The Open Education Alliance

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Google, AT&T and a host of online education organizations are forming an alliance to develop standards for career readiness. Spearheaded by Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) provider, Udacity, the Open Education Alliance will explore standards for how to prepare and evaluate graduates. The still-forming group of technology companies will help online education providers develop courses, tests, and certifications meant to supplement the use of a college degree in the hiring process.

More details will be announced as Udacity Founder Sebastian Thrun takes the stage with California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom at our Disrupt San Francisco conference today.

To some extent, similar efforts are already being undertaken. Udacity, for instance, offers coding courses developed with help of Google. Another MOOC provider, Coursera, provides paying students with a certificate of accomplishment, meant to help adults in their continuing education program prove their competence to future employers. Similarly, the Obama administration just unveiled a plan to peg federal financial assistance to a college’s graduate outcomes in the job market. In other words, the major players are already shifting a focus on higher education to one of standardized career readiness.

In other words, there are already forces pushing for more open and career-focused paths in higher education. The OEA will help standardize these ongoing efforts.

There are a few scenarios where the OEA could have short-term impact. For example, while Google has famously begun de-prioritizing the role of a college degree in the hiring process, if a student took a Stanford college course in an OEA-recognized subject, Google might give it more weight in an interview.

Another example: there are plenty of brilliant students throughout the world who only have access to courses via Udacity or Khan Academy; the Alliance would allow these prodigies, for the first time, to prove their talents to tech companies by taking courses and earning certificates from online education providers.

The OEA intends to help colleges be more career relevant and also help those who don’t have access to traditional universities still get a shot at success.

The OEA will (hopefully) create a new meritocracy in higher education. Every student will have an opportunity to prove their talents and any education provider will have an opportunity to develop curricula that become known for producing innovative workers.

Currently, the tech partners include Google, Autodesk, Intuit, AT&T, Cloudera, 23AndME, CAdence, Nvidia. Education partners include Khan Academy and George Tech, which recently partnered with Udacity and AT&T for a $6,000 online master’s program.

We’ll have more after the Interview between Thrun and Lt. Governor Newsom. You can find out more about the alliance on the Udacity blog. Here is our backstage interview with Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, where he explains why he’ll be pushing his colleagues on the University of California Board of Regents to work with tech companies in designing their educational goals.

Interestingly enough, he calls it a “failure” of the California system that there had to be an alliance in the first place to bridge the gap between education and career readiness.

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