A Modest Proposal

12 01 2022

In the past, my fellow business historians have discussed the pros and cons of universities offering degrees and/or individual courses with “Business History” in the name. (The alternative to offering such courses and modules is to incorporate business history into other courses and modules). Recent changes in the education market and technology have created the opportunity for a new way of teaching business history.

Let me explain what I mean. Microcredentials, which are very short online courses that give you a badge you can post on LinkedIn, are increasingly important in higher education, especially in the Asian markets. The ILO itself has observed the growing importance of microcredentials. Doing a very short course on Python or the basics of accounting or whatever sends great signals to employers (for one thing, it shows that you can learn independently). Most of us are familiar with the short certificate courses offered by universities and firms such as Microsoft and Bloomberg. Software packages such as Badgr makes it easier to deliver microcredentials, thus driving down barriers to entry. We might consider ways of creating business-history microcourses that professionals with an interest in business history could do. If delivered by senior scholars and a reputable non-profit organization, they could boost the profile/legitimacy of business history. I also see zero risk of such credentials stealing student demand away from traditional ways of teaching business history.

If delivered by senior scholars and a reputable non-profit organization, they could boost the profile/legitimacy of business history. More importantly, those of us who are university teachers could incorporate them into our classes by making them assignments to our students. Some academics already do something, similar for instance the replaced a mid-term exam with the requirement that the students complete MS Office certificate by the end of the semester. A similar online certificate on the basics of business history might increase the total volume of business history being taught worldwide and would make it easier for us to teach business history at a more advanced level. Such micro credential courses might be closely associated with existing online resources, such as the excellent Business History initiative of the Gies College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I just thought I would throw this idea out there.


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