In addition to gauging institutions’ and students’ views of alternative credentials, the study explored the role that alternative credentials play in higher education to better serve the needs of learners worldwide. It was conducted by Jim Fong, director of UPCEA’s Center for Research and Marketing Strategy; Kyle Peck, director of the Center for Online Innovation in Learning and professor of education and research fellow in the learning, design, and technology program at Penn State University; and Peter Janzow, senior director of business development for Acclaim, Pearson.

Among the study’s other key findings:

  • Alternative credentials are offered by 94 percent of institutions.
  • One in five institutions offers badges.
  • Badges are most commonly offered in the business industry.
  • 71 percent of institutions have consistent engagement with the business community for internships, practicums, and job placement.
  • Only 18 percent of institutions surveyed offer digital badges.
  • 45 percent of those surveyed offer at least some competency-based alternative credentialing.
  • While 64 percent see alternative credentialing as critical to their future, only 34 percent have strategic plans around alternative credentialing.

The authors noted that as postsecondary educational models evolve, the standard degree will not always be top dog.

“The degree will always be an important credential, but it won’t always be the gold standard,” said Fong. “As millennials enter the prime years of their career and move into positions of greater power, we’ll see more alternative credentials for specific industries and possibly across the board. Higher education institutions, especially those in our survey, are showing that they are being progressive with workforce needs.”

“Our research highlights the ways that higher education is changing to adapt to today’s demographic, technological and other societal shifts,” Janzow said. “Non-credit training courses, non-credit certificate programs, and micro-credentialing all provide learners with less expensive and faster alternatives to job opportunities than traditional degree programs. What was previously thought of as cutting edge is now becoming mainstream and is transforming the paths that learners take to success.”

(Next page: Best practices with alternative credentials from 3 institutions)

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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