Alternative credentialing is going mainstream

Male college student using his laptop in a campus common study room

Some people say millennials are changing the face of higher education by demanding alternative paths to knowledge and skills attainment. Others say technology is the main reason for the shift toward new models of education attainment (think MOOCs). Yet others say employers are shaping the education environment by what they will accept as legitimate forms of certification to indicate proficiency in skills needed for today’s jobs. Whatever the cause or causes, as a result alternative credentialing has been taking shape over the past several years and is now becoming mainstream in higher education and the private sector.

A new report co-authored by UPCEA, Pearson, and Penn State University, Demographic Shifts in Educational Demand and the Rise of Alternative Credentials, examined 190 community colleges, baccalaureate colleges, masters’ colleges or universities, and doctorate granting universities to understand the growth of this change. Some of the major findings of the report include:

  • 94% of them offer some form of alternative credentials.
  • Sixty-four percent of respondents either strongly or somewhat agreed that their unit sees alternative credentialing as an important strategy for its future.
  • Institutions with corporate engagement consistently valued alternative credentialing more than institutions that did not.

Growth and potential across education and industry

With 30% of the US population holding an alternative credential, both higher education and private industry are seeing the potential for development. The report states, “Alternative credentialing has become more common in higher education because it provides individuals with new ways to demonstrate their knowledge and skills to potential employers. Non-credit training courses, non-credit certificate programs, and micro-credentialing all provide learners with less expensive and faster alternatives to traditional degree programs.” Private industry players like LinkedIn, Udemy, Udacity, edX, and many others are also offering working professionals timely, short-term training with associated digital learning credentials.

The report also explores emerging trends, non-traditional offerings, impacts on revenue generation, and examines further the connection to business and industry. Plus it outlines the questions asked during the research and the breakdown of the respondents answers. Read more about alternative credentialing on our microsite, download the report, or listen to this podcast about alternative credentialing and how it will impact educators.