans. Using elements from the famed movie franchise, instructors can construct mathematics problems, explore scientific ideas, or explain literary themes. The Star Wars in the Classroom site offers ideas and resources for incorporating Luke, Leia, Han, and the gang in teaching.

Two professors, one at the University of Auckland in Australia and the other at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, wrote a series of papers for Academic Psychiatry recommending that university faculty use the behavior of Star Wars characters to demonstrate psychiatric principles.

“For instance, Luke Skywalker’s moody behavior in the original 1977 film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (not doing chores, hanging out in bars, animal cruelty when ‘bullseyeing womp rats’ on his home planet) might be analyzed by students when talking about manifestations of teenage depression,” said a report by Times Higher Education.

Luke also suffers from Oedipal issues as the result of treatment by his “deadbeat absentee father,” Darth Vader, who in turn exhibits borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. C3PO has obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and Obi-Wan Kenobi displays symptoms of major depression and pseudo-dementia.

The idea is that a cultural phenomenon like Star Wars might hold students’ attention more than traditional textbook content and provide examples of concepts that are easier to understand and retain, helping to awaken the force of learning.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Consumer Acceptance Pushes Biometric ID

Once the stuff of spy thrillers and futuristic movie sagas, biometrics appear ready to ramp up in the next year as an accepted system for authenticating user identity, according to a report in Mobile Commerce Daily.

One company, Mitek Systems, even goes so far as to predict that biometrics will be incorporated in almost 50% of mobile financial transactions in 2016, thanks to new programs such as Apple’s Touch ID.

“We see a lot of interest in the kill-the-password movement,” said Sarah Clark, Mitek’s vice president of product.

A number of financial institutions have been piloting identity verification systems due to the rise in customers wanting to open accounts through their mobile devices. These customers don’t want to deal with a bricks-and-mortar location and they may not have a secure computer. According to Mitek, 86% of the millennial age group handle financial transactions on a mobile device, usually a smartphone.

At one time people may have been spooked by the idea of using their fingerprints or facial and voice recognition as an ID. Now consumers seem totally comfortable with the concept.

Biometric authentication is likely to spread to other applications, such as point-of-sale systems, campus ID cards, and online test-taking.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Use of E-Portfolios Growing in Higher Ed

There was a time when portfolios were primarily used by faculty as a way to gather information on student progress. Times have clearly changed because the California State University system rolled out an e-portfolio initiative in November that is available for use by more than three million students and alumni.

An e-portfolio provides students with a place to collect evidence of lifelong learning and skills. The electronic repository provides employers information that help match students with jobs. Colleges and universities are also using e-portfolios to identify tools and training needed to help students become more attractive job candidates.

“Tuition costs are up, perceived value is down,” Ryan Craig wrote in a report for TechCrunch. “Reports suggest that half of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Colleges and universities need to provide students and graduates with additional training and tools to improve immediate employability.”

More than 30 states now require students as early as middle school to create e-portfolios and individualized learning plans. Students will be able to provide colleges and universities with examples of their best work, helping to make it easier identify the abilities and potential of prospective applicants.

“Once a sideshow, e-portfolios are beginning to play a more central role in higher education, connecting both forward (graduates to jobs) and backwards (high school students to admissions),” Craig wrote. “Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the days of viewing e-portfolios as peripheral rather than central are dead.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

More Learning Innovation Needed

The New Media Consortium listed adoption of digital textbooks, mobile learning, innovations in web and print design, and the merging of online and learning analytics as the trends that are reinventing what course materials can do for students. However, the potential has yet to be realized.

“Each of these trends is spurring new visions of what digital course materials could look like and how they can foster more engaged learning; together, they are fueling a grass-roots wave of innovations,” authors of the report Course Apps wrote. “Two of the trends in particular, digital textbooks and design, have not yet reached their full potential in higher education, and there is space for institutions and education-focused companies to take them to the next level in service of teaching and learning.”

Textbook publishers are taken to task in the report for watching from the sidelines as others innovate. Digital tools still need to include “social, interactive, and immersive capabilities inherent to the connected devices on which these materials are experienced.” The report also pointed out that most content creators don’t have the expertise to develop their own materials.

“There is a need for user-friendly tools that empower faculty to design the kinds of compelling resources that will comprise the next wave of instructional resources and materials,” the authors wrote.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Technology Alone Is Not Enough

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, celebrated the birth of their daughter by announcing they would invest nearly their entire fortune in good causes, with personalized learning topping the list. While certainly a magnanimous gesture, there is one small problem: There’s little evidence that technology by itself can replace good schools.

Studies have shown that creating personalized learning tools that allow students to learn at their own pace, provide constant feedback, and recommend lessons based on previous work can produce improvement in learning results. But students still need support from teachers and parents.

Jason Reich, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported in a paper published in Science that 38% of students enrolled in online courses from Harvard and MIT live in more affluent neighborhoods. Reich also found students with college-educated parents were nearly twice as likely to finish the online courses they take.

“The history of education technology shows emerging technologies tend to disproportionately benefit affluent people,” Reich said in a National Public Radio report. “Designing for digital equity is really hard.”

The good news is Zuckerberg has shown a willingness to do the hard work necessary. Facebook engineers are already working on a personalized learning platform with Summit Schools, a chain of technology-centered charter schools. In addition, Zuckerberg has invested in AltSchool, a Bay Area startup that blends Montessori educational concepts with high-tech tools. He also plans to build free-standing private schools for low-income students.

“The technology is important, but it’s not really the hard or the expensive part,” said Michael Feldstein, co-founder of the education blog e-Literate, in the NPR report. “These challenges are particularly hard for poorer schools where there is less money and less support for teachers.”

Friday, December 11, 2015

Fitbit, Apple Top Wearables Market

Wearable technology continues to grow as a product category, according to a new report from International Data Corp. (IDC). Worldwide shipments increased 197.6%, to 21 million units, in the third quarter of 2015 compared to the same quarter of 2014.

Fitbit is the undisputed leader, with a 22% share of the market. Apple is second with a 18.6% share, thanks to sales of the Apple Watch, according to IDC. Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi finished third ahead of GPS-maker Garmin.

Samsung’s share of the market slipped to sixth behind Chinese vendor XTC, because of a late start in shipping its Gear S2. The “others” category of manufacturers represented a 34.6% share of the worldwide wearables market.

“It’s still anyone’s game at this point,” Ramon Llamas, research manager for wearables and mobile phones at IDC, said in a report for InformationWeek. “The fact that two Chinese vendors can play catch-up rather quickly is perhaps indicative of other companies doing the same. Until that happens, expect the popular brands to have a spot—Fitbit and Apple most ostensibly.”

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Students Do Just as Well Using OER

Studies continue to find students saying they prefer printed textbooks over online course materials. New research, though, has found the type of course material may not matter all that much.

The study by Brigham Young University and the Michigan State Department of Education reported students who used open educational resources (OER) online did just as well or better than those assigned commercial printed textbooks. The findings compared the success rates of 5,000 students using digital OER to a control group of 11,000 students using traditional textbooks enrolled in 15 undergraduate courses.

Researchers found no significant difference between the groups when it came to completing a course. In the area of passing with a grade of C- or better, both groups passed at the same rates in nine of the courses while digital OER students did better than the control group in five other courses. In the 15th course, students using printed textbooks did better than those using digital content.

The average credit load for the OER students was 13 in the fall and 11 for the winter, while commercial textbook users averaged 11 credit hours in the fall and nine for the winter. Students using OER enrolled in more credit courses the following semester as well, according to a report in Campus Technology.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars and person-hours have been invested in improving in-class instructional designs, intelligent tutoring systems, adaptive instructional systems, and other design-related innovations intended to improve student outcomes,” the researchers wrote. “The current study demonstrates that at least one noninstructional design option exists that can effectively improve student outcomes.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Support for Apple in Antitrust Fight

Apple hasn’t had much success convincing federal judges that there was no antitrust violation when it came up with the agency pricing model for e-books with five major publishers. While the publishers decided to settle instead of taking on the government, Apple fought and has lost at practically every turn.

With the case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, the American Booksellers Association, Barnes & Noble, Authors United, and the Authors Guild have chimed in on Apple’s behalf, asking the court to review the case in a friend-of-the-court brief. The document contends that instead of stifling competition, Apple’s entry into the market increased competition.

The brief lays much of the blame on Amazon for the anticompetitive atmosphere that existed before Apple got into the game. It also points to the 2014 dispute between Amazon and Hachette over e-book pricing as an example of punitive measures taken by Amazon against a publisher, according to a report in Shelf Awareness.

“We authors feel strongly that diversity, competition, and the free flow of ideas are key to a healthy marketplace of books,” Douglas Preston, founder of Authors United, wrote in the friend-of-the-court brief. “The numbers unequivocally show that Apple’s entry into the e-book market increased competition and gave authors and publishers greater choice in how content was delivered to the reading public.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

NOVA Provides Access to OER Program

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) has developed two zero-textbook-cost degree programs that can be adapted for use by other institutions. The courses use open educational resources (OER) and fulfill all requirements for associate degrees in general studies and social sciences offered by NOVA.

The institution claims it’s the first community college to fully share its OER courses, according to a report in eCampus News. Other colleges can use the program, developed through the NOVA Extended Learning Institute, to fit their own learning outcomes.

NOVA has partnered with Lumen Learning to create the courses, which are available through the Lumen website. For a fee, institutions can access additional services from Lumen, such as faculty training, technical and OER program design support, and help in customizing course materials.

“This step by NOVA goes far towards putting OER degree programs within reach for other colleges,” said TJ Bliss, program officer in the education program at the Hewlett Foundation. “It gives academic leaders a vision of what is now possible in open education, as well as the means to get there. For institutions struggling with affordability and access, OER degree programs can catalyze systemic change towards open education, and colleges can reap the benefits in terms of student success.”

Monday, December 7, 2015

#GoOpen Has Game Developers Worried

Although gamification and open educational resources (OER) are current buzzwords in education, game developers are concerned about the #GoOpen initiative from the U.S. Department of Education, which directs organizations receiving federal grants to make copyrightable intellectual property part of the public domain when completed.

The fact that more teachers will be turning to digital tools and resources is good news for game developers, according to a column by Lee Banville, editorial director of the Games and Learning Publishing Council. Another positive to the #GoOpen initiative is more open-source tools should also free up more funds for schools to spend on digital content.

However, a world full of free educational tools could also mean fewer educators willing to pay for learning games.

“So the Department of Education’s new push could go either way for learning-game developers,” Banville wrote. “It if goes the way some seem to hope, the far larger budgets connected to textbooks may soon become more available for schools to invest in digital learning tools, including games. The danger is if the perception is most educational content, like OERs, is free, then why pay for digital games?”

Friday, December 4, 2015

E-Book Borrowing Outpaces Borrowers

The number of e-books borrowed from public libraries may be growing at a fast clip, but the number of library patrons doing the borrowing may not.

According to a survey conducted last summer by e-book provider OverDrive in conjunction with the American Library Association, some 30 million e-books were loaned to users through public libraries in the second quarter of 2015, representing a 19% jump over the same period in 2014.

However, a new survey by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) revealed that just 25% of library patrons had downloaded an e-book from the library in the previous 12 months, according to a report in Publishers Weekly. That indicates a minority of library users are generating most of the e-book traffic.

In fact, the patrons who got one or more e-books from their local library would have liked to obtain more, but were often stymied. They said the titles they wanted weren’t available in e-book formats, were on an e-book waiting list, or could only be borrowed for a period too short to complete the book.

In the BISG survey, 44% of library patrons reported reading an e-book in the previous year, far more than had borrowed an e-book. That jibes with librarians’ contention that there is pent-up demand for e-book loans, provided they have popular titles on hand.

And it’s not the mobile device-toting younger generation that’s borrowing e-books. In OverDrive’s survey, only 5% of respondents were less than 25 years of age while 52% were more than 54 years old.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Graphene Back in Flexible-Display News

A new technique to manufacture graphene could lead to a new era for electronic displays, according to a report published by a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow. Graphene is a thin layer of carbon that is more than 200 times stronger than steel, conducts heat and electricity, and is nearly transparent.

By using the ultrasmooth copper foils found in lithium-ion batteries, researchers were able to drive down production costs from $115 per square meter to $1. Devices using the graphene sheets performed better in tests.

“Large-scale and low-cost synthesis of high-quality graphene films and the compatibility of our method to the roll-to-roll fabrication would open an avenue through the realization of graphene-based flexible optoelectronic systems such as cellphones with roll-up displays, e-paper, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, as well as medical patches that can be attached to the skin,” the researchers wrote in their report.

Graphene has been touted as the material that would become the e-reader display of the future before. The difference this time is the focus on display applications and the cost of the process, according to a report in TeleRead.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Impact of MOOCS

There’s no lack of opinions about massive open online courses (MOOCs). Some view the free online classes as making inexpensive learning possible for the masses, while others point out that thousands sign up but few actually finish the courses.

The real impact, according to Joshua Kim in his blog for Inside Higher Education, is in residential learning. The innovations from MOOCs have been a catalyst for more attention and investment in traditional classroom instruction.

“The impact of MOOCs is that no institution wants to have residential courses that are comparable in quality (and outcomes) to MOOCs,” Kim wrote. “Residential classes must add value beyond that which can be gained (and measured) in open online education.”

That’s particularly true of introductory classes that traditionally have large enrollment. These classes will either need much more funding or be offered as online classes. At the same time, large-enrollment introductory classes can provide a path to making big residential courses even better, according to Kim.

“The same team of faculty, instructional designers, media educators, librarians, and assessment experts who have gained trust and experience in working on MOOCs will also work on redesigning large-enrollment residential classes,” he wrote. “The desire to leverage data and analytics to evolve pedagogical practices that has been so much a part of the MOOC world also applies to residential teaching and learning.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Will Credentials Displace Degrees?

Students expect education to improve their job prospects. At the same time, employers want job candidates who have acquired the high-tech skills and qualifications as they enter the job market.

This is causing a shift away from the traditional college degree and toward credentials, such as online badges, course certificates, and dynamic assessments, according to Aaron Skonnard, CEO of the online training provider Plurasight. In a post for TechCrunch, Skonnard predicted that credentials will at least be as relevant as the college degrees because they offer “more insight into hard skills.”

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) got the discussion started by making higher education somewhat more accessible. Completion rates proved to be an issue, so MOOC providers adapted and expanded beyond free education to create training and certification programs that use credentials for skills that employers want.

“We live in a time of real-time analytics, and we dashboard everything inside the organization, from sales to operation costs to customer sentiment,” Skonnard wrote. “It’s only natural that this trend should extend into the way we vet, assess, and track the skills and abilities of our prospective and current employees. The more data options we have, the more deliberate we can become about making good hiring decisions, and the more prescriptive we can be about addressing monumental skills gaps in the workplace. The college degree alone can’t provide this kind of holistic insight.”