[Editor’s Note: This article was originally run on The Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Learning’s Blog. To read more, visit the blog at http://www.christenseninstitute.org/blog-2/]

Last week, I wrote about the need for stackable global credentials in order to meet the quickly growing international demand for higher education. Globally, the lack of interoperability standards between alternative and traditional educational systems may be the single most significant barrier to making education accessible to the poor, particularly in the developing world.

How might an interoperable educational system work? To imagine such a system, we need to understand how the parts of the system ought to fit together—much like Legos do. In the traditional educational system, degrees are monolithic bundles similar to Tonka trucks that cannot easily be broken into components unlike a Lego truck that can be broken into components and reassembled into different combinations. If there were interoperable standards in education, like there are Lego blocks, the system would give way to a variety of educational products: people could buy individual lessons or courses (individual Lego blocks); purchase modular degrees, certifications, and other learning bundles (Lego kits); or attend comprehensive modular universities (Lego cities).

Copyright: Clayton Christensen Institute

Copyright: Clayton Christensen Institute

Standards modular educational system possible—for example, Lego blocks fit together because they are a certain size and consistent design. A good standard needs to be clearly defined and widely accepted.

(Next page: 3 steps to global higher education interoperability)

About the Author:

Andrew is the president of City VIsion University. He previously co-founded the Internet Telephony Consortium at MIT with David Clark, one of the fathers of the Internet. For the past 20 years he has been running nonprofit organizations that develop educational programs to serve at-risk populations. He completed his doctoral dissertation on Disruptive Innovation in Higher Education, which he has turned into a MOOC on Udemy. You can connect with him at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewsears
Follow Andrew on twitter at @city_vision_edu.