Accreditation

It’s ridiculously expensive. But you don’t need one. If you’re worried about “opportunities,” believe me your attitude and aptitude matter way more than your pedigree. Of course, educational institutions and our culture would have made you believe otherwise — that not having a diploma/degree from a top-tiered institution sets you up for a life of mediocrity. Thankfully, that’s just not true.

Getting quality education depends entirely on your willingness to invest in yourself. That could mean you get your education from reading books, textbooks, blogs, podcasts, interviews, and online video/audio courses. The opportunities are boundless. The only thing lacking might be the structure but that’s a great opportunity for you to design your own education based on your requirements instead of one dictated by formal authority.

I remember a few years back my professional circumstances required me to get up to speed on the professional practice of Human Resources. I didn’t have the time to commit to a full-time or part-time university diploma so I designed a curriculum that would have me review some of the best online courses from independent HR professionals, read a dozen highly-acclaimed professional textbooks, the top 20 best-selling books, and at least dozens of global HR practitioners. The result was a well-curated program that took me from a near-intermediate to advanced professional. That was my professional education in HR.

It served me well, but most importantly, the strategy allowed me to explore the field way more in depth than what a conventional education would allow me to do. And guess what, I’m still learning. Of course, your mileage may vary as your requirements may be different. I get it.

The point is this — you are not chained to a particular choice unless you want to be. The clamouring for accreditation is our culture’s way of saying that if you want to get to your preferred destination (in life), you’ve got to have the appropriate visa. And that is not true. There’s a reason why online platforms like edX or coursera are gaining popularity. They’ve lowered the barrier of entry into prestigious universities by offering a part (albeit a very small part) of their super-expensive full-time programs. Why? Because they know people are convinced that a brand affiliation is the way to a successful career. But is it? All I can say is that it’s debatable.

That said, getting an education yourself isn’t easy. The dropout rates for online courses, particularly the ones that are free, is staggeringly high. Not because the quality isn’t up to the mark, though in most instances that might be the case, but due to lack of accountability. Does that mean online education doesn’t work. I disagree. It works for the ones who make it work.

I’m also closely observing the rise of online platforms that focus not just on delivering great education but also enhancing your learning experience using the network effect. Which is to say that these programs have accountability built into the system! You’re not just buying a bunch of videos but leveraging the cohort and the community associated with that program. That’s taking engagement to an all new level as there’s less reliance on videos but more on having real discussions to the challenges that you’re facing! To me, that’s learning on steroids!

On the academic side of things, just review the number of schools and colleges that have flipped the online learning switch as the world’s fighting the COVID-19 crises. The numbers are insane! But why would you or the educators think it’s any more effective than regular classroom learning? Of course, having some classes online is better than nothing at all. But you and I know that’s not true. Students (and parents) are working a lot harder to turn in the assignments than they were during regular school days. And if that’s the case, would you think that this “online stuff” is working?

Debatable? Perhaps. But it’s hard to disagree that schools and colleges globally have been terribly slow at embracing online learning as one of their modalities for teaching (or provide a learning experience) a class. What’s left to be seen is how this becomes part of the routine as we approach the post-COVID world (which could be months away from now). And if online and distance learning does become part of the regular curriculum, which I’m sure it will be, just how important would accreditation be?

The important questions still are the following:

  1. what is education/certification for?
  2. what are schools/institutions/universities for?

I believe the purpose can be resolved by one’s solid intent to excel in what they’re pursuing. And yes, one can design a powerful curriculum that fulfills their learning needs without worrying about an affiliation or accreditation. But are we intellectually, maturely there yet?

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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