Measuring The Value of Online Education

For the past few years I have been watching the revolution that is going on in education with much excitement. A traditional college education is rapidly becoming obsolete as the standard of online courses surpasses that of the courses taught at many institutions. Of course, I am biased. I never went to college. I took the view that there was nothing I would learn at college that I couldn’t teach myself using information that is freely available on the internet. I was probably a bit naive at the time (after all, college isn’t just about the classes) but I stand by the fact that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Online education does however have some shortcomings. The one that I have been thinking about a lot recently is how we measure the quality of online education. The difference in quality of online courses makes it extremely difficult for employers to effectively gauge the value of online courses when reviewing applicants. Students taking a course from one organisation may get a significantly better education than a student taking a similar course from another institution. This isn’t a new problem, it existed in the traditional college model too, but I think it’s something we need to try to fix.

Each organisation offering online courses has come up with their own way of measuring a students progress. Be that using a points system, badges, certificates or something else. This works fine within that organisations ecosystem but these grading systems don’t play well with each other. What we need is a standardised system that represents both the quantity of content that a student has consumed as well as the quality of that content.

This isn’t a trivial issue and I don’t have an answer as of yet, but it’s something I’ve spent considerable time thinking about. If you have any ideas that you’d like to share please reach out on twitter or in the comments below.

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