1EdTech Talk on Credentials
Rob Coyle, Technical Program Manager, 1EdTech
Kelly Hoyland, Higher Education Program Manager, 1EdTech
Millions of Credentials Available – So What’s Next?
According to a recent report from the nonprofit Credential Engine, more than one million (1,076,358) post-secondary credentials are being offered across the United States from various providers. Some credentials are offered by institutions of higher education, some by private companies, and others by government organizations.
The growth is exciting, and for those involved in moving credentials forward, it is also promising because it indicates that more learners, employers, and educators see the value of digital credentials as a way of expanding and improving skills-based hiring.
However, while we celebrate this growth, we cannot let it distract us from continuing to ensure that as digital credentials become more common, they also become more valuable to both learners and employers.
Credential Engine CEO Scott Cheney made a good point in an article from Inside Higher Ed when he said, “The diversity of the marketplace is both a good thing and a challenge. It shows there’s a lot of innovation and there’s a lot of different ways to advance yourself, but we don’t have good information still about which ones are the best ways, and that’s what we really have to focus on … It’s easy to get lost in this chaos.”
Right now, many digital credential programs are inconsistent. Some are centered in one market segment, others are regional, and a few programs reach statewide but not nationally. They’re set up in a way that employers know exactly what a person had to do or learn in order to earn the credential, so they know exactly what they’re getting. The only challenge is the programs are so regional the credential doesn’t have the same weight if a person tries to apply for a position outside of that region.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Every new idea has to start somewhere, and the fact digital credentials are growing means these regional programs show promise. Now, we just need to make that promise and take it a few steps further. We do that by creating standards and rules around the credentials, so they are meaningful everywhere.
This is important to our 1EdTech member community because we believe, if done right, digital credentials are the way to open up a world of career possibilities in a more equitable way.
They hold the promise of giving people credit for skills they earn anywhere, either on the job, in training, or in more traditional ways through education. They provide a way of recognizing and giving credit for the work learners do in college, even if they don’t complete a full degree. This also makes the cost of a college education a little easier to swallow, knowing you aren’t leaving without anything if you can’t stay for four or more years.
In this way, the variety of organizations and institutions offering credentials is fantastic news. Learners can find the program that works best for them and get the skills they need to earn the jobs they want.
Our job is to make sure the employers understand what those learned skills and experiences are and how they fill the needs of their organization.
At 1EdTech, we are addressing that challenge on several fronts.
First, we have Open Badges, which provide the information an employer needs to understand what skills any given credential brings to the table and easily verify those skills.
Second, our Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR Standard™) empowers learners to have agency over their own accomplishments. Regardless of where or how many different places a learner earns their credentials, they can store and curate them all in one location and share them as needed with various employers.
Also, thanks to the 1EdTech Open Badges and CLR standard, the credentials can be stored and shared from any digital wallet, regardless of where the credential came from.
1EdTech’s work on these two standards is ongoing, with the latest updates set to be released in 2023. The updates align the two standards more closely with each other and meet W3C-verified credential standards, allowing suppliers to provide digital credentials that are more easily shared between various platforms.
Finally, we have incredible partnerships through our Wellspring Initiative that help connect employers and HR professionals with open skills frameworks and verifiable credentials to understand what they need to make digital credentials work for learners and employers.
By creating digital credentials that meet 1EdTech’s open and trusted standards, we can create an ecosystem that moves out of the regional model and allows learners to share their skills anywhere in the country easily. Employers will know exactly what the applicants bring to the table.
That’s the goal, and we are getting closer to it every day. 1EdTech’s members are proof of that, finding new and innovative ways to move this promising and important work forward. Most importantly, they’re doing it in collaboration with one another so that we can make this work nationwide.
Those collaborations will be highlighted at our Digital Credentials Summit, February 27 – March 1, 2023, in Dallas, Texas. There will be something for everyone, whether you’re brand new to digital credentials or have been working with them for decades. Registration is open, and we’d love to see you there!
About the Authors
Rob Coyle is the technical program manager for 1EdTech’s digital credentials, specifically working with Open Badges and CLR Standards. He has more than 20 years of education and edtech experience working in higher education and K12, both public and private, as well as corporate training and development.
Kelly Hoyland serves as the program manager for higher education at 1EdTech, where she works with members to meet the challenges they face in the rapidly growing and evolving digital teaching and learning landscape. This includes working across K-12, higher education, and corporate education to make life achievements more accessible, personalized and equitable from the start for every learner.