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Next: The Credentials Craze

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We’re in the midst of a credentials craze. As part of a growing movement to document students’ skills and better prepare them for the workplace, an array of MOOCs, private companies, industry groups, and colleges themselves are offering new types of credentials. The result is a proliferation of badges, certificates, microdegrees, and other types of credentials. Students might earn them for multiple skills covered in a single academic course, or they might bypass academe and learn those skills through a for-profit company like

But what do all these credentials prove? Who decides? And what don’t they show? Some observers believe that the trend toward slicing knowledge more thinly could help level the playing field by focusing on what students know rather than whom they know or where they went to college. But there’s also a worry, as one educator put it, that low-income and other underserved students will get “credentials,” while wealthier students get a rigorous education.

Whatever the case, colleges need to realize that they are no longer the only gatekeepers of higher education, and they must work harder to prove their value, says Richard A. DeMillo, author of a new book on academic innovation.

Thanks to the writers, editors, and designers who worked on this issue. We hope readers find it useful. —CAROLYN MOONEY SENIOR EDITOR, SPECIAL SECTIONS

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