Earning credentials in a learning community

Recently David Eubanks has posted some thoughts on assessment and Gary Brown and I each followed up with comments. That led David to make this post summarizing (and re-broadcasting) the thinking we have been doing around a Harvesting Gradebook.

David’s is a smaller and more personal example of an idea I’ve been exploring: learning communities organizing around problems, providing critiques and credentials to members, and doing all this outside the walls of the university. In this case, David is getting his head around some work that I have been involved in so I have a different perspective than in the Lisi example I wrote about before.

In a little email to Gary, David writes “I’m still wrapping my mind around it, and hope I didn’t get any details wrong.  If I need to correct something, please let me know.” David, I think you got it about right, especially because you note “I hope the registrar has a defibrillator in the office” which tells me you recognize the magnitude of the disruption this idea proposes for the current institutional structures.

The meta analysis

By linking to the work and providing some reflection, David is both announcing his interest this Harvesting Gradebook community and extending some of his social capital to it. By linking back to David, and giving some assessment, I’m offering both a welcoming into the community of practice and some social capital in return. Without pushing these analogies too far, this post is offering a credential to David, certification that he “gets it.” And here is where things get dicey for the traditional university. Were a community of practice robust enough, and the accumulated credentials understood to carry substantial social capital, the community (and not the university) would be able to offer credentials. The income stream of the university would be treatened. Hence David’s concern for our Registrar’s cardiac health. (In the Lisi example above, time on a particle accelerator to test his theories would be certification of Lisi’s credentials in the High Energy Physics world.)