Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis

Subject Categories

Adult and Continuing Education | Communication Technology and New Media | Community College Leadership | Disability and Equity in Education | Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Education Economics | Education Policy | Graphic Communications | International and Comparative Education | Liberal Studies | Online and Distance Education | Urban Education | Vocational Education


Open Badges, Open Source, certification, credential


The standard model for college in America—a four-year bachelor’s degree that teaches critical thinking, analytic reasoning, and written communication skills—is unaffordable and unattainable for most Americans. Only about a third of citizens aged 25 and over have achieved a baccalaureate degree or better. Two-thirds are left behind in precarious jobs that pay substantially less and that are losing ground. Everyone from politicians to parents repeats the mantra of “college for all”, but the reality is more like “college for the socio-economically gifted.”

At the same time, the modern world of work is evolving into a more complex, technical, and computerized environment that requires specific practical skills more than it needs the traditional white collar college virtues. Society and the market have responded by creating a parallel education system of competency-based skills certifications in almost every industry area. Some 1,800 private, public and government institutions have create more than 3,900 industry certifications that are focused on career paths and technology skills that the economy needs. Over 46 million people have achieved these “Open Source Micro Diplomas” instead of, in addition to, or in spite of a conventional higher ed degree. This paper examines our education outcomes, the evolving future of work, and exemplary industry certification programs to analyze today’s career-oriented education for all segments of society.