Hang on, says Debra Humphreys, senior vice president for academic planning and public engagement at the Association of American Colleges & Universities. She doesn’t see skills-based education competing with four-year colleges and universities soon, but predicts a new group of “hybrid educational experiences.”
If employers “have somebody walking in the door with a bachelor’s degree from X university, and then another one who comes in and says, ‘Well, but I have all these badges because I did a bunch of skill-based stuff online,’ I mean, I still think they’re going to go with the person with the degree,” Humphreys said. “But I think it’s going to become more of a competitive advantage to build on top of the degree a series of badges or skills.”
The more vulnerable part of higher ed is professional master’s and certificate programs, which are long and expensive and provide more than someone needs to get the job, said Selingo, the There Is Life After College author. Bryant, of Tyton Partners, sees LinkedIn, Lynda, and Microsoft tapping into continuing and lifelong learning, an arena in which he thinks higher-ed institutions have done poorly.
The Microsoft-LinkedIn combination is subject to some tensions, such as whether it will favor its own training programs. Ultimately, the competency marketplace “really needs to be Switzerland,” Craig said.
LinkedIn spokeswoman Inouye said the focus is on members’ success. The portfolio of Craig's firm, University Ventures, includes companies that deal with credentialing, competency display, online learning, and employment.
Also, the real economy is cyclical. “When the job market cools, and we enter the next phase of the economic cycle, my concern would be that there’s not as much mobility for people in the LinkedIn audience as they would like,” said Bryant, whose firm has worked with businesses that provide training. “And because there’s less mobility, there’s less desire to spend additional money on additional learning.”
And is it a little creepy, a computer telling you where you’re deficient and where you might go with your career?
“It's like analytics in anything,” Selingo said. Amazon
and Netflix make recommendations, too. And if Word wanted to suggest a person on LinkedIn who could help write a killer sentence to end this story, who’s to say it wouldn’t be great?