There is something very powerful about online education (eLearning). Assuming that one can create really good courses, it enables any individual to start competing with the large Universities. (Many Universities have seen the benefit of online education and they have certainly started offering their courses online.) Students can be located anywhere around the world and they can learn things at their own pace. With social media one can even achieve a very high collaboration between the students (peers) and teachers. This can scale very well and since the class capacity is infinite, we can completely remove the barrier to entry. Finally education can be made very affordable, since the cost of running an online course is extremely low compared to the bureaucratic Universities. Thus it helps in “Bringing quality education to everyone“.
One of the real problems we run into with this approach is, how do you “certify” the student? Coz these individual educators won’t have the credibility like a University nor will they be able to give an acceptable degree/certificate as a “proof of learning”. The question is can social media/web fill the void?
The Social Media/Web is still at a very nascent stage, evolving rapidly. Today people don’t really use it to validate someone’s credibility online. As of today “Certificates” have more value.
Globally, using social web to certify people has not taken off. LinkedIn is trying. I’m (or should I say, I was) trying something similar with the Agile Alliance LinkedIn Group. Lot of other people like http://www.wevouchfor.org and http://www.workingwithrails.com/ have tried.
To think about it, Open Source (being a committer/contributor on an open source project) helps you build social credibility. This model has certainly worked for a lot of developers.
Imagine “real” people on the web can vouch for your experience, knowledge and skill. You can demonstrate the same with applications/tools you’ve built. Your social status speaks for you and you can completely do away with the traditional certification model. I certainly see us moving in that direction. Decentralize and distribute the ability to certify people.