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Eighteen microcredit scenarios


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(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

Here are a number of MicroCredit scenarios designed to expand your thinking and help you grasp the significance of this opportunity.

  1. Watching a Movie - If someone goes to a movie, and takes a short test afterwards, should they be eligible to earn 2-3 microcredits? Is this a cultured learning experience equal to reading a book? If this option is made available, movie studios will jump on this in a heartbeat as a way of validating their value.
  1. Reading a Book - Similar to the movie scenario, every publisher in the country will be interested in offering credits for people who read their books and take a test.
  1. Watching TED Talks – TED conferences attract brilliant speakers who make their topics fun and interesting. Since these talks are generally around 20 minutes, could three TED talks, followed by short tests, be valued at one MicroCredit?
  1. Playing Video Games - Even though video game cultures often get trashed in academia, those who master the intricate skills necessary to earn high-level rankings know it’s not easy. Once again, if game developers were able to grant MicroCredits inside their games for certain levels of achievement, it will instantly change our cultural perspective on the game industry.
  1. Foreign Travel – With foreign travel becoming increasingly common, it tends to hold less value today than in the past, but is still recognized as a significant form of learning. Will someone create an (X*travel=Y*MicroCredits) algorithm?
  1. Filing for a Patent – The process of filing for a patent is a noteworthy accomplishment that may be worth several MicroCredits.
  1. Producing an Event – Events range from small to huge. But producing a successful event is a unique form of learning that will cause others to take notice. Again, is there a MicroCredit algorithm that can be applied?
  1. Memberships – Credit by association. Should association memberships come with MicroCredits? The credibility of an association adds to the credibility of you as an individual.
  1. Start a Business – Launching a business is a significant learning experience regardless of how successful it becomes. Did someone say “MicroCredit algorithm?”
  1. Published a Book – Writing and publishing a book is a major accomplishment worthy of MicroCredits.
  1.  Produce a Documentary – There is something noble and noteworthy about producing a documentary, and the entire exercise puts documentarians into a class of their own. On a learning scale, what is that worth?
  1.  Foreign Travel with a Cause – Whether you’re working with Engineers Without Borders creating bridges or water systems for desolate villages, or working with Teachers without Borders and teaching young people a much needed craft, foreign travel that is tied to a cause will be worth far more in MicroCredits than travel by itself.
  1.  Serve on a City Council – Local elections have a way of validating your status in the community and serves as a wonderful learning experience.
  1.  Commissioned Artwork – Artwork is only as important as the artist who tells the story. Commissioned art brings with it a rare form of learning as well as a unique position of honor.
  1.  Learning a Foreign Language – Learning a language in a classroom setting is vastly different than learning it on the streets of a foreign city. Each level of proficiency could be worth multiple MicroCredits.
  1.  Creating a High-Traffic Website – The size of your digital footprint is directly proportional to your online status. Should increased status be recognized with MicroCredits?
  1.  Becoming a Dog Breeder – Dog breeders learn things that cannot be taught in a classroom. They also hold prominence in social circles far beyond the pet-owner community.
  1.  Being Elected to a Higher Office – When people vote someone into office, it’s a unique and powerful way of telling the world they are important. Until now, there has been no way of credentialing this kind of learning experience.

The 18 examples above are just a tiny slice of spectrum when it comes to assigning credits and MicroCredits to our daily learning experiences. Many questions remain, but the key to a brighter future may come in the form of automating the assignment of MicroCredits to our best and brightest.

Categories and Taxonomies for MicroCredits

The examples above are all vastly different kinds of learning. Learning languages, filing patents, creating art or producing a documentary all involve unique forms of learning. Should Microdegrees be formed around a single topic or a combination of multiple topics? Colleges have created specific taxonomies for categorizing credits like math, social sciences, humanities, etc. But MicroCredits are far more granular in nature, creating the potential for new ways of grouping and qualifying skills.

Over time, Edevate will become a credit bank for MicroCredits and other types of life-learning achievements. As we move further down the path of alternative credentialing, many of these questions will get sorted out.

Final Thoughts

When someone hands you a resume in the future, how important will it be to list the five to seven Microdegrees you’ve earned over the past few years? Will it be more important than your B.A. in fine arts?

If someone watches 1,000 TED videos, will they be better educated than someone who earns a traditional college degree? In many cases, yes – but it doesn't come with the "hands-on doing" that creates a well-rounded learning experience.

The type of learning that comes from building your own home, or programming your own wearable tech, or starting your own distillery are far different than sitting in a classroom learning abstract concepts. These types of experiences have been grossly undervalued in the past, at least from a credentialing perspective.

On one level, Microdegrees need to be hacker-proof, scam-artist-proof, rigorously monitored, with checks-and-balances that make them highly valued in the marketplace. In short, they need to be "micro prestigious." 

At the same time, they also need to add meaning and expand our notion of what’s truly valuable in life. This, in turn, will force us to rethink what makes something credit-worthy.

Many of life’s greatest experiences have been undervalued because of our narrow perspective of authenticating value in learning. Over the coming years, we’ll see a huge need to reskill our workforce, and as this unfolds, Microdegrees have the potential to become the most recognizable credential in the world.”

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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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