Students want better digital credentials

Innovation in online credentialing can help students better display learning outcomes and the value of their education to employers on social sites.

students-digital-credentialsAccording to a new whitepaper revealed by ed-tech company Parchment at Baltimore’s AACRAO conference on April 13th, a majority of students believe it would be useful to display official credentials on a social site.

However, the report suggests their is a lot of room for innovation on the part of institutions.

The ideas generated in Parchment’s whitepaper, titled “Extending the Credential; Empowering the Learner,” stem from the results of two surveys which polled over 500 recent college graduates and 100 registrars. Parchment says it conducted the survey as part of the company’s work to modernize the credential infrastructure and provide a convenient way for learners to access and share their credentials while improving operational efficiencies and reducing institutional costs.

Credentialing is also a rising issue in higher education. According to Parchment, job-seekers holding a B.A. degree not only have an unemployment rate that is almost half the national average, but millennial graduates also earn about $17,500 more than those who have only graduated from high school.

Yet, higher education institutions are being asked to justify the rising costs of attendance by aligning their curricula with the skills employers are looking for, as well as prepare students for the job market in a way that other non-academic education providers can not.

According to Parchment, this means the opportunities institutions provide beyond the classroom that help build skills like teamwork, leadership, and critical thinking.

(Next page: Parchment’s plan, how schools can innovate, and more on what graduates think)

According to the whitepaper, education advocates, and students, have begun to see that the current framework of credentialing does not display these important learning outcomes well enough.

The whitepaper suggests aligning credentials more closely with the digital and mobile culture of millennials in order to make educational outcomes more easily understood and actionable.

According to the survey, 60 percent of students surveyed are excited by the idea to display detailed and official credentials on a social site, with 71 percent reporting marketability to potential employers as the leading reason to do so.

But how can colleges and universities make this happen?

As it stands, diplomas represent degree completion and achievement, while transcripts provide a deeper level of detail as to how someone earned their degree. However, transcripts are more focused on student mobility within or between schools, and do not show a complete stock of experience gained. In fact, 46 percent of learners polled feel that the current transcript offered at their institution only “somewhat reflects the value of their education.”

Furthermore, 77.5 percent of registrars agree that students sharing digital credentials is inevitable, but only 43 percent currently share their academic and co-curricular accomplishments digitally. Largely, this is due to the lack of support from institutions in providing innovative digital credentials, say respondents.

Parchment’s plan suggests extending the reach of a transcript and staying a step ahead of the future of credentialing. As identified by their Credential Innovation Framework, there are five activities that institutions can implement to empower learners, each more important than the last:

  • Go digital – put transcripts online and display diplomas, non-degree certificates, verifications, and even digital diplomas.
  • Do what paper can’t – make each digital credential clickable, visual, and machine-readable for added functionality.
  • Create new pathways – Enhance credential exchange to support the diverse pathways learners take across institutions on their way to a degree, ensuring portability of courses and credits to maximize degree completion success.
  • Communicate more content – add competency-based, experimental, or co-curricular data to show the full impact of postsecondary education.
  • Make it actionable – Allow learners to store credentials in one place where information can be easily displayed in online profiles, such as professional of social networking sites.

Institutions may not have the means to take all of these steps at once, but focusing on meeting these goals over time can likely go a long way toward showing the full impact of higher education and helping students secure successful careers, concludes the whitepaper.

For greater detail on how to implement the five key steps towards credential innovation as outlined by Parchment, read the full report here.


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