How Alternative Credentials are Shaping Modern Education

January 12, 2024

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Title: Alternative Credentials: Business and Program Models – Study Findings and Takeaways

Source: University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA)

In a new report, UPCEA explores the dynamic field of alternative credentials and the increasing adoption of these credentials by higher education institutions, including offerings like non-credit and professional certificates, badges, bootcamps, and MOOCs. As the report notes, 20 percent of institutions still do not consider alternative credentials a strategic priority, pointing to potential growth areas in educational frameworks.

A key finding is the utilization of existing resources, like curriculum and faculty expertise, for developing alternative credentials. This often involves adapting current courses into new, more accessible formats. However, securing faculty support and crafting effective microcredentials remains a notable challenge.

The role of employer engagement is also critical in shaping these credentials, with industry input vital for skills development and curriculum design. However, the report points out that confusion can arise when multiple campus parties engage with employers.

An emerging trend is the creation of stackable alternative credentials, which not only benefit learners but also complement existing credit-bearing programs. The business models supporting these credentials vary, with some institutions favoring fee-based structures while others opt for revenue-sharing models; the latter often linked to greater confidence in financial sustainability and scalability.

The report also discusses the decentralization of programmatic and financial models for these credentials across various institutions. While this allows for customized approaches, it can complicate the management and understanding of the overall offerings. Aligning these programs with institutional strategic plans and leadership priorities is vital for securing resources and ensuring coherent program execution.

The report advises institutions to carefully select business models for their alternative credential offerings, prioritizing financial sustainability, scalability, and alignment with program development and revenue goals. While employer involvement in program development varies, the report suggests that increased collaboration could boost both the relevance and demand for these credentials.

In conclusion, the report highlights the growing importance of alternative credentials in higher education, especially as traditional student demographics shift. These credentials offer new opportunities for engaging audiences, adding value for learners, and supporting institutional viability.

To read the full report, click here.

—C. Emmanuel Wright

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