I listen to the podcast of Tim Ferriss. A lot.
For those who haven’t yet, in each episode, he attempts to “deconstruct world class performers” in an effort to allow his audience to peer into the mind of these extraordinary individuals. The podcast, with millions of listeners, is consistently rated at the top of the iTunes rankings and virtually every other podcast distribution network. Why?
For 60+ minutes each episode, we learn informally from some of the most interesting people in the world. These conversations span topics related to the guest’s “favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.” I find myself jotting down notes as I listen to each episode or reviewing the show notes so I can find the books and resources mentioned throughout each interview.
When you think about “learning,” listening to a podcast may not be what typically comes to mind. What Ferriss has done, though, is create a platform for his audience to connect (in some small way) with an expert. We get to see what makes them tick. We are offered a brief glimpse into what they’ve learned and some of the resources and tools that brought them there. As a listener and learner, it makes for an incredibly effective, engaging approach.
Now, what if we could replicate Ferriss’ model and scale it in such a way that other niche-based experts, instructors, and entrepreneurs seeking to share what they’re learning could readily do so with a community of learners who might want such insights?
Could building an audience centered around a network of visible learning be of greater benefit than, say, following someone on Twitter?
I raise these questions largely because…
- In what’s rapidly becoming an expansive gig economy, it’ll be up to creators to develop their own learning networks and build meaningful, lasting connections with individuals or a following on their own.
- It’ll also be the creators - the makers of courses, for instance - not just the platforms and marketplaces, who have the potential and power to shape learning markets. As the creators go, so the marketplaces go. Udemy's clash with instructors over pricing last year and their update a few months later is such an example. If instructors and creators work independently, it'll be important for them to exert greater control over the value of what it is they create.
So, if our focus is on deepening value, is there a platform or learning tool out there that can help us accomplish this goal? I believe there is:
What is Degreed?
Degreed is a learner-centered platform focused on two user groups: organizations and the individual learner. (Although, we’ll plan to look at it partially through the lens of a creator.)
At present, there are likely a few million users of Degreed, so the platform is still relatively small, but growing.
The platform allows you to find, track, and measure all of your learning in one place. Nearly any learning you do - formal or informal, at home or on your phone - may be entered and scored using Degreed’s proprietary scoring system. (We’ll talk about how you as an individual learning provider can use this scoring to add value to what you create down below.)
How does scoring work on Degreed?
I connected with the Degreed team some time ago to ask this very question. Here’s what I learned:
The science behind the scoring is patent pending and was informed by expert Larry Rosenberger, the former CEO of FICO and the man behind the science of the FICO credit score and David Wiley PhD, a global leader in instructional design and open education.
This point system relies on the world's largest database of educational content. The score is a function of duration of an educational experience, weighted by several factors including difficulty, quality, rating, format, learner's scoring, etc.
Points help learners gauge their progress and set quantified goals related to learning--regardless of provider or format of the learning. In a world where educational experiences are becoming increasingly diverse, Degreed enables learners and organizations to tie it all together in a meaningful way driving insight, action, and further growth.
Because of the brevity of online articles, they usually receive a lower score, while time-intensive activities like watching videos, reading books, and completing courses earn higher point totals.
How might the ability to quantify all types of learning be of use to instructors, entrepreneurs, bloggers, and course creators?
- If nearly everything we do is an act of learning, then nearly anything we create for an audience is something that may be learned from.
When an instructor creates an online course, they’re intent is to share knowledge with a learner. We don’t always know what the learner will do with it - perhaps they’ll complete the course or maybe they won’t - but what if we could offer to quantify the experience and make it visible for the learner to see, as well as others in their network? The learning doesn’t dissipate, it has the potential to become even more real.
As a creator, there are steps on Degreed you may take to calculate the point totals of the learning you create, so learners will see it before they ever begin (see top of blog post). While having a creator-centered focus may not be Degreed’s intended use, making this scoring visible from the get-go is helpful and it’ll show your learners and readers you value the time it takes to complete the learning you’re asking them to accomplish.
*Bear in mind, not everyone will care to have their learning quantified. Remember, it’s merely an incentive your learners can use to showcase what they’ve learned.
- Degreed also allows you to have your audience of learners follow your learning as well. Why might this be useful?
For someone reading your blog or taking your course, they may want to better understand how you came to know what you know.
Much like the guests on the Tim Ferriss show who share how and what they're learning, individual learners may wish to see what you're learning, too. You’ll be forging a deeper relationship and providing an opportunity for them to replicate your learning either by casually following some of the learning you’ve done, or by having you create a learning pathway they can follow on their own. This kind of peer-behind-the-curtain insight creates lasting value and cements your credibility with those who follow you.
What kinds of learning events might we connect with Degreed to enhance value for an audience?
Nearly any type of learning you wish to create, Degreed can likely accommodate.
Understand, though, some of what I am proposing is largely experimental. Degreed isn’t set-up to do everything I advocate seamlessly (yet).
While adding articles, videos, books, courses, podcasts, events, and learning pathways appears to be relatively easy, you may encounter some stumbling blocks.
For instance, when uploading a new training provider/course for scoring on a learner’s profile, if you as a training provider don’t exist on one of their integrated course platforms (For example, see Degreed + Udemy integration), you may need to contact Degreed to have this step completed for you. This action will allow your students/learners to be able to add your course to their own profiles when it's completed. I’m told when you make this request you’ll need to provide your training provider name and an online link to the course site in order to add this information to the database.
Even after taking this step, I encountered some issues when trying to upload a course I took from an independent provider, so be prepared to create some work-arounds if you elect to experiment here. I’ll check in with Degreed to get exact steps to ensure the information I provide in a future article/course is correct.
How will scoring be integrated on this site?
Learning is at the heart of what I intend to do here, so we’ll practice what we preach.
- For every learning event - article, book, course, video, seminar - I create or share, you’ll know in advance what the learning experience is worth based on Degreed’s formula. For example, at the top of every blog post, you’ll see a graphic that says, “When completed, this article is worth (+ points) on Degreed."
- In my limited time on the platform, it’s evident for it to be truly beneficial it shouldn’t be used in isolation. On our 'connect with us' page, I’ve listed my Degreed profile and encourage you to sign-up so we can build a community of learners together.
- My intention is to build a free course - Degreed for the Rogue Instructor. If you’re interested in getting notified when it’s available, please sign up to our email list.
I want to be as explicit and transparent as possible. I have not yet seen anyone attempt to use Degreed as a creator to engage, grow, and maintain a following. We may encounter bumps in the road. This strategy may not work. I do it, though, because I believe in Degreed’s vision. After working in higher education for over a decade and seeing students and instructors struggle to navigate the many moving parts of the system, the platforms that seek to unify and simplify are the ones that have the greatest chance to endure.
One of Tim Ferriss’ frequent guests, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Naval Ravikant, said this about Ferriss and his following, “Your cult follows you because you teach them and what you teach them is how to learn.”
I believe, on some level, Degreed offers the promise of doing the same.