An open protocol for a new paradigm of learning
Reference-Rich** Decentralized Accreditation System.
**the asterisk in *DAS means “Reference-Rich.” It’s pronounced “star.”
The education systems from the industrial era have been in decline for the last decades. Tuition is increasing at a rate much faster than income, leading to increased student debt. Mental health issues among teenagers have been rising lately. There’s a wider disconnect between what is going on in the classroom and the current state of the world. We are experiencing the fall of industrial-style education as well as the birth of the next learner-centered paradigm.
*DAS is an open protocol that supports learners in charting their own paths while tracking their own progress and evidence of learning. The protocol also allows reviewers to quickly make sense of a portfolio with a wide range of qualitative learning evidence, in contrast to the quantitative GPA, transcripts and standardized exam scores.
There are no *DAS accounts, and no *DAS company. *DAS is a standard for how to create and interpret certificates that anyone with a word processing app and an internet connection can use to build a credible case for their advanced learning in any subject.
*DAS strives to provide:
- a well organized, self-curated source of evidence of learning to those in positions of responsibility in learning communities, to lessen energy spent on assessment
- a way for reviewers to leverage inference tools to cut down on work necessary to assess a learner’s accomplishments on many, possibly unconventional, dimensions, without introducing bias inherent in machine learning
- a context where demanding learning and spontaneous peer-to-peer tutoring are favorable for everyone involved both short- and long-term
- a learning accreditation system that is resistant to cheating, data exploitation, and reductionism.
What a learner can get credit for limits what is practical to learn, and who can learn it.
*DAS focuses on accreditation, rather than learning techniques or other critical aspects of education, because it seeks to remove the economic barrier to learning outside of typical education systems.
Despite the emphasis employers and selection committees place on achievement, it is usually impractical to get a faithful view of someone's learning quickly. Instead, it is really the proof of learning that is appraised by others, not the learning itself. Reviewers of learning rely on a chain of delegated trust, where teachers and professors are trusted to grade students, schools and programs are trusted to engage teachers and professors, and governments and popular opinion are the ultimate sources of credibility.
Therefore, since learning is difficult and time consuming, it is not practical to pursue even part-time learning outside of a program leading to a popular accreditation. Usually, these programs have barriers to entry of their own. The present convoluted system of delegated trust prevents programs of learning that do not offer sanctioned achievements of merit from growing. Its ponderousness also stymies the dynamic growth of new domains and methods of learning. *DAS aims to open up new ways of learning by giving learners faith that their efforts can get proper valuation, even without an established program.
Learners as Teachers
All teachers were once learners. *DAS seeks to narrow, and then close the gap between these roles until they are indistinguishable and fluidly interchangeable. When many learners are all learning the same or similar topics, it seems natural that each of them could become a teacher for others as soon as they gain fluency. Learners are ideal teachers because:
- One-on-one or few-on-few knowledge sharing is extremely efficient.
- Learners remember what it was like to not know, and can intuit how to address gaps in others' knowledge.
- When learners have faith that they will get credit for doing a good job communicating, they are highly motivated.
If a typical learner shares knowledge with more than one other learner, knowledge sharing should have exponential dynamics, multiplying quickly through groups of learners. However, we do not see these dynamics in today’s schools. Today, learners need to wait to be taught identically by an established authority, and it is not worth their time, even discouraged, for them to teach each other.
*DAS idealizes an evolved idea of “teaching” that focuses on facilitating others’ exploration, such that the vast majority of knowledge sharing is done by learners. Teachers, if any, serve to seed, inspire, and guide. The result is exponential learning, fueled by each learner’s intrinsic curiosity, and their ability to help others understand.
Self-Defined Learning Topics
When learners can be accredited as teachers, learners can establish topics to learn and share that do not line up on traditional subject boundaries, or only have local or community-specific relevance. Topics with immediate relevance to communities, a factor that is widely ignored, implicitly get maximum priority because they are offered by those who use the knowledge themselves, helping to cull out dated, backward, or irrelevant learning programs. Usually, when these unconventional or “informal” topics arise, they do not get proper credit, even if they do support an eventual certification in a more conventional system. *DAS aims to create a linked accreditation structure that lets credit for authentic informal learning percolate through its network to support conventional and unconventional proofs of competency.
Since all teachers are already former learners who have become trusted sources, *DAS encompasses the prevailing norm for accreditation in modern education. Students at universities should be able to establish trustworthy *DAS certificates based on their existing competencies. *DAS absorbs and transcends this hierarchical teacher-student model by short-circuiting the convoluted process of establishing delegated, institution-based trust before teaching can happen.
- The effect of *DAS is something between an interview, a resume, a transcript, and a personal website, in an interactive format.
- Use of *DAS implicitly aligns learners’ motivations with knowledge sharing and the formation of new learning communities.