Even though degrees and diplomas conferred by accredited colleges “still command enormous respect with employers and the general public,” the report notes that they carry some significant limitations:
1. Diplomas lack transparency and granularity: The same degree can be conferred for different courses of study at different schools, and a diploma is not granular or transparent enough to help employers understand how courses map to specific knowledge or skills required.
2. College grades are subjective—and can be a low quality indicator of real competence: According to the report, there is growing evidence that inflation is driving up average grades, making grade point averages an unreliable metric for employers. Competency-based criteria, however, complement the grades on a college transcript and provide better information for employers.
3. For diplomas, institutional reputation drives value, not job relevance.
4. Diplomas present an incomplete picture: They don’t include skills or knowledge acquired outside the classroom; for example, part-time jobs, internships, service learning, and externships. Students can also learn skills through extra-curricular activities, Greek life, competitive sports, and publications.
5. New learning providers challenge the status quo: Today’s students, especially adult and non-traditional learners, are taking more online classes and MOOCs; yet, there is no standardized way to aggregate course credits and apply them toward a degree or gain workplace credit.
6. The traditional accreditation processes must evolve: The current accreditation system is based on classroom hours, not competencies or outcomes.
7. Learners are not in control of their own qualifications: Learners should be able to manage, group, and stack their competencies and achievements, and choose which qualifications to share for specific opportunities.
8. Learners need to make informed college investment choices: Increasingly, parents and students apply a “return on investment” mentality to seeking the right program, explains the report. “Badges can help students and parents make better-informed decisions by providing information that illustrates connections between colleges, majors, and careers.
9. Connecting learning and career pathways: Industry and employer groups can define pathways to develop skill sets over the long term. This influences learners who will set and achieve goals based on the market demand for skills more effectively. Employers complete the circuit, says the report, by communicating skill gaps to institutions, who will, in turn, adapt their curricula.
For more information on how higher-ed institutions are the ideal providers of digital/open badges, as well as numerous examples of institutions across the country currently implementing open badges, read the report.
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