3 innovative ways to help unify higher education around the world as demand grows

An interoperability standards strategy for stackable global credentials--and why higher education needs it.

[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]

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)

eSchool Media Contributors