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  1. While there is nothing inherently new about the decision that learning leaders face when selecting between sponsoring employees in full degree programs versus smaller specialized training and development programs, the growth in technology-facilitated learning has expanded the options across this range. In addition, as this article highlights, the growth in technology-facilitated learning also seems to have elevated the role of the platform provider in this discussion. I am not sure if that’s helpful or a distraction.

    Coursera and Udacity, both referenced in this article, are platform providers. Unlike academic institutions with faculty who study topics or employers with practitioner expertise, a platform provider has no special insight or experience to draw upon to design and offer a course in any topic. In other words, there’s no obvious basis to attach any credibility to a course that is hosted on Coursera simply because it is hosted on Coursera. In an earlier age, when distance education was facilitated using the postal service, it would have seemed odd to claim that a course or credential was noteworthy because materials was sent via the USPS.

    Ultimately, the recognition and credibility of a learning accomplishment – including “nanodegrees” and “microcredentials” – depends on two key issues. First is the expertise and insights used in the design of that learning experience. Second is the demonstrated ability of those who complete the learning experience to apply the new skills that are the intended learning outcomes of the experience. With these two goals in place, learning leaders can then turn to examine the various platforms and channels that are available for the delivery of the learning experience.

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