Connecting Credentials is pleased to release five workgroup reports with important new insights on achieving a well-functioning, learner-centered credentialing ecosystem. These groups, comprised of more than 100 leaders in credentialing policy and practice developed findings, models, and recommendations for action.
The five reports are:
- Building Trust in the Quality of Credentials – This workgroup identified three interrelated factors essential to users trusting credentials: quality, transparency, and evidence.
- Equipping Adult Learners to Attain Market-Valued Postsecondary Credentials –This group urged communities to develop comprehensive, integrated support services adults can draw upon to remove barriers to learning they encounter.
- Aligning Supply and Demand Signals – This workgroup describes the opportunity presented by the convergence of technology changes and increasing focus on competencies to transform hiring and job searches.
- Improving Learner Mobility – This group recommended actions to strengthen the meaning and role for shorter-term credentials (certificates, certifications, badges, and more) in education and employment.
- Making All Learning Counts a Reality – This group created a two-part model to help understand what learning doesn’t count for either educational credit or employment, and made recommendations centered on opportunities to ensure work-based learning is recognized for both purposes.
Each report contains a clear overview of the issue on which the workgroup focused, examples of promising practices, and recommended actions. This set of reports offers an important supplement to the recommended actions published a year ago in From National Dialogue to Collective Action: Building Learning-Based Credentialing Systems.
The workgroups were asked to recommend actionable steps that should be taken to address the credentialing needs and priorities of diverse learners, especially adults with no recognized postsecondary education, while avoiding the pitfalls of creating a second-class credentialing marketplace that perpetuates or even exacerbates race and class barriers to advancement.
Each workgroup started with the recognition that the predicted disruptions in our learning and credentialing systems have already begun to transform these systems. More diverse learners with different needs and priorities are engaging in postsecondary learning than ever before. The speed of change in the clusters of competencies required at work is accelerating. The proliferation of learning and credentialing options, including substantial expansion of work-based learning, continues unabated, leaving credential seekers confused about what credential and pathway to pursue and credential providers and their quality assurers trying to adjust to this changed environment.
Together, the workgroups contributed to our understanding of the interconnectedness and systemic nature of these challenges, identified leading-edge policies and practices to address these challenges and provided useful guidance for moving forward on multiple fronts. We hope that you will share these reports with your networks. We are interested in partnering with you to engage your networks in taking actions consistent with these recommendations. To do so, contact Evelyn Ganzglass, Connecting Credentials co-director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each workgroup found their area of focus intersected with those of other workgroups. That’s hardly a surprise given that all were working on improving aspects of the same ecosystem. High-level cross-cutting themes emerging from these reports include:
- Employers and educators must join together as co-creators of a more agile and trustworthy credentialing system. With the growing importance of skills to employers’ bottom lines and individuals’ career trajectories, the artificial separation of academic and workforce credentials is breaking down. New providers and innovations on the supply and demand side point to new more agile and evidence-based approaches for developing skills and documenting what people know and are able to do. Yet our separate quality assurance, consumer protection, and data systems have not kept up with the need for a more integrated and nimble approach.
- Technology has the ability to transform how employers, educators and individuals communicate about the demand for and supply of competencies required in the economy, the way individuals learn, and the way individuals and learning institutions provide evidence of what an individual knows and is able to do. The increasing use of technology in employee recruitment requires credentials to be machine readable and discoverable by employers. Open technical standards make it possible to connect data about what a learner knows and is able to do regardless of where the data resides. Interoperability of data provides the basis for generating different formats for presenting this data (including drill down options and evidence of competency) for different users in different contexts.
- The idea of competency as currency in a highly dynamic labor market is beginning to take hold in many quarters. Some employers are increasingly focused on competency-based hiring and human resource development practices. A growing number of educators see competency-based approaches as providing flexible and affordable options, especially for adult learners. Others see competencies as the lingua franca in a fragmented system. However, the basic incentives for learners, institutions and faculty (the “business model” of education) work against widespread experimentation with, and adoption of, competency-based approaches. The workgroup reports point to incremental and systemic changes that can be taken at all levels to move toward a more competency-based learning and credentialing system.
- An empowered learner is essential for a well-functioning credentialing ecosystem. Individuals need to own their lifelong learning record and understand their choices for further learning and associated credentials that will help them with employment and career advancement. Many learners need high quality coaching and help in navigating educational and career pathways. Many learners also need access to supportive services in order to succeed in gaining valued credentials. The mix of needed supports varies by individual. We need to move away from the ad hoc provision of supports to a more systemic approach that assures essential access to a continuum of supports. To achieve the vision of a truly learner-centered credentialing ecosystem and move effective practice from the periphery to the core of institutional practice, we will need to change in the culture and business models that provide the incentives and constraints that dictate the behaviors of learners, the postsecondary institutions and other credential providers and the faculty and staff of these organizations.
- A great deal of innovation is taking place in each of these domains, but the actual impact of these innovations on individuals’ economic and educational advancement and the return on investment (ROI) of changed practices for employers is yet unknown. We need investment in research to produce evidence, a commitment to transparency and ultimately stakeholder education to encourage adoption of strategies that work.