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A Modern Alternate "Signal" to the College Degree

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Key Insights

Although many parents and students recognize the extreme dysfunction in the current education model in the US, there is still an assumption that an elite college degree is the ONLY aspirational path to success.  At the same time, employers have admitted that they ask for a degree only as a "signaling" mechanism, that they place very little value in what was learned in college, and that there are many core skills college graduates lack.  There are much better and cheaper ways to provide both the skills and the signal that employers want.

Vennmark is a certification program for completing a specific professional curriculum that acts as an alternate signal to the elite college degree.  The curriculum and standards are very different than those of a typical elite liberal arts college, and the remote delivery means that the cost is a fraction of the cost of college.

Research Notes

  • Although not surprising, the most common question from interviewed students was evidence that employers would sufficiently value the Vennmark certification and curricula.

  • Parents ARE looking for an alternate "template" for their children that Vennmark potentially satisfies.  Having Vennmark as an alternate aspirational goal can drive K-12 education to be far healthier and more productive than it is today.

  • Vennmark is most attractive to homeschooling parents who have already been convinced of schooling dysfunction and are actively looking for alternate templates.

  • There can be lots of competing providers of the courses necessary to satisfy the requirements.  There are sufficient online courses in each of the subject areas today to provide the necessary coursework.

  • An alternative to full curricula would be just to show "capstone" course in each category that once passed should demonstrate competence.

  • In the curriculum, the course "Visual Design" is included because we are of the opinion that graphic literacy should be on the same level as language literacy and is far under-emphasized today.

  • In the curriculum, the course "Human Action" is included because it is a foundational approach to knowledge in the social sciences that impacts how people understand core concepts like time, work, money, and business.

  • In the curriculum, the section "Well-Being" represents some of the critical competencies that every professional needs but are never taught in schools.  Instead, millions of "self-help" books are published and purchased to fill that gap that should have been filled far earlier.

  • Although an option would be to make it a generic service where well-known business leaders can post their own curricula and certification requirements, we believe this would not result in the outcomes desired.  This would not meet the needs of those looking for alternative approaches with a different kind of success but would likely just provide a different channel to enforce the same mainstream dysfunctions of existing education.

  • Another way of saying the above is that we are not looking for “consensus”, conventional wisdom, or even the views of the most well respected leaders and managers.  There will likely be many companies like Vennmark, and each will have a different perspective.  Vennmark has a specific point of view on what matters and leads to professional success and meaning.  But there must be sufficient evidence of that success resulting from the approach.

  • Isaac Morehouse of Praxis ( makes a compelling case that in the future, portfolios of work will be more important than certification.  We agree and see the curricula as the more important piece but still see some value in the certification as well.  Maybe there is an intersection with portfolios as well?  And apprenticeship programs?

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