Research

Report Identifies Barriers to Adopting Alternative Credentials

Despite the growing prominence of alternative credentials such as certificates, digital badges and endorsements, many institutions lack the strategic framework to define their value, according to higher education research and advisory firm Eduventures.

Eduventures identified confusion among both higher ed institutions and adult learners about the type of alternative credentials available today as well as their value compared to traditional academic degrees. In a longitudinal consumer study of adult learners nationwide, for example, the firm found that "adults looking to further their education still, by a long shot, prefer conventional academic degrees."

"Our research on this topic, combined with our recent survey of prospective adult students indicate that, by far, degrees still carry the most weight in this market," said Brian Fleming, Eduventures' senior analyst for online education research, in a press release. "The enduring value proposition of conventional academic degrees coupled with a lack of clarity around alternative credentialing options may lead adult learners to question their value, especially in a labor market that shows equal favor to degrees."

To help make alternative credentials a more viable option for adult learners, Eduventures recommends that institutions create a strategic framework by focusing on three areas:

  1. Define your alternative credentialing options, whether they are certificates, badges, formal statements of accomplishment, or endorsements of some kind.
  2. Determine the aim of these credentials. Are they to validate mastery of a particular skill? Do they really only serve as a more structured pathway to degree attainment? Or are they simply to demonstrate commitment to lifelong learning?
  3. Articulate ways which alternative credentials can augment traditional degrees or create a viable substitute to degree attainment.

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is executive editor for Campus Technology. She can be reached at rkelly@1105media.com.

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