Edupunks Guide to a DIY Credential

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Do It Yourself (DIY) Guide to Credentialing


"The cat's out of the bag and more and more people are awakening to the fact that a college degree is no longer what it was cracked up to be. If you are convinced, there are a few people who are doing a great job of sharing ideas for alternatives that are less costly, more meaningful, and result in real evidence of demonstrated knowledge that say more about qualifications than numbers on a transcript.

First up is Anya Kamenetz who wrote "The Edupunks' Guide to a DIY Credential.

  • College takes time. College is expensive. College is exclusive.
  • College is no longer the only way to get a great education.

This guide explains how and is supported by some big hitters like the Gates Foundation and received support from the fabulous Dennis Littky of Big Picture Schools and College Unbound. Here are some of the topics the guide addresses:

How To

  • Do Research Online
  • Write a Personal Learning Plan
  • Teach Yourself Online
  • Build Your Personal Learning Network
  • Find a Mentor
  • Get a Credential
  • Demonstrate Value to a Network

Open World (non-accredited, open learning, professional networks)

  • Open Content
  • Open Social Learning
  • Open Learning Institutions
  • Dan Diebolt’s independent learning methods
  • Reputation Networks

Here is the guide which I am not endorsing as I have yet to read it completely. I am simply offering it as one of a number of resources that are coming out around the topic." (


Stephen Downes:

"I have now had the chance to read The Edupunks' Guide and can now form some opinions based on what I've seen. And if I were forced to summarize my critique in a nutshell, it would be this. Edupunk, as described by the putative subculture, is the idea of 'learning by doing it yourself'. The Edupunks' Guide, however, describes 'do-it-yourself learning'. The failure to appreciate the difference is a significant weakness of the booklet.

Let me explain. Suppose a person wanted to learn Thai cooking. Following the Edupunks' Guide, she would find some recipes using Google, perhaps find a Khan-style course, and if very lucky, a Thai cooking Google group. I would recommend the Vegan Black Metal Chef series - good tunes, and good food.

By contrast, the edupunk way is to cook Thai food, and in so doing, learn how to be a good chef. There's no right or wrong way to go about it - the main thing is to get one's hands dirty and actually learn from the experience. In so doing, a person might take a course, search for recipes, ask for help, or - in the style of the underrated film 'The Raman Girl' or that overrated film 'The Karate Kid' - find a mentor to show you how to steam noodles.

Now based on the discussion that has already taken place in this iDC forum, I would expect Anya Kamemetz's first response to be something along the lines of "I know that; I do encourage learning by doing." And no doubt that's what was intended, but that is not in fact what the booklet does. The structure and focus of the booklet is entirely toward the 'do-it-yourself learning' model.


Her 'plan' consists of watching TED videos, reading some books, meditating, watching 'fictional films', and the like. We don't know why, for example, she supposes reading 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' will help here, except that it was (maybe) recommended by Amazon. We don't know why she recommends viewing Nathan Myhrvold on shooting mosquitoes out of the sky with lasers. Her 'plan' is what most of us would call 'a year off'.

And in fact, she is taking a year off her very traditional studies as a sophomore undergrad at Pitzer College in Southern California, majoring in International/Intercultural Studies. And her *actual* plan is to "create a new popular resource that I have realized does not exist at the moment. My hope is that my book and the varied profiles of bold 'eduventurists' will inspire other young people like myself to take their own leap into the unknown world of experiential, alternative learning."


let's look more seriously at what she is describing in these posts as edupunk. It appears to be, "how to get a degree quickly." The 'why' from above. She writes (ibid), "For a large proportion of people right now--as for a large proportion, if not the entirety, of the people on this list--that journey will include earning a credential from a recognized institution." She observes "the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and some people in the Department of Ed, and not a few community college leaders across the country, have been quite friendly to what I'm saying." And "Government cuts to higher education are the reality of the world we live in, and DIY approaches can help maximize the resources that remain."

She is free to hold her views, but that's not edupunk - it's not punk of any sort. It's establishment thinking combined with a good dose of offloading costs. Maybe it's good educational advice (it's not... but I digress) but it is definitely not edupunk. It's not even a good - or particularly informed - discussion of learning in the 21st century." (