As higher education evolves, so, too, do the paths to degrees. And attaining a degree often involves alternative credentials including MOOCs, micro-credentialing or badges, or non-credit certificate programs.

But as these options expand and evolve, higher-education institutions must meet the ever-present challenge of treating these experiential learning experiences as credit-bearing.

One question remains: How can institutions qualify alternative credentials as forms of knowledge and apply them to, or include them in, the curriculum for a quality degree program?

To explore these changes and implications, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and The Presidents’ Forum partnered with the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) to conduct a study examining the state of alternative credentials at adult learning institutions.

The main research question is: How are alternative credentials defined and used at adult learning institutions in the United States?

OLC used a multiple case study approach offering in-depth information about the state of alternative credentials at six adult-friendly institutions in the U.S.

Through a cross-study analysis, five themes emerged, including: competency-based education (CBE), prior learning assessment (PLA), alternative credentials, the importance of reliable data, and traditional vs. non-traditional learning.

(Next page: One institution’s work with alternative credentials) 

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. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

Add your opinion to the discussion.