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. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura


Add your opinion to the discussion.