Diary… Online upstarts offer new ways to learn same old lessons

Employers target graduates with DIY ‘micro’ degrees



>> An article on the BBC website about work and working details the emergence of “micro-credentials”.

These are an alternative to traditional degree qualifications as a measure of a candidate’s employability.

The article opens with the story of a man who studies all the elements of a degree course at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) remotely, without paying a penny in fees. 

He even tests himself and “passes” the exams. All by following the free online modules and resources to the course.

The article suggests these types of qualifications will soon supplant the old system and employers will be able to micro select their employees accordingly.

The theory has fascinating implications. And since I have used OOCs (Open Online Courses) such as FutureLearn, The Great Courses and the now defunct iTunes U, I can testify to the effectiveness of this type of tailored learning.

But one thing I was never tempted to do was to buy the certificate offered on completion of the course.

I was studying for my own interest and benefit, not as a passport to a job.

>> I’ve just sat down after lunch to read a long article about Boris Johnson’s grip on the levers of power in the UK.

I was distracted almost immediately by an urgent question.

What, I asked myself, have you done already today? 

The short answer was I’d appeared to have done bugger all.

Then I imagined having to put some spin on the answer, like I was in an interview for job.

It brought to mind one job interview I did a lifetime ago for the position of Computer Operator at the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences, which was then a subdivision of the Natural Environment Research Council.

I’d already busked one question, so when my interrogator/interviewer asked, “How deep is the North Sea?” my answer of “about 6 inches at Scarborough” must have sounded like I was taking the piss. 


It was a panic answer. I wanted the job. I wasn’t taking the piss.

The job was was in a magical observatory on the top of a hill.

And thinking back now, my answer of 6 inches was quite philosophical, in its own strange way.

Job satisfaction at Bidston Observatory, Wirral…

I got the job.

So the long answer to my initial inquiry about what I’d actually done today is:

  • Made my wife an early-morning cup of coffee.
  • Visited a mobile-phone shop in Islington.
  • Made and replied to several messages.
  • Posted the blog of my diary entry for yesterday.
  • Written a red-hot complaint to ee about that £57.43 they owe me. I picture them right now, bricking it.
  • Ordered a bit of kit from Amazon.
  • Cooked my lunch from fresh (pork, chorizo, basmati rice).

>> Our hot water pressure has been very low lately. So low I did not risk getting a shower in case it turned cold on me.

But I’ve just got a message from our grumpy neighbour, Nigel, telling me that the volleys of vitriol he has been spitting at the authorities about it have paid off. 

Yes, the pressure is back up. Grumpy Nigel is our hero. All hail King Nigel, Moaner for the Masses!


Calm down, calm down…

>> We watched the David Baddiel documentary about Holocaust denial on BBC2.

It was a strong piece of work, but small bits of it disappointed me. 

I am thinking here especially about Baddiel’s conversations around “degrees of denial” and whether, for example, Gaza and the West Bank being the world’s highest-ranking deniers is somehow “understandable”.

Baddiel decides not, because to accept, or even to acknowledge, this “lesser” degree of denial is to leave the door ajar to the TOTAL DENIAL of the racist crazies who chase him down and try to persecute him on Twitter.

This was fertile ground and with more skill and better luck he might have been able to use it later when he meets one of these nutters, Dermot, in Ireland.

As Dermot swung wildly away from any reasonable discussion into an obsessive rant about the size of gas chambers and the rate at which a human body burns, Baddiel lost it too.

He had a chance here to spin the “degrees of denial” idea around and point it straight between Dermot’s eyes.

Could Dermot “understand” that some Jewish people carry the burden of their ancestors’ deaths forever? 

Does Dermot “understand” their hatred of people who say the Holocaust was a lie?

We never got to watch his face and hear his reply.

◾Read yesterday’s diary.