Education Is Broken: Someone Should Fix It: An interview with David Blake

February 4, 2013 in Education

It should come as no surprise that Alternative Education is a passion of mine.

We’ve educated our kids outside the box and we work to help as many other people, who show interest, find their path outside the four walls of a classroom as well.

Education is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

When I heard about David Blake and what he’s working on over at I sent him an email immediately. I asked him for the opportunity to beta test his site and for an interview. He graciously granted both requests.

  • What if your education never had to end?
  • What if you could continue to build on it and quantify it for the establishment for your whole life?
  • What if the things you learn the hard way and outside the box counted?
  • What if what you’ve learned online via YouTube counted?
  • What if you could package it all neatly in a way that potential employers could process and would respect?

If David and his team succeed, that will be just the beginning… read on and imagine the possibilities!

1. Tell us a little bit yourself and the impetus for

“Hi, my name is Dave and I am a recovering student.”

I am a product of a broken school system. I played a perfect game in high school—4.0 GPA. When it came time to take the ACT for my college apps I scored well but went home that day with this dawning realization of exactly how asine the world of education is—that a single test would determine ~50% of my fate on where I could attend college. I had this moment where I said, “Yeah, I am good at this game, but this is the wrong game!” Exactly where education had lost itself I wasn’t sure but I was certain in that moment that the education system had optimized for outcomes I personally didn’t care for—largely, to be good at following directions and regurgitating facts. 

I started researching everything I could on the predictive power of standardized tests. I learned they were good at predicting academic success. So, I dove further. How good is academic success at predicting life success? Come to learn, very poor. The truth is not far from the adage that the A students will work for the C students. Why? Because the A students are good at following directions and need someone’s directions to follow.

My passion for education grew quickly. It turned from a curiosity into my life’s work in a very short period of time. I have since help launch two previous EdTech companies, Zinch and

The idea for Degreed came from looking at the world of OER (Open Educational Resources) like MIT’s OpenCourseware and asking why has it not been more transformative. If we can get an “Ivy-plus”-level education for free, why are we willing to pay tens of thousands to go to, in many cases, mediocre schools? They are obviously not perfect substitutes; what are we still buying in education? I came to believe it all centers around the credential—the degree. If we can innovate on the degree, it is the next big step forward in education. 

2. What, exactly, are you hoping to accomplish with

We hope to “jailbreak the degree” so that your education never has to end.

We do this by scoring your lifelong education from any source, both formal and informal. You can read more about what exactly we mean by that by reading our blog post on “jailbreaking the degree” or by watching our videos here.

3. Who are you marketing this site towards? Who do you see as “your people?”

We are all learners and our mission is to help all learners reflect the entirety of their lifelong learning.

In time, we hope to appeal to everyone. We have started with higher education and lifelong learning. We hope to make Degreed the community on the web for people passionate about learning. Have you watched a Khan video? Taken a Coursera course? Know what Skillshare, General Assembly, edX, Udacity, etc. are? Then you are one of us.

4. What sort of reception are you getting from the educational establishment and companies who might use as a way of vetting potential hires?

Surprisingly (at least it was to me at first), we have had several universities (from the top 50 variety to online, for-profit universities) reach out to us to learn about ways to work with us, which I think is a testament to how much pressure these universities are facing to cut costs, create efficiencies, and find their new place in the world. We have also been approached by the largest job board companies and some of the large recruiting firms to learn about partnerships. It is amazing the growing consensus that the degree is going away as the de facto signal of educational accomplishment.

5. For those of us already invested in alternative education who might want to get on board, tell us how we can help.

It is a big vision and we have a lot of work ahead of us. We are launching support of international universities within the month and will continue our march to reflect all the ways we learn from there. We have had many people raise their hands and ask how they can help—enough so we are working on implementing a solution to organize our volunteer community around the effort. Right now, please sign up and start using the site, provide us feedback and share your wish list of features ( From there, we will email our user base regularly with updates and our mobilization plan on how you can continue to help!