An attempt to share an idea for superceding our trust-based accreditation systems

hello universe

[I know almost nothing about coding. My experience consists solely of some self taught LUA string manipulation and perl regex. You might understand why I am not just coding it myself.]

What I want to do is enable anyone with an internet connection and a few thousand dollars to get a mathematics degree that is as prestigious as one from MIT/Cambridge/Oxford/Harvard etc. by lowering the cost of exams because I have become convinced that in the age of the internet exams are all that any institutions have to offer because information can be distributed more effectively and efficiently via the internet than via in person lectures or physical text books.

TL,DR: Why do we need MIT while we have Khanacademy? If it isn’t MIT’s job to distribute the information but only to accredit it, why not render institutionalized accreditation obsolete and be done with MIT altogether?

I have an idea for a piece of software that might contribute to the freedom of accreditation but it is almost certainly beyond my capacity to code, let alone in my lifetime. I am nonetheless reasonably sure it is a good idea. I selected this forum because my interests seemed aligned with that of the forum. Any advice appreciated, here is the idea:

The program has 4 essential specifications:

  1. it is open source and hopefully written in a relatively legible language like python to ease distributed source checking.

  2. The program can take a set of mathematics question&answer pairs (an exam) and return an “specification”, a description of what the exam was testing the testee on.

  3. The program can take a specification and generate an math exam to test the testee on the mathematical knowledge demarcated by the specification.

  4. The program must be able to mark it’s own exams.

The reasons that these specifications are essential:

  • If it is not open source, the full impact of the software will be delayed by some years via patent. If it is not legible, it will be adopted more slowly and trusted less readily.

  • If the program could ONLY take a specification as input and generate an exam as output then it might still be cheap and useful but would not fully usurp the “trust-prestigious-instituions-know-what-they-are-talking-about” system because who is going to trust some open source exam board over MIT!?

  • If on the other hand the program could also take an exam or set of exams and generate a specification, then it could become the objective metric by which other exams are judged and everyone would know implicitly that the generated exams were legit because MIT etc would be using it to rate their own exams.

  • If it isn’t able to mark it’s own exams, we must pay a bunch of busibodies to mark the papers manually and this is an inexcusable cost given how relatively trivial self-marking is compared to the rest of the program.

I beg you to please throw together some hashed up attempt on github just to make the conjuction of these ideas unpatentable.

1 Appreciation

First off, welcome! I invite you to introduce yourself at the #welcome category. Now, on to the topic:

I don’t know the state of the field for this area specifically. I would suspect there are some efforts at least related to what you’re describing.

I think part of the question of trust here is the human connection though. Despite some exceptions, the premise of the Universities is that real people have in-person interactions with others and they aren’t merely an otherwise anonymous person who passed tests.

I know that cheating of various sorts has been a huge issue with the internet. It’s much easier to find people who will write essays for others for a fee or similar. How would the software prove who actually took the tests or whether they did any sort of cheating?

At any rate, on a meta point: We at are interested in trust as a concept that applies strongly to everything we do, but we don’t directly have any connection to what would get this sort of software to function. Tangentially, we are indeed in the general space of considering and planning for a public-goods-based economy where there’s less and less scarcity in terms of accessing the best ideas and teaching. Will we be seeing less and less correlation between these elite institutions and people gaining wisdom, skills, and so on?

Hello @turvendadummy09, and welcome to!

First of, if you think that snowdrift is pretty cool, I suggest that you join me in pledging to the project, it’s not that expensive, and it’ll be a good contribution to humanity in the long run.

Second, I think your criticism Credentialism is spot on. There are a few institutions that have resisted this but most have embraced it. For example, you don’t need any post-secondary education to be hired as an Air Traffic Controller with NAV Canada in Canada, they do all their training within the institution, and don’t expect (or trust) universities to create or teach good controllers. The leaning towards credentialism is especially bad with government hiring processes.

Third of all, if you want to create what you have suggested, I see some problems with your idea. The idea by itself is a good one, but it’s going to need some kind of institution or organization to administer the program, certify the results, etc. This reminds me of the LSAT test for lawyers. It’s ran by the Law School Admission Council(LSAC) and gets funding from the various Universities that are members of the council. If you want to make math exams cheaper for people, you need see about setting such an organization. If you want an example of an institution that doesn’t cost you any money at all for tuition while attending school, have a look at Lambda School. What’s cool about Lamda School is that the school is free to attend. Upon graduation however, a percentage of your income for the next few years is paid back to the school, but ONLY if you make more than $50,000 a year.

Finally, if you want someone to make a git and get it out there so there is a record of the idea in the public domain, just hire a programmer to do it. It won’t cost that much, just make sure to license it under a Free Software License.

2 Appreciations