Posted by: crudbasher | August 8, 2013

Disaggregating Assessments

I’m always on the lookout for more evidence supporting my theory of disaggregation. If you are new here it is briefly. Society before the Internet organized it’s resources based on physical proximity. People lived in cities because that is where the factories were. Factories were there because they were transportation nexii, etc… The Internet is causing aggregations of resources to be split apart and reaggregated along intellectual lines, not physical proximity. For example, you might be closer friends with somebody you met online than your actual next door neighbor. I think this theory will apply to everything in society that is information based. Universities are a prime example. Once classes are online, what function does an actual university campus have anymore?

Universities are strange beasts really. What they think they are selling is different from what the student thinks they are buying. Students think they are buying knowledge but what they are sold is actually a credential showing they graduated. It’s a signaling mechanism that opens a lot of doors in society. Lately it has become pretty much a necessity to get a good job thus driving up the costs tremendously.

So what if you can disaggregate out the assessment and credentialing part? It’s been done before but now I’m starting to see more movement on this.

H/T Inside Higher Education

Testing firms are offering new ways to measure what students learn in college. Their next generation of assessments is billed as an add-on – rather than a replacement – to the college degree. But the tests also give graduates something besides a transcript to send to a potential employer.

As a result, skills assessments are related to potential higher education “disruptions” like competency-based education or even digital badging. They offer portable ways for students to show what they know and what they can do. And in this case, they’re verified by testing giants.

So is this disruptive to the higher education business model? They seem to take great pains in the article to deny that.

The new assessments from ETS “really shouldn’t be that threatening” to higher education, Payne said, adding that they will “help institutions prove the great things they’re doing.”


“They can put them on their résumé,” said Doris Zahner, director of test development and a measurement scientist for the council. However, she cautions that the “CLA+ is not meant to replace a college education.”

So what prevents a person from taking the testing without going to a university? Can somebody teach themselves a topic and then take the certification? Would businesses accept that? This is Pandora’s Box my friends. Once society is comfortable with the notion that you don’t have to go to school to learn, there will be a revolution in education.

See Learning or Credentialing; Thoughts From Seth Godin



  1. Excellent! So, if the universities are reducing their own existence into that of a rubber stamp, what happens to learning??

    My struggle as a doctoral student is jumping the hoops, because in my vision (and previous higher ed experiences) the idea should be to come together and construct more knowledge together. Or deeper knowledge and understanding of our discipline.

    Learning certainly happens everywhere, but academia has had its own ways of defining and refining the formal learning. Do you see that line being blurred by the tech?


    • Hi Nina,

      I believe there are many forms of learning just as valid as “formal learning”. It is a myth that you have to be in a classroom with a teacher in order to learn. We are always learning. I think what technology is doing is providing more options to learn, and making it possible for more types of learning to be certified and accepted by society. Colleges aren’t the only game in town.

      I think colleges are going to make a big push to convince people that they are the only “offiicial” way to learn. I also think they will fail.

      Thanks for commenting!

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