Degreed Aims to Assign Value to Traditional and Online Coursework

Millions worldwide have signed up for free online courses through massive open online course (MOOC) providers including edX, ‎Udacity and ‎Coursera. But despite their popularity, companies and employers are slow to recognize these courses’ value.

To address this problem, San Francisco-based startup Degreed was launched in January 2013 to acknowledge free online courses’ value by giving a score to university degrees and online courses alike, according to Iris Mansour of CNN Money.

“The only language we have to communicate our educational accomplishments to each other is all baked into the formal degree,” says David Blake, co-founder of San Francisco-based startup Degreed, which bills itself as “The New Degree for the New World.” But a certificate you received in your early twenties isn’t necessarily the best indicator of what you actually know.

Degreed gives a relative score to both traditional and online education. For example, “if you graduate from Harvard with an economics degree, you’ll earn 3,787 points. If you complete a programming course at Codecademy, that gives you 13 points.”

Degreed has a state-of-the-art system that stores points on user profiles, allowing users to get their transcript, identity, and degree verified for $12 each. The company supports credits from every US university, over 13,000 international universities, and from the best learning resources across the web, according to the company’s website.

“We normalize the data to help make the disparate world of education something that’s easily understood by employers and others,” says Blake, 29, who built Degreed with $900,000 in angel funding from five angels including Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Degreed is also currently part of the Kaplan EdTech accelerator program.

In addition to Degreed, other companies such as Accredible, Mozilla Badges, and Coursera’s Verified Certificates are also working to confer value to the online course. According to Blake, Degreed is working to convince businesses to accept its scores. “He’s also pitching it as a way for companies to track their employees’ training.”

Degreed’s David Blake feels strongly about breaking the degree down so that it counts module by module. “Right now, the degree is the only unit of education,” says Blake. You either have one or you don’t. Even if you drop out having completed 90% of the course, you aren’t considered 90% educated. “If we can help enable education at a more modular [level] to be recognized and meaningful, then it unlocks incredible efficiencies,” argues Blake.

Degreed will not fulfill the function of an accreditor, but it will focus on packaging and demonstrating what users have learned. “With accreditors catching up to online learning and users taking more online courses, the system will need a better way to assess students’ hard work.”