alternative credentials

Alternative credentials now a must-have for traditional universities

Millennials prefer badging and certificates to traditional degrees, according to researchers from UPCEA, Penn State and Pearson.

More than half of higher education institutions (64 percent) participating in a recent survey said alternative credentials are an important strategy for institutions’ futures. That same survey also found that millennial students are likely to support the use of badges and certificates as part of their educational system.

The study of 190 institutions, from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), Penn State and Pearson, was released at the UPCEA and the American Council on Education (ACE) Summit for Online Leadership in Washington, D.C. and found widespread acceptance and use of alternative credentialing programs at American colleges and universities.

Leading the way are millennial students, who the study found are more likely to favor an educational reward system that is built around badging and certificates, rather than the traditional bachelor’s degree.

The study breaks down the forms of alternative credentialing, explaining that:

  • Digital badges are online representations of skills learned by students, typically with visual iconography
  • Certificates are credentials typically issued by educational institutions to students who have completed significant programs of study that do not culminate in a degree
  • Micro-credentials are granular, digitally presented certifications offering evidence that an individual has mastered a specific skill or area of knowledge, with links to detailed criteria, endorsements, or demonstrations of their learning

(Next page: More key findings on alternative credentials from the survey)

Laura Ascione