Degreed wants to change education by ‘jailbreaking the degree’


By Joey Ferguson

David Blake, CEO of Degreed. (photo:[/caption]

ALPINE — Higher education is broken.

At least that’s the problem the folks at startup Degreed see. They want to “jailbreak” the college degree by providing people with a way to measure education outside of formal instruction.

Degreed is a web app where users can display their education from both formal and informal sources. Formal sources include undergraduate degrees or technical training, while informal refers to sites like Codecademy, and Coursera. The app measures accreditation based on “mastery points,” which acts an aggregated score of all your education.

“Our objective is to make everything you do roll up into the context of degree, degree equivalents, roles and skills,” David Blake, chief executive of Degreed, said in an interview. “We feel like there is a lot of power in the context of the degree. We feel like the other context that matters is employment, skills and job titles.”

The company is one part San Francisco and another Alpine, Utah, with employees based in both locations. Mix that with $100,000 from the Gates and MacArthur Foundations, $22,000 from a crowd-funding campaign and angel backers like Mike Levinthal and Larry Rosenburg and you have a company ready to change education. CEO Blake is based in San Francisco. The team travels to one location or the other ever two weeks.

There are four full-time employees.

The company will soon announce a funding round, Blake said. According to Securities and Exchange Commision filings, Degreed has raised $600,000 since August 2012 ($350,000, $100,000, $100,000, $50,000).

Degreed entered it’s public beta earlier this year and has added a million courses, half formal and the other informal.

wid_degreedresource“The degree format is enormously inefficient,” Blake, who worked for student financial assistant site Zinch, said. “There are 20 million courses a year finished by students who will never go on to get their degree. If learning is free, then why are we still paying?”

Those who get a degree are also pooled in with the other credentialed job candidates and are lost in the deluge, Blake said.

Blake compared what Degreed is doing to what Apple did with iTunes and the music album in an article for TechCrunch.

“Why buy a whole album when I only value a few songs enough to purchase?” Blake said in the TechCrunch post. “Why am I required to finance an entire degree only to be forced to take courses that I do not value? By bundling education into its most popular format, the four-year degree, we are inevitably adding low-utility courses that the consumer should be enabled to avoid.”

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