Friday, February 13, 2015

Innovations in vocational education and certification

Certification options from Coursera and the California Community Colleges

MOOCs are often used for vocational training rather than a traditional college degree and Coursera has launched six "Coursera Specializations" for vocational training.

A Coursera Specialization requires completion of a group of related courses followed by a capstone project. A Specializations consists of several online courses, developed at universities, leading up to a real capstone project/case study developed by a company in the relevant industry.

For example, the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and Instagram have collaborated on an interaction design Specialization. UCSD will provide six MOOC-format courses and the capstone project will come from Instagram.

Students can still take the courses for free, but they will not receive a certification of completion and will not be allowed to do the capstone project. Students wishing to complete the capstone and receive a certificate of completion will pay a tuition of $343.

A sample Specialization completion certificate

Another approach to vocational education is being taken by the California Community Colleges, which are proposing fifteen vocationally-oriented bachelors degrees. For comparison with Coursera, consider this proposal for an interaction design degree from Santa Monica College (SMC).

The SMC interaction design curriculum

The SMC program would take longer to complete and would cost more in terms of tuition and opportunity cost, but it covers more ground and is taught face-to-face.

These are interesting, innovative times for vocational education. Hiring practices and societal values will eventually determine the winners, but for now, how would you advise a young person who wanted to become an interaction designer?