3 tips for alternative credentialing

By Laura Devaney, Director of News, @eSN_Laura
August 31st, 2015

Alternative credentialing is emerging as a viable option for many learners.

alternative-credentialingInstitutions of higher education can take steps to strengthen their alternative credentialing options and attract adult learners to their programs, a new study found.

Eduventures, Inc., a research and advisory firm that analyzes the forces that are transforming higher education, announced findings from research on alternative credentialing models that is aimed at providing insight into programming options based on consumer demand.

Alternative credentials, which include certificates (for-profit and nonprofit), digital badges, and endorsements, are designed to offer flexible and agile pathways to learning.

The study is intended to help institutions understand emerging categories of programming and how they will impact the adult learning market.

Higher education is abuzz with talk of alternative credentials, but the market is also very confused about what they are and whether they matter to an adult student consumer, according to the study.

Much of the confusion, the study found, stems from the fact that, unlike conventional academic degrees, institutions rarely have a handle on the types of offerings being offered across the market today.

Compared to degrees, the appeal of alternative credentials among adult learners themselves is also quite elusive.

The Eduventures longitudinal consumer survey of adult learners nationwide found, for instance, that adults looking to further their education still, by a long shot, prefer conventional academic degrees.

According to Brian Fleming, Eduventures’ Senior Analyst for Online Education research and the author of this study, “Our research on this topic, combined with our recent survey of prospective adult students indicate that, by far, degrees still carry the most weight in this market. The enduring value proposition of conventional academic degrees coupled with a lack of clarity around alternative credentialing options may lead adult learners to question their value, especially in a labor market that shows equal favor to degrees.”

To create a strategic framework to Eduventures is recommending that institutions focus on the following three priorities:
1. Define your alternative credentialing options, whether they are certificates, badges, formal statements of accomplishment, or endorsements of some kind.
2. Determine the aim of these credentials. Are they to validate mastery of a particular skill? Do they really only serve as a more structured pathway to degree attainment? Or are they simply to demonstrate commitment to lifelong learning?
3. Articulate ways which alternative credentials can augment traditional degrees or create a viable substitute to degree attainment.

When properly positioned to the market, this strategic framework can help define a value proposition that makes these programs a viable option for adult learners.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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