Credentialing informal learning and experience is the next big push in higher education, with initiatives like Open Badges, Skills.to, Degreed, or LearningJar granting students credentials for skills and knowledge gained outside of school. Even traditional colleges are being pressured to accept credit by exam, portfolio, work experience, and other informal education, rather than reserving credit for classroom time and course completion. Just last month in a high-profile move, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker called for a flexible degree program that, among other changes, allows Wisconsin students to prove their competency in an area and then gain credit for it.
It's important to recognize that education is not just fact-learning or skill-accumulation, and that education can happen (and indeed mostly happens) outside of classrooms. But seeking to validate that informal education with formal college credit only defeats the purpose. It furthers the view that education isn't legitimate until it's been stamped with a credential. Even a recent Huffington Post article urging credit for experience touted the valuable prospect of being able to "tell adult students that the knowledge they bring back to campus is valued," as if it wasn't valuable before it was credited.
Merely slapping a credential on "experience" and calling it "college credit" does nothing but entrench the idea that certificates are surrogates for knowledge. We ought to recognize experience as independently valuable rather than seeking to turn it into a credential.