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Businesses Education The Internet

How Fine-Grained Will New Credentialism Get: Credit For Watching a TED Talk? 102

jyosim writes: In a sign of how willing some companies are to consider alternatives to higher education, services are popping up that allow employees to track their informal-learning activities so they can be added to their credentials. These activities can include such things as watching a TED talk, a Khan Academy video, or reading a newspaper article. "It’s easy to poke fun at a single TED talk or a single article and say, What is the merit of this and what’s the efficacy of a single article?" says David Blake, chief executive and a founder of Degreed, a service that logs what employees are learning online. "But when you zoom out and look at a year’s worth of learning," it adds up, he argues. "The average professional’s time on videos, books, and articles will substantially outweigh their time inside a classroom. In aggregate, it is the story of our lifelong learning."
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How Fine-Grained Will New Credentialism Get: Credit For Watching a TED Talk?

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  • I don't disagree with the concept that what someone learns outside of the classroom is often even more important and far-reaching than what they learned in the classroom. But does this man have such hubris that he thinks he can actually quantify it in any meaningful way? We can't even get traditional classroom education quantified in much more than "years spent in classes on this subject", so what makes anyone think we could do it with what people read from newspaper articles/heard on TED talks/etc?
    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday September 14, 2015 @02:56PM (#50520683) Homepage

      But does this man have such hubris that he thinks he can actually quantify it in any meaningful way?

      Of course not.

      He thinks he can have a business model to leverage the synergies of holistically tracking of the buzz-wordification of the educationalizing of people as it pertains to encouraging companies to place value on his system, thereby affording him a platform to optimize his return on his own personal branding in a lucrative fashion.

      This is just more examples of companies trying to tell us what the way of the future is for education, while trying to capitalize on it, and without any supporting evidence.

      Follow degreed.

      I mean, can you imagine a bunch of little micro-acomplishments like self-assigned gold stars on someone's resume? "In October Larry watched 8 videos on how to do something, representing a year-over-year increase of 100% for that period." I just don't see this happening.

      Now, the data acquired by a bunch of people reporting what they've watched, and the accompany ability to monetize and exploit that ... well, I'm sure that's all part of phase 2.

      • I mean, can you imagine a bunch of little micro-acomplishments like self-assigned gold stars on someone's resume? "In October Larry watched 8 videos on how to do something, representing a year-over-year increase of 100% for that period." I just don't see this happening.

        Unfortunately I can. A generation is coming up that's been raised with XBox trophies and Steam achievements. Micro-rewards work in terms of getting people to do tasks. It originated in gaming and is pervasive in modern games, but it's quickly leaking into general usage. One example - Fitbit awards badges for walking a number of steps each day, or climbing flights of stairs. You can compete with your friends for top score each week. It's not too far a stretch to see something like Khan Academy awarding a

        • by plopez ( 54068 )

          "Micro-rewards work in terms of getting people to spend money "

          Fixed that for you.

      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        "He thinks he can have a business model to leverage the synergies of holistically tracking of the buzz-wordification of the educationalizing of people as it pertains to encouraging companies to place value on his system, thereby affording him a platform to optimize his return on his own personal branding in a lucrative fashion."

        In a web cloud based BYOD converged distributed personalized 24/7 massively multi-usered environment.

      • I could see that being used as something to give the H1-Bs an edge needed to keep them coming.

        "But we couldn't find a qualified American who had watched all 10,000 hours of educational video on our site. We _had_ to have an H1-B"...
      • I had to take introduction to algebra 3 times, that makes me 3 times better at it than my classmates!

    • We can't even get traditional classroom education quantified in much more than "years spent in classes on this subject"

      I had this idea that you could put people in a room, and give them a paper with questions on it and see how many they get right. Or you set them a task and see how well they do it.

      Crazy talk, I know.

    • Before you get to quantification, what about cheating? People would set up "learn farming" systems similar to today's "perk farming" systems, to make it look like they're watching TED talks and reading technical articles on half a dozen devices at once all day long.

      It's too bad really, because I would look really good through honest use of this system B-)

      • People would set up "learn farming" systems similar to today's "perk farming" systems, to make it look like they're watching TED talks and reading technical articles on half a dozen devices at once all day long.

        What's the difference? Watching a TED talk or reading a technical article doesn't imply that any understanding, retention, or learning has occurred between the ears of the content consumer.

        • What's the difference? Watching a TED talk or reading a technical article doesn't imply that any understanding, retention, or learning has occurred between the ears of the content consumer.

          Sadly neither does a college degree. In most schools it is something like 60-70% of the classes you take for a B.S. are filler classes ( usually something around 30-40 of the 120 required credits ) with the remaining percentage actually applying for your degree. Students know this, and know how to get around it... cram and dump, then forget.

          Even then, many degrees are so broad that students only remember things from classes that pertain to what area of the field they are interested in. The honest professors

    • I want to believe something like this has legs, because higher education has turned into quite the racket, and honestly I've listened to TED talks that were more valuable than entire semesters of undergrad.

      But. Pretty much all of life is a learning experience if you approach it with an open mind. Are we going to give credit for "unexpectedly good advice from chance meeting on the train" or "frugality and determination learned from the year I was broke"?
      • by Falos ( 2905315 )
        This. I definitely recognize the (greater?) worth of nonclassroom learning, and I'd love to stick it to the overpriced diploma factory, but reality outweighs optimism. It's too impractical, and just isn't implementable.
    • Attending classes and watcing talks is not the same as learning. A company would be idiotic to hire someone based only on a list of minor self learning activities; instead the company should make sure the person actually knows something and is able to apply that to the job. That's why there are interviews. Everyone knows most resumes are inflated collections of tiny lies anyway.

      So ya, it's pretty dumb to try to quantify "lifelong learning". If someone says they learned Spanish online, then just start co

  • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Monday September 14, 2015 @02:46PM (#50520605)

    I'm becoming convinced TED talks actually make people stupider. Here's a TED talk about it [youtu.be].

    • Yeah, admittedly I haven't watched more than a handful, but I don't think any of them left me feeling anything other than that I wanted my 20 minutes back.
    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      So meta.

      I watched it. So do I get a credit for that one or lose credit now?

      (Actually its the first one I've watched... I'd cynically assumed TED was just pop-sci/fluff pieces until now. Looks like i was more or less right...) at least according to this guy.

    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Monday September 14, 2015 @04:02PM (#50521147)
      All TED talks are not created equally, and there's a stark difference between a TED talk and a TEDx talk. The latter are pretty much open to anyone and aren't well screened either for quality of information or quality of presentation.

      The talk you've linked to is one of those TEDx talks and it's given by a professor of visual arts. He's simply just passing off his opinion and little more than that. The speaker describes his work as dealing with "deep techno-cultural shifts, from the post-humanism to the post-anthropocene." I still can't get the Bullshit klaxon to turn off after hearing that part. Some of those words have individual meaning to me, but I don't even think the speaker could given me a concise definition of what that phrase actually means. Post-anthropocene is especially egregious. We get other meaningless jargon phrases like "placebo techno-radicalism" which is defined as "toying with risk, so as to reaffirm the comfortable." After that point I quit, as it was probably just another ~6 minutes of pseudo-intellectual peroration where we get to hear a lot of words that don't actually mean anything, and are only there to make the speaker sound intelligent so you might agree with whatever point they were trying to make if that was even clear.

      Funnier yet, the example he gives of a terrible talk that accomplished nothing is another TEDx talk. Stay as far away from those as you possibly can. Even though there are a few bad TED talks, at least they're curated enough to keep the worst of the worst out.
      • All TED talks are not created equally

        True that. Monica Lewinsky's talk [ted.com] was amazing.

        We get other meaningless jargon phrases like "placebo techno-radicalism"

        Actually, that phrase resonated with me very much. He seems to be getting precisely how hollowed-out the techno-libertarian startup culture is, in terms of producing anything that is actually going to make the world better, instead of keeping people more entertained over the course of a brief product life cycle. Sounds like a great term for that, to me.

        Techno-junk-food. It's making people billionaires right now, but that alone should be a pretty fucking big flag

        • I wouldn't say that "placebo techno-radicalism" is a good descriptor of what you're describing. It's just meaningless filler. If he would phrased what he said similarly to how you have done it, he would have been far more effective at conveying his point, however I think he's attempting to dress his language up to cover for the fact that he has no real evidence to support his opinion.

          Also, you take a far too narrow view of the world of technology. Look at all of the advancements that have come about in t
    • I stopped taking them seriously when there were a couple TEDx conferences in my city one year and the iTunes feed started filling up with a bunch of talks from these other conferences.

  • So can I get credit for reading slashdot? What about wikipedia or cracked.com? A lot of my leisure time is spent
    reading random articles online. Yes, this makes me more knowledgeable and I do learn a bit from each and certain
    domains like my knowledge of smtp, dns, etc.. has not been learned in a classroom but tracking every time I read
    an article seems stupid. It seems like taking relevant certification tests if you need it or better yet just being asked
    questions in an interview over relevant material s

  • Watching vs Learning (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CycleMan ( 638982 ) on Monday September 14, 2015 @02:46PM (#50520613)
    While we do a lot of our lifelong learning outside of formal structures, I think it would be dangerous to rely on this until it can demonstrate that people did not merely watch, but actually now know and understand the material. That may be difficult to measure in an unstructured environment, but without it, the system will be ripe for abuse and ultimately fall into disrepute. Especially because you can't even confirm that someone watched a video, but only that it played for its full duration on a specific machine.
    • by narcc ( 412956 )

      Don't be silly. I watched like, a zillion videos, so surely I'm well-qualified for whatever.

      Pass the scalpel, I got this brain surgery thing down.

      • by creimer ( 824291 )
        When I worked in a wireless testing lab, I had 30 laptops streaming the company YouTube videos in a loop. The wireless division chief noticed on the monthly network report that I was using 75% of the wireless bandwidth to watch YouTube videos. He ordered my boss to fire me. My boss invited him down to the lab. He walked in just as his interview started playing on 30 screens and he told me to carry on. Of course, boss took credit for the "real world" testing I was doing.
  • Cost versus benefit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Monday September 14, 2015 @02:47PM (#50520619)

    I am among other things an accountant. In accounting there is a principle that if the cost of tracking something is larger than the benefit received by doing so then we don't bother tracking it. It provides a bright line for when we are clearly wasting resources on something that does not add value. I have a hard time believing that the value of tracking education to such a fine grained level would outweigh the administrative cost of doing so.

    • Oh, stop thinking logically. People do lots of things that don't make sense when you look at it that way. Not that I disagree with you but I've just seen it happen go the other way too many times.

      For example at one office they kept track of the photocopier use per project. If you wanted to copy a single page you had to enter a project code into the copier before it would work.

      At a government office one manager spent about $100k a year to license some data from the US to post on the website. This informa

  • TED? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Monday September 14, 2015 @02:47PM (#50520621)
    TED Talks were really, really good in the 1990's. Then they expanded into all manner of different areas, and the talks became diluted.

    .
    TED Talks nowadays seem to be more sub-industry leaders, not world-class industry leaders.

    While it's good that the TED Talks have grown, that very growth has pushed aside what originally made them great.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't even get me started on the TEDx events. Holy god awful.

      • What's wrong with them? Genuine question. I can imagine the quality is lower because they are more local, but besides that?
        • by Pope ( 17780 )

          It's mostly bullshit pseudo-science and fuzzy-headed intellectualism.

  • Where is the proof that the video was actually watched? It is quite easy to start a video and then do something other than watch it.

    Watching a video is very different that learning. One can watch a video and not absorb the content. This is why most certifications have tests to find out how much learning has actually occurred. Even Team Treehouse [teamtreehouse.com] has quizzes after their videos.

    Giving certification for watching videos if ripe for abuse.

    • by creimer ( 824291 )
      The local library had a summer reading program when I was a little kid. Six picture books from a list to be read over six weeks, get a gold star for each book read, and a diploma for completing the program. So I signed up for the program and read six picture books in an hour. The children librarian called me a liar. I recited back all six books nearly word for word to prove that I wasn't lying. I got my gold stars but had to wait for the diploma six weeks later.
      • So you took a test to prove you did the work. That is proof and you are proving my point.

        You probably had to wait six weeks because they wanted to print all certificates at one time. It is less expensive to do it that way.

        • by creimer ( 824291 )
          I had to prove that I read the books because the children librarian thought I was lying. If I have collected my gold star every week like all the other children did, no one would ask if I read the book. This children librarian also complained to my parents when I started checking adult books a few summers later. I had a college-level reading comprehension by the time I was in the eighth-grade.
      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        If you still have your diploma you might be able to get training credit for it! Payoff!

      • If they were picture books, how did you recite them word-for-word?
  • So I get credit for starting a TED talk or YouTube video and then going to the other room then...

    Several years past, would they have considered my subscription to Dr. Dobbs to be "educational" and worthwhile of my lifelong training? Sure, I worked at several companies with a corporate library that maintained subscriptions to Dr. Dobbs but they still never considered that proper training or even learning. Because it isn't.

    Adding to my knowledge base? Maybe. But anything we consume does that. I actually

  • Do I get any credit for watching Pewdiepie play the various Five Nights at Freddy's games? I'm going to go demand a raise.

  • All the time I spend reading Slashdot articles at work is really part of my "in-service training, continuing education and professional development" for my job as a software engineer. Good to know!

    (can't write more for this comment -- got to run and read Ars Technica as well. All this on-the-job training takes a lot of time.)

  • As always, it's the small-thinking idiots who start such pissing contests. E.g., they read some articles, take it as being some sort of unusual accomplishment and think, hey we should record this somewhere so we can brag about it to the other idiots out there. Meanwhile, real people read, watch, think, learn, and get by just fine without such lunacies, while these flocks of idiots spend their time gathering whatever idiotic records of their perceived accomplishments and whatnot.
  • by allquixotic ( 1659805 ) on Monday September 14, 2015 @04:30PM (#50521349)

    Every system of this nature is going to be fundamentally divisive, arbitrary, incomplete, and inaccurate. It's not possible to design a "fine-grained credentialism" system without requiring the full dedication of one person's attention to the activities of another, for every waking hour of the observed person.

    Divisive: Where today coworkers have no qualms about sending interesting/educational links to their coworkers, like interesting reads in a technology journal or a tutorial on a new feature of some software (for example), if these things will be counted as "credentials" that improve hireability, job security, and/or compensation, then individuals will be motivated NOT to share anything they learn or read with coworkers, since their coworkers could use this to advance their own credentials, and get a leg up on the person who shared it with them. The people who succeed would thus be recipients of well-intentioned coworkers' educational resources and information, without sharing anything back to their coworkers.

    Arbitrary: What counts "for (micro)credit", and what doesn't? Where do you draw the line? If you draw the line at some arbitrary place, there are going to be educational resources that people use, which are extremely relevant to someone's job that actually enhanced their suitability to do their work, but don't count for credit. If you don't draw a line at all, or set the bar so low that just about anything can be accepted, then a lot of people could arguably gain "credit" just by watching CNN and claiming credit for the random sound bytes that sound off information that pertains in some general way to the field the worker is in. Microsoft stock went up? Well, I'll claim a credit for Technology! Because Microsoft is Technology! Oy vey...

    Incomplete: There are many experiences that can be very educational for someone, but don't have any authenticity, quantifiability or verifiability to them. For example, if you are on a 3-hour bus ride and strike up a random conversation with a passenger who happens to be in the same field as you, and you learn something entirely new from them that opens your eyes and enables you to do your job better, can you claim credit for that? How would the organization know whether you're lying or not? How many of these little nuggets can you squeeze into their system in a day without being flagged for possible forgery? If there's a limit and you can find it, you better believe the min-maxers will find a way to fill up their daily quota, every day, without fail, on their way up the corporate ladder -- walking on the heads of honest people who probably are more competent than they are.

    Inaccurate: This is really the biggest problem with the whole idea of "credentialism" from life experience or gaining "micro-credits" for every little thing you do or learn: you cannot implement a system, short of Orwellian 24/7 total surveillance and constant manual, human monitoring, that *fairly* and *accurately* captures exactly what each person has learned every day, and what kind of merit that learning deserves. Those are actually two separate problems: actually capturing all of the distinct learning events, and coming up with some kind of a system to determine how useful, educational, or meritorious those events were with respect to the individual's suitability to fill a certain role in a job.

    If the system is too rigid, you miss out on things like open source projects, reading/responding to mailing lists, the aforementioned "bus conversation", etc. If it's too open, people will gamify their careers through lying or taking the easiest course toward getting an advantage over people who are vying for similar jobs, all so they can make more money.

    Now granted, the de facto education system is basically an extreme example of a system like this that is simply too rigid and too coarse-grained to be fair, but making it fine-grained doesn't actually solve any problem: you're just shifting the problems to another set of equally severe problems, without making the hiring an

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday September 14, 2015 @05:19PM (#50521651)
    Where I spent my career in a University environment, I was required to keep up with technology. Until the mid-late 90's, I was required to get training once a year, and to travel to a relevant trade show at least every two years.

    Then the bean counters took over, hired more and more bean counters, and sucked up all the overhead. But the requirement on my part didn't go away, so Ridiculous things became training, like Wikipedia articles, or online tutorials.

    I never claimed a TED talk as career development, but in a world ruled by accountants, who think the main product is accounting, I could see that.

    I'll be there will be an accountant hired to keep track of it too.

  • It may be of great benefit to your business but it is still none of your business.
    It may be a huge source of revenue to your business but it is still none of your business.
    It may be very interesting to you people with nothing better to do than read about other people, but it is still none of your business.
    In short: It's none of your business.
  • by QQBoss ( 2527196 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2015 @03:35AM (#50523593)

    During my tenure at Motorola SPS, it was a written rule that all employees get 40 hours of training every year. In the late '80s my management spent quite a bit of money to send me to UNIX administration courses of questionable value (I was a CPU geek using mostly MVME systems with rarely more than a bootloader, much less a full System V installation) to get me my hours. A change in management found that training was the easiest budget to reallocate for other purposes, however, and so it always was. By the mid-90's, when I asked my boss if I could go attend a training session that was exactly in my area of responsibility and I needed to extend my knowledge, I was told that since I spent what he believed to be an hour a week reading EETimes and IEEE Spectrum (at home, on my own time), he had already credited me with 50 hours of training and since I was beyond the 40 hour requirement I should ask him again next year. I wouldn't be surprised if the managers today are tracking IP addresses to form a way of crediting training with no cost at Freescale, if the 40 hour requirement survived the spin-off.

  • If companies are willing to consider such 'alternatives' then it's only to cut the training budget, or meet already signed obligations for training / education without having to pay anything.

    On top of that it's idiotic to give credit for passive activities that you could as easily be simultaneously watching a ballgame or sleeping.

  • Essentially "Nerd church" for the Gladwell crowd. The strict format and time limits per slide do not encourage actual learning.

    TEDx is even worse.

  • If only I could get credit for reading Slashdot! I'd be CEO of something by now...

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