- Students desperately want to connect classroom learning with real-world relevance for their future careers
- Digital credentials help students build job-ready skills, motivating them to complete their education
- See related article: Employer demand for microcredentials is on the rise
If it seems as though college students aren’t as motivated to learn as they used to be, you’re not imagining things. According to a recent report from Wiley, students report they’re “struggling to remain interested” in their classes as the disconnect widens between what they learn in college and what they need for an entry-level job. Higher-education qualifications are no longer the passport to a great job they once were, making it difficult for students to see the value in pursuing a degree.
To further complicate the matter, the rise of generative AI is causing confidence in education to waver, especially as it disrupts knowledge workers’ jobs. It may also be compounding students’ lack of motivation; they see the technology as a way to shortcut their education, minimizing effort – and thereby, minimizing learning.
That said, many universities are rising to the challenge of this next wave of digital transformation, choosing to adopt these technologies to enhance the learning experience, rather than shy away from them.
These two trends connect directly to another major shift happening in the higher education space: the rise of skills-based learning, wherein skill-specific courses and digital credentials are serving as a supplement to a traditional degree. By providing job-ready skills, these credentials further prepare students for successful careers in an ever-changing world of work.
Below are three ways credentials can help motivate students and keep them engaged throughout the course of their higher education journey.
1. Offering digital credentials can help students harness their passions
As simple as it sounds, in order to keep students motivated, you have to know what interests them in the first place. Fortunately, offering a wide variety of digitally credentialed courses can help educators identify what their students care about and motivate them to learn.
When stored in an institution-wide database, digital credentials create transparency around demand for particular courses, alerting decision makers to predominant areas of interest. Faculty and staff can also source student feedback directly, if there is significant interest in a course the institution may not yet offer.
The real challenge is in raising awareness. Digital credentials are extremely lucrative, but college students are busy, with heavy course loads, jobs, internships and/or extracurricular activities on their plates. Given this, faculty and advisors must be trained to communicate the return on investment students will receive for these courses. Fortunately, digital credentials offer powerful metadata – such as possible job opportunities and career paths, and even potential salaries for people with that specific qualification – that can help them guide students towards credentials that will empower them to pursue their dream careers.
2. Verifiable digital credentials enhance the value of a degree
A college degree is still a vital foundation for success in the professional world, but students are growing increasingly skeptical of the investment. College enrollment has decreased by 15 percent in the past decade, and many students are seeking apprenticeships and alternative credentials in place of a college education. Add that to the fact that college tuition rates are rising 17 percent annually, and the pressure only intensifies to create more incentives for students to pursue a degree.
But higher-education institutions should not see alternative credentials as their competition. They will boost the value of their degree programs by allowing students to augment them with digital credentials. Shareable, secure credentials enable students to easily prove their professional competency to a potential employer, unlocking new opportunities and making them more competitive in the job market.
For those students who don’t plan to enter the workforce after graduation, digital credentials can also help prepare them for their graduate program of choice.
As the workplace continues to change, the desire for a customized higher education experience is only going to grow. Digital credentials empower students to craft a course of study designed for their goals, while still receiving the holistic foundation of a traditional degree.
3. Digital credentials can both measure and convey the impact of skill-based learning
Not only do digital credentials help institutions to measure interest and connect students to their passions, but they also make it easier for leaders to determine their impact.
Ideally, each student will have a learner profile that includes all their digital credentials. This makes it easy to see which students are taking which courses, which courses have high adoption, and which ones may not be worth the institution’s investment. Leaders can also use digital credentials to track trends among majors and other specific student groups. Are there certain major-credential combos that are popular? Are people pursuing credentials that aren’t necessarily connected to their major, but can help them broaden their career? Monitoring these trends will enable institutions to offer the right digital credentials to increase the value of their programs and foster a more motivated student body.
Digital credentials can be used as an admissions recruitment tool, as well. High-potential students will be attracted to the option to customize and enhance their degree with additional skill certifications. Moreover, institution-branded credentials can serve as a powerful marketing tool, especially when alumni can share them freely on social media.
Students’ motivation may be down, but digital credentials can help institutions open up a wealth of opportunities for them, reigniting their passion for learning. As of last year, 58 percent of higher education institutions had implemented credential programs, and as skills-based learning continues to soar in popularity, we can only expect more institutions to follow suit. Soon, digital credentials will become part of students’ baseline expectations for their education, and institutions must be prepared to meet them.
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