Skills and competencies are learned and applied abilities and knowledge. They show that individuals can use their abilities and knowledge effectively in workplace performance. Competencies are observable behaviors that are the result of various skills, knowledge, and abilities an individual may possess. Competencies turn skills into performance behaviors. Both can be learned through training, experience, and practice.
Credential providers look for evidence of skills and competencies an individual has and verifies those in awarded badges, certificates, degrees, and other credentials. Employers look for skills or competencies individuals have that demonstrates their capabilities in the workforce.
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Academic advising is the collaborative process by which students engage with a member of their institution (professor, mentor, or advisor) to receive direction or advice on academic or personal decisions. The purpose of this process is to counsel or inform students, so they get the most of their college experience. Advising includes establishing educational goals or milestones based on the student’s interests and intentions.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation is the process of assessment meant to improve academic quality and institutional accountability by an established set of standards to ensure a basic level of quality. Accreditation covers both the initial and ongoing approval of an educational institution or program. Entire schools or institutions can be accredited (referred to as institutional accreditation), as can individual schools, programs, or departments (referred to as specialized or programmatic accreditation). Accreditation can be conducted on the national, state, or private organizational levels. The accrediting agency establishes an agreed-on set of standards, evaluates organizations or institutions, and then re-evaluates the provider on a set schedule—typically, every five or ten years.
Adult learners are known by a variety of names: nontraditional students, adult students, returning adults, adult returners, mature learners, comebackers. Common characteristics: usually 25 or older; delayed entering college for at least one year following high school; usually employed full-time; often have a family and dependents to support; may have started college as a traditional student but needed to take time off to address other responsibilities; looking to enhance their professional lives or may be switching careers; have more experience than traditional students, having already started a career or served in the military; more mature, independent, and motivated than traditional students.
Nontraditional and digital credentials are offered through a higher education institution's partnerships with approved third-party vendors. These alternative credentials may be viewed as pathways to obtain attainable and accessible education. Such courses or modules may be used as supplemental materials to instruction provided within the higher education institution's graded, organized courses or offered as a stand-alone program. Digital badge awards do not typically come with letter grades upon completion, nor add or subtract to an enrolled student's grade point average (GPA), nor produce a GPA for non-enrolled students. An institution's Transfer Credit typically addresses whether academic credit may be earned within these platforms.
Alternative credentials are competencies, skills, and learning outcomes derived from assessment-based, non-degree activities that align to specific, timely needs in the workforce. Different types of alternative credentials include but are not limited to: (1) Digital Badge—verified indicator of accomplishment, skill, knowledge, experience, etc. that can be earned in a variety of learning environments. Digital badges are awarded based on competency, not necessarily the completion of a program. The badge itself is an icon that can be displayed on a website, profile, email signature or anywhere else on the Internet. (2) Verified Certificate—awarded to indicate completion of an online course, especially a MOOC. Students must complete all program requirements and then verify their identity before receiving the credential. Course sequences are a form of verified certificates that indicate a pathway of courses for learning a specific topic.(3) Microcredential—highly specific, competency-based degree or certification. Microcredentials are often created and chosen to align a student’s needs with instructional goals. The credential is earned upon the completion of certain activities, tasks, projects, and/or assessments.
The American Council on Education (ACE) defines alternative providers as an organization that is not a public or private institution of higher education that delivers postsecondary content and/or provides skills training and support services that connects learner to the labor market, either independently or in partnership with colleges and universities.
Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is an all-in-one human resource(HR) software that automates the hiring process. It helps HR teams manage every part of recruitment (from job posting to onboarding): (1) stores job candidate information, including resumés, cover letters, references, and other recruitment and hiring data that HR teams can easily access and organize; (2) tracks job candidates and their application status throughout the hiring pipeline; (3) weeds out unqualified candidates and recommends the best fit for a position based on the parameters set by HR and only those on the shortlist are moved to the next stage of the hiring process; (4) automates time-consuming administrative tasks such as manually screening applicants, reading resumés, scheduling interviews, and sending notifications and emails to job candidates and employees.
Apprenticeship is an industry-driven, high-quality career pathway that combines classroom instruction with on-the-job experience. Through apprenticeships, employers can prepare their future workforce, and individuals can obtain paid work experience while earning a nationally recognized, portable credential. Employers can choose to register their programs with the U.S. Department of Labor to show prospective job seekers that their apprenticeship program meets national quality standards.
Transferring occurs from one educational institution to another. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, over a million students have transferred among colleges since 2015. Students can transfer from a community college or two-year program to a four-year college or university to graduate with both an associate and bachelor’s degree (this is called reverse transfer). Students can transfer in between all types of institutions – private, public, large, small, community, and research. Students can also transfer college credits from a high school dual-credit program to a two- or four-year program, and can use those credits toward their degree. Transfer includes the transition of credits from one institution to another, while still maintaining the value of those credits. Course articulation is an important part of that. Course articulation is the process of comparing the content of courses that are transferred between postsecondary institutions – one institution matches its courses or requirements to coursework completed at another institution. Transfer systems can be set up within states or systems. To make this process easier, some schools offer guaranteed transfer credit acceptance if students transfer from pre-approved schools.
Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the ability of a computer or computer-controlled robot to imitate human brain functions. Machines use the application of computer science through algorithms to process large data sets to perform tasks typically associated with intelligent beings, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, synthesize, and learn from past experiences. Through rapid advances in computer processing, speed, and memory capacity, AI is used for more and more sophisticated applications such as medical diagnosis; computer search engines; voice, face, and handwriting recognition; and chatbots.
Generative AI refers to AI able to generate text, images, or other media in response to prompts. Generative AI models process large data sets of natural language, code language, and images to create new content in these forms (natural language, code language, images) and other data forms. Examples include ChatGPT, Bing Chat, and Bard. Many applications are using generative AI in the fields of art, marketing, writing, software development, product design, healthcare, finance, gaming, fashion, and education (in teaching, learning, student support services, and administrative supports).
AI prompts are any form of text, question, information, or coding that communicate to AI what response(s) are being sought.
Other terms for AI include machine learning (ML) and deep learning.
With the advent of degree audit software, the software can be used to audit coursework students have completed and automatically award degrees and certificates if they have completed the required coursework. This is practiced as a method for increasing degree and certificate completion,
Badges are tools to represent someone’s achievements, certifications, or abilities. There are several types of badges such as digital badges, skills badges, open badges, and competency badges. A badge is usually digital and has underlying metadata that represents a shareable learner achievement and/or credential earned. Open Badges are digital badges that contain embedded metadata about skills and achievements. They are shareable across the web. Competency badges represent single or sets of competencies with defined market value in professional or academic settings. Competency badges are usually offered through microcredential or degree programs. A skill badge is earned through completion of a series of tasks or labs, and then a final assessment or challenge to test a learner's skills. A certification badge validates an individual's knowledge and understanding.
Blockchain is a shared, distributed ledger technology in which records are stored together as blocks of information connected to other similar blocks of information. Blockchain use in educational records rests on the premise that giving learners access to and control over their educational records enables the easier sharing of their knowledge, skills, and work experience with employers and educational providers. This opens avenues to start or further their careers and increase their economic and social mobility.
Career and Technical Education, often abbreviated as CTE, refers to skills-based teaching at the middle school, high school, and postsecondary levels. CTE programs provide hands-on and realistic experience, where students learn technical and employable skills required for specific jobs or fields of work. CTE programs are typically developed with input from industry partners to be responsive to workforce needs.
CTE is also referred to as work-based learning (WBL).
Career coaches are experts in career planning, resumé building, negotiation, and interviewing. A career coach helps working professionals and recent graduates make educated decisions about their careers. Career coaches focus on actions, results, and accountability, seeking to inspire and empower their clients to set and achieve career goals.
Career counselors work mostly with college students and recent graduates. They are frequently found in community colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, and high schools.
Career navigation services help individuals of all ages understand how their personal interests, abilities, and values can help shape their educational and career goals and contribute to their success. A range of providers offer career navigation services including school and college counselors, third-party career counselors (working in-person and online), military transition centers and recruiters, prison centers/offender rehabilitative services, immigration centers, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
CASE refers to the 1EdTech standard that enables consistent format and exchange of information about learning and education competencies, skills, or academic standards in an open, machine-readable format. The CASE Network was launched by the 1EdTech community to enable all 50 U.S. states to use interoperable academic standards and national learning standards. Through CASE, it is possible to electronically exchange outcomes, skills, and competency definitions so that applications, tools, and platforms can access the data. This enables school districts, schools, and other users in the learn-and-work ecosystem to act upon this data and support instruction accurately. The Network has built a central repository of K-12 state academic standards and competencies frameworks (414), and other national learning standards. These are available in 11 categories: English Language Arts; Math; Science; Social Studies; World Languages; Computer Science; Fine Arts; Health; Physical Education; Career/Tech; Other.
Type of award conferred by a college, university, or other postsecondary education institution indicating the satisfactory completion of a non-degree program of study. Typically, the course requirements for earning a certificate are less than those for earning a degree. Most certificates require no more than one year of full-time academic effort. A certificate may be for-credit (academic certificate) or non-credit (continuing education certificate). They are not time limited and do not need to be renewed.
Awarded by certification bodies—typically nonprofit organizations, professional associations, industry and trade organizations, or businesses—based on an individual demonstrating, through an examination process, that she/he has acquired the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform a specific occupation or job. Depending on the certification body, they may be called industry or professional certifications. Although training may be provided, certifications are not tied to completion of a program of study as are certificates. They are time limited and may be renewed through a re-certification process. Some certifications can be revoked for a violation of a code of ethics (if applicable) or proven incompetence after due process.
A job description explains the tasks, duties, functions, and responsibilities of a position. A common job description outlines the expectations of a job in a way that is comparable to other similar positions.
Community college baccalaureates are new forms of baccalaureate degrees conferred by community colleges, which have historically awarded the associate degree as their highest credential. About half of the states provide authorization for some or all of their community colleges to award baccalaureate degrees.
Refers to all sources of employee earnings, including hourly wages, salaries, overtime, bonuses, commissions, and benefits. Benefits refer to options with monetary value including health insurance, dental insurance, disability insurance, and access/contributions to pensions and retirement savings accounts.
A measurable, assessable capability of an individual that integrates knowledge, skills, abilities, and dispositions required to successfully perform tasks at a determined level in a defined setting.
Competency-based learning, or competency-based education, often abbreviated as CBE, is a framework for instruction and assessment focused on students demonstrating defined learning objectives or competencies rather than content completion and curriculum schedules. Students in such a framework typically work at their own pace, using learned knowledge and skills to demonstrate mastery of a subject. At some institutions of higher education, competency-based education courses begin and end throughout the year, independent of a traditional academic calendar.
Competency-based programs transparently communicate the learning objectives students must achieve to earn degrees and other credentials; enable students with existing knowledge and skills to personalize their educations and accelerate progress towards completion; use technology that enables students to learn anytime, anywhere, at prices they can afford’ and integrate support from faculty, mentors, and coaches that can build confidence needed for success, aimed at creating fair and just educational results.
Seek to capture, record, and communicate learning when and where it happens in a student’s higher education experience. This includes learning from courses, programs, and degrees, as well as experience outside the classroom that helps students develop career-ready skills and abilities (often known as co-curricular learning). A growing list of colleges and universities and third-party intermediaries are working to make CLRs more widely adopted as a way to more accurately and fully validate individuals’ skills and competencies.
A diagram that shows the relationships among ideas to help users understand how ideas are connected. Concept maps are generally composed of two elements: concepts (usually represented by circles, ovals, or boxes and are called nodes); and relationships (usually represented by arrows that connect the concepts; the arrows often include a connecting word or verb and these arrows are called cross-links. There are four types of common concept maps: (1) spider maps, (2) flowcharts, (2) hierarchy maps, and (3) system maps.
See Relational Mapping (used at Learn & Work Ecosystem Library)
Concurrent or dual enrollment means taking college courses while still in high school. Dual-enrollment courses are taught by college-approved high school teachers in a secondary education environment. Students earn transcripted college credit when they pass the course, based on multiple and varied assessments throughout the course.
Course articulation is the process of comparing the content of courses that are transferred between postsecondary institutions; i.e., . In course articulation, one institution matches its courses or requirements to coursework completed at another institution. Course articulation is distinct from the process of acceptance by one institution of earned credit from another institution, as applicable towards its degree requirements in transferring credit.
A credential is a documented award by a responsible and authorized body that attests that an individual has achieved specific learning outcomes or attained a defined level of knowledge or skill relative to a given standard. Credential is often viewed as an umbrella term that includes degrees, diplomas, licenses, certificates, badges, and professional and industry certifications. Some do not include degrees within the term, credentials, creating confusion as to whether degrees are credentials.
An initiative working toward a nationally recognized transferrable incremental credentialing system that increases the number of high-quality, post-high school credentials that lead to further education and employment. The system captures and verifies learning that is currently uncounted, enabling individuals to be recognized for what they know and can do as they acquire it; provides pathways for learners to continue their education, increasing their ability to gain higher credentials and better employment.
Credential Management System (CMS) is a broad term that refers to the software used for issuing and managing credentials. Governments and other enterprises employ CMS software to issue and manage credentials using an array of devices, including laptop computers, smart cards, smartphones, and USB keys. (Wikipedia)
In the higher education and third-party credentialing arena, the term is commonly used to refer to integrated Credential Management Systems (Credential As You Go, Playbook on Technology-Integrated Credential Management). Integrated CMS use a comprehensive solution for managing a variety of credentials. The system streamlines the entire life cycle of credentialing—from a credential’s proposal and development to its issuance and verification. CMS operations typically include: conducting academic program reviews and documenting approvals; creating catalogs and marketing materials; processing learner applications; managing scheduling and enrollment; handling finances/billing; tracking individual learners’ progress; providing counseling/advising; conducting audits; issuing credentials; managing learner transcripts; facilitating graduation communications; and generating internal and external reports.
To support these operations, many credential providers rely on a variety of IT systems and applications. By leveraging systems effectively and ensuring their seamless integration, entities can streamline credential management processes, enhance data accuracy, and improve overall operational efficiency. The most commonly used systems and applications include:
The Credential Registry (Registry), operated by Credential Engine, is a public, cloud-based system available to anyone seeking information about a variety of credentials and skills in an easily-accessible format. Users can explore competencies, learning outcomes, up-to-date market values, and career pathways and reference data on credential attainment and quality assurance at schools, professional associations, certification organizations, and the military, to name a few. The Registry updates when a credential is no longer offered or an institution offering that credential closes, but the historical data still remains in the Registry.
Credential Engine developed the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL) to ensure that data related to credentials and skills speak a common language. The CTDL is a schema (a type of mini-language that people and systems can use to understand each other even if their data comes from different sources and that anyone can use to share information about credentialing data. The CTDL provides a common and unified way of describing information in the Credential Registry, and also an open language that can be used on the Web.
Prior learning assessment (aka recognition of prior learning) is a term used for various methods of valuing college-level learning that has taken place outside of formal educational institutions, that can be assessed to count toward degrees or other credentials. Common assessment methods: (1) Standardized examination such as students earning credit by successfully completing exams such as Advanced Placement (AP), College Level Examination Program (CLEP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Excelsior exams (UExcel), DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST).(2) Faculty-developed challenge exam in which students take a comprehensive examination developed by campus faculty. (3) Portfolio-based and other individualized assessment in which students prepare a portfolio or demonstration of their learning from a variety of experiences and non-credit activities and faculty evaluate the portfolio and award credit as appropriate. (4) Evaluation of non-college programs in which students earn credit based on recommendations provided by the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) and the American Council on Education (ACE) that conduct evaluations of training offered by employers or the military. Institutions also conduct their own review of programs, including coordinating with workforce development agencies and other training providers to develop crosswalks that map between external training/credentials and existing degree programs.
Credit pathways are ways for learners to earn reputable or transferable credits for proven skills or work completed. Credit pathways include but are not limited to: credit/course articulation, credit for prior learning, and noncredit-to-credit bridges. Course articulation is the process of comparing the content of courses that are transferred between postsecondary institutions – one institution matches its courses or requirements to coursework completed at another institution. Noncredit education includes any course or program that did not go through the process to be approved for-credit at a community college or university. Many higher education institutions develop noncredit-to-credit bridge pathways to enable learners to earn credit for learning acquired through noncredit courses and programs.
A degree is a title given by an institution (usually a college or university) that has been granted the authority by a state, recognized Native American tribe, or the federal government to confer such degrees. Generally, degrees are provided for accomplishment in academic, vocationally related, or religious studies, and the degree requirements differ within each of these three realms but are presumed to be comparable in accomplishment. A degree is granted by an institution to individuals who are presumed or who have been attested to have satisfactorily completed a course of study from which the individual can demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and ability commensurate with the degree requirements within the specific field of study. Degrees vary in the level of knowledge and skills that holders of the degree are presumed to have.
A digital badge (aka e-badge) is a digital representations of individuals’ achievements, consisting of an image and metadata uniquely linked to the individual’s skills. Digital badges have an issuer (institution that testifies), an earner (learner), and a displayer (site that houses the badge) .Badges can be displayed, accessed, and verified online.
Digital credentials are similar to digital badges in the sense that they create opportunities for learners and workers to demonstrate qualifications, skill sets, claims, or achievements through digital certificates or documents. Digital credentials are verified and awarded through the digital credential ecosystem. An ecosystem or marketplace of schools, training programs, institutions, industries, employers, and career pathways allows for the issuing, awarding, and verification of these digital credentials and gives them validity.
The concept that every person should have equal access to digital technologies, including internet access. The concept aims to address the divide in access to digital infrastructure that gives some people advantages over others in education, work, and society.
An example at an institution is Bowdoin College’s Digital Excellence Commitment (DExC) that provides every current student and their future students with a 13-inch MacBook Pro, iPad mini, and Apple Pencil plus course-specific software designed to advance learning, inspire innovative teaching, and create digital equity across the student body in the use of tools essential for success in the twenty-first century.
A digital platform is a technology-enabled software solution, an interactive online service that allows exchanges of information, tools, and resources. Three main types of platforms serve components of the learn-and-work ecosystem: (1) learning platforms, (2) business and workforce development platforms, and (3) career navigation platforms.
Digital skills are the abilities to use technology including computer software and applications, digital devices (cell phones, tablets, computers), and other computer hardware. Digital literacy skills enable individuals to participate in a range of tasks including:
Refers to a streamlined college application process which results in immediate acceptance based on quantitative factors such as test scores. Direct admission programs often eliminate many features of a traditional college application process, such as essay writing, letters of recommendation, and application fees. Direct admission applications can be evaluated more quickly, often using an automated process requiring less human oversight. Guaranteed admissions offered by some state colleges to residents who meet specific criteria are an example of direct admission.
Disruptive innovation refers to innovations and technologies that make expensive or sophisticated products and services accessible and more affordable to a broader market. The term was coined in the early 1990s by Harvard University Business School professor Clayton Christensen. The term is often misunderstood to describe breakthrough technologies that make good products better—rather it refers to innovations that make products and services more accessible and affordable, and therefore, more available to a larger population.
Eligible training provider lists (ETPLs) are lists of pre-approved programs established by each state and territory under United States workforce development law, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA funds vouchers for unemployed or underemployed workers to enroll in job training services included on the lists. These are typically short-term, non-four-year-degree programs.
Eligible Training Provider programs are job training programs eligible for funding under United States workforce development law, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Under the law, each state and territory must maintain a list of pre-approved programs from which eligible individuals may select. Programs are pre=-approved on lists known as Eligible Training Provider lists.
Developed in 2012 with funding from the U.S. Department of Education to advance a unifying set of employability skills, the Employability Skills Framework details a set of nine key skills that are organized in three broad categories: (1) Applied Knowledge, (2) Effective Relationships, and (3) Workplace Skills. The Framework is designed to support individuals seeking career advancement and to unify the workforce development and education sectors. It is based on an inventory of existing employability skills standards and assessments. The associated Skills Checklist demonstrates ideas for integrating skills into instruction.
The ways that new employees are welcomed to the organization, receive information about how the organization functions on a day-to-day basis, and are introduced to others who work for the organization.
Equity means that no matter what a student’s background, language, race, economic profile, gender, learning capability, disability or family history, each student has the opportunity to get the support and resources they need to achieve their educational goals. While the terms equity and equality are often used interchangeably, there are differences between the two. Equality focuses on ensuring students are presented with the same educational opportunities throughout their scholastic career; however, this approach doesn’t take into consideration that even with those opportunities, different students will have different needs in order to succeed. Equity focuses on taking those opportunities presented to students and infusing them with support and resources to turn the education system into a level playing field. This means that disadvantaged students will get the support they need to become equal to students who are not disadvantaged.
Ethics and integrity are crucial to the learn-and-work ecosystem, particularly to credentialing. Credentials such as diplomas, degrees, certifications, certificates of accomplishment, licenses, and badges represent an individual's qualifications and expertise in various fields.
Credential earners should adhere to ethical behavior. This involves adhering to the rules and regulations of educational institutions, certification bodies, and licensing authorities. Individuals should engage in honest practices, including completing required coursework, examinations, and practical experiences without resorting to plagiarism, cheating, or misrepresentation. Ethical conduct ensures credentials are earned through genuine effort and knowledge, upholding the integrity of the educational and professional systems. Maintaining integrity in the use of credentials is also critical. Individuals should accurately represent their qualifications and expertise, without falsification and exaggeration.
Credential providers (educational institutions, third-party organizations) should issue credentials that adhere to ethical practices in credential development, assessment and verification, and evaluation. Upholding professional ethics and ethical standards, maintaining confidentiality, and avoiding conflicts of interest are crucial to establishing and preserving trust and reliability in the system of credentialing.
Employers, professional organizations, and the general public rely on the accuracy and authenticity of credentials to make informed decisions. Upholding integrity means using credentials truthfully and responsibly, respecting the trust placed in the system and ensuring that individuals are qualified for the roles they undertake.
Frontloading embedded non-degree pathways is a method to address workers and learners who are looking to re- or upskill quickly to transition jobs. It entails reordering degree pathways to frontload embedded non-degree credentials.
Funding models refer to the ways in which higher education institutions acquire revenue to operate. As described by Ithaka S+R, there are significant differences between funding models for public two- and four-year institutions in the United States. The three largest revenue sources for four-year institutions are tuition and fees (20%); government appropriations (18%), and sales and services from hospitals (15%). Community colleges receive nearly half of their revenue from government appropriations, the majority from state governments. Non-operating grants and contracts, including revenue from Pell grants, represent 18% of total revenues, and tuition and fees comprise an additional 16% of revenue. Funding models from state governments for public higher education institutions typically include:
States also provide significant funding directly to students through state financial aid programs. These programs are often separate line items from appropriations and they result in a significant source of revenue for state institutions. Additionally, some states provide funding for promise programs, vouchers, differential funding, and public-private partnerships.
An employment situation in which a person receives steady work and payment from the employer that allows for self-sufficiency.
The Higher Education Act (HEA) requires that all career education programs receiving federal student aid “prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.”
On May 19, 2023, the US Department of Education Secretary published proposed new regulations to promote transparency, competence, stability, and effective outcomes for students in the provision of postsecondary education – and invited comments to the proposed regulations (comment period closes June 20, 2023). The regulations would make improvements in six areas of gainful employment (GE); financial value transparency; financial responsibility; administrative capability; certification procedures; and Ability to Benefit (ATB). (Federal Register)
Good jobs are defined as those that provide family-sustaining pay, adequate benefits, and equal access to opportunity.
Also referred to as automatic admission or assured admission, this term refers to a policy in place at many state public institutions of higher education which provides a direct path into college for state residents who meet specific criteria. Criteria can include having earned a high school diploma or GED, satisfying a set grade point average threshold or other academic achievement metric, and additional requirements unique to each state and institution. These direct admission policies are intended to boost enrollment while encouraging residents to remain in-state for their continued education. Students are still expected to submit applications and complete required documentation for the institution they wish to attend.
Guided Pathways is a movement that seeks to streamline a student’s journey through college by providing structured choice, revamped support, and clear learning outcomes—ultimately helping more students achieve their college completion goals. The reform recognizes that the current self-service model of community colleges leads many students to unintended dead ends or unforeseen detours in the form of excess or out-of-sequence credit. There are four pillars of guided pathways: (1) clarify pathways to end goals, (2) help students choose and enter pathways, (3) help students stay on path, and (4) ensure students are learning.
Partnerships between higher education institutions and employers are increasingly useful in addressing talent development in key job categories. Partnership agreements are especially prevalent in areas such as data science, digital technologies, nursing, programming, and renewable energy.
Employers partner with higher education institutions often as a strategy for recruiting talent in different geographic areas of the country, and recruiting talent to diversify their workforce, especially focused on race/ethnicity, gender, age, and disability diversity.
Agreements are typically struck between higher education institutions and employers through a formal partnership. Employers may commit to hiring a certain percentage of graduates in one or more disciplines while institutions commit to increasing their number of graduates in various disciplines.
According to the Boston Consulting Group, three prevalent types of partnerships include:
Incremental credentials capture learning as it is acquired along the learning pathway and formally recognizes and connects that learning to a larger context. Incremental credentials can be non-credit or credit-bearing; undergraduate or graduate level; of any size, from small units of learning up through degrees. The purpose of incremental credentials is to ensure learners are recognized for what they know and can do as they acquire the learning and not leave learners without formal documentation of that learning.
Incremental credentialing is the overall design and process used to develop and connect credentials to further learning and employment.
The Incremental Credential Framework was developed through a 2019-2021 planning, research, and testing project in a Lumina Foundation grant to SUNY Empire State College (Credential As You Go, Phase I). The Framework was developed from an environmental scan, prototyping, and feedback from national leaders. The Framework includes six approaches of credentialing that can be used to design incremental credentials and auto-awarding of credentials to reduce the additional step students typically go through to apply for a credential or graduation, plus a focus on prior learning assessment.
A comprehensive technology solution for managing a variety of credentials. The system streamlines the entire life cycle of credentialing—from a credential’s proposal and development to its issuance and verification.
Intermediary organizations are often viewed as a distinct class of third-party entities. They tend to support the provision of services by another organization rather than providing direct services. They tend to be technical assistance providers or capacity-building organizations. They include nonprofit and for-profit entities, governmental and quasi-governmental entities, and membership organizations. Some are global in focus; others focus within nations, states, or cities. Some focus on the research and policy arena while others are subject- or discipline-specific. An intermediary organization can function in one or many capacities: It can be both a think tank and advocacy organization or both a technology company and consultancy. Intermediaries can also be networks or coalitions of organizations working toward a similar goal.
An international classification system developed and maintained by the International Organization for Standardization. ICS are used to catalog and classify standards, often for use in databases and libraries. ICS currently includes 40 fields. Standards are organized according to:
The latest editions of the ICS are downloadable free of charge from the ISO website. Anyone may propose revisions or additions to the ICS.
An international nongovernmental organization founded in 1947 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It works in 168 countries (as of 2023). Official languages are English, French and Russian. Membership is open to only national standards institutes or similar organizations that represent standardization in their country (one member per country). Individuals or businesses cannot join ISO.
Comprised of various national standards bodies, ISO develops and publishes proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards. The ISO standards are internationally agreed upon by experts in the relevant fields, and describe the best way of doing something. Examples of ISO Standards:
In addition to producing standards, ISO also publishes technical reports, frameworks, guidelines, and various types of specifications. It has published more than 24,500 international standards covering almost all aspects of technology and manufacturing. It has more than 800 Technical committees and subcommittees working on standards development.
The ISO helps to facilitate international trade by providing common standards among different countries.
ISO is not an acronym; it derives from the ancient Greek word ísos, meaning equal or equivalent. Because the organization would have different acronyms in different languages, the founders of the organization decided to call it by the short form ISO.
A related organization is European Committee for Standardization (CEN/CENELEC), which publishes some standards in parallel with ISO. Standards with the designation EN are mandatory for CEN members. An agreement is in place (Vienna Agreement) between ISO and CEN to share information, attend each other's meetings, and collaborate on standards at international and European levels.
Interoperability is the ability of different information systems, devices or applications to connect, in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational boundaries to access, exchange and cooperatively use data amongst stakeholders.
Refers to the ways jobs are classified such as part-time and full-time, exempt and non-exempt, employees and contractor, and permanent/temporary employees. Job structures refer to when people work, where they work, expectations for how much they work, and the extent to which they have some choice over when/where/how much they work.
The learn-and-work ecosystem is a connected system of formal and informal learning (education and training) and work. The ecosystem is composed of many building blocks. When all the building blocks are working together, individuals are able to move more seamlessly through the marketplace using a variety of credentials to communicate the skills and knowledge acquired in multiple settings (e.g., school, work, service, self-study). Employers have more detailed and externally-validated information during their hiring and upskilling processes. Schools are better able to count learning obtained outside of academic settings toward a degree or other credential. And the public is informed about our learn and work ecosystem. For the ecosystem to function effectively, all parts of the system must be connected and coordinated.
An inclusive term that encompasses many types of learners; for example, those taking part in the educational process whether a degree program or microcredential. Learners acquire new competencies and skills as enrolled students at a school or postsecondary institution, and as those seeking to enhance their knowledge and skills to secure employment opportunities or advance their careers. Many learners are also working learners. The ACT Foundation defines “working learners” as individuals who are both working for pay and enrolled in formal learning programs that lead to a recognized credential. They are the majority of part-time students and more than a third of the full-time student population.
Learner/student success can be defined in many ways — one that is learner-centric and one that is institution- and policymaker-centric.
Learner/student success can be defined in many ways — one that is learner-centric and one that is institution- and policymaker-centric.
Comprehensive digital records of an individual’s skills, competencies, credentials, and employment history that may be able to show a complete picture of an individual’s education and work experiences. They have the potential to highlight verified skills, reduce hiring biases, and match people to employment opportunities. An LER can document learning wherever it occurs.
Learning frameworks are tools that specify learning outcomes and/or competencies that define, classify, and recognize educational, learner, and industry expectations of knowledge, skills, and abilities at increasing levels of complexity and difficulty. They are not standards, and they are not limited to academia, but they do allow for alignment, translation, and mapping of learning through various spaces in order to capture learning that can be valued and recognized by education, industry, and the military. These frameworks can support quality assurance mechanisms for reviewing aligned curriculum and training, provide guideposts for awarding credentials, and serve as end points from which learning experiences can be backward-designed. In addition, learning frameworks enable consistency; provide a common language within their user group(s); and assist in transferability within and across education providers, alternative learning pathways, military learning, and industries (including employer-developed industry expectations and career readiness skills).
Descriptions of what students will learn in a course, program, or training, and how that learning will be assessed. Creating clear and measurable learning outcomes are necessary for assessment and evaluation. Well-stated learning outcomes include a verb to describe an observable action, a description of what the learner will be able to do and under which conditions, and the performance level the learner should be able to reach. Learning outcomes is a general term for what students will learn and how that learning will be assessed, and includes goals and objectives. Related terms include:
Two taxonomies are commonly used in developing learning outcomes:
A license is a credential awarded by a government agency that constitutes legal authority to do a specific job. Licenses are based on some combination of degree or certificate attainment, certifications, assessments, or work experience; are time-limited, and must be renewed periodically.
Open-source library of 32,000+ skills gathered from hundreds of millions of online job postings, profiles, and resumes—updated every two weeks. The Skills Taxonomy collects real-time data from over 40,000 sources every day, contributing to a database with over 1 billion job postings and billions of other data points. These data are combined with curated input from other statistical sources, like government agencies, to provide the most complete view possible of the fast-changing labor market. This information is used in businesses, communities, and education providers who need the granular details and big-picture trends for their planning and improvement efforts. The Taxonomy focuses in three areas: specialized skills, common skills, and software skills. These are broken down into 30 categories and multiple sub-categories.
A micro-pathway is two or more stackable credentials that can be packaged as a validated market signal connecting learners to employment in high-growth careers.
Microcredentials are a record of focused learning achievement verifying what the learner knows, understands, or can do. They include an assessment based on clearly defined standards and are awarded by a trusted provider. They have stand-alone value and may also contribute to or complement other micro-credentials or macro-credentials, including through recognition of prior learning. They meet the standards required by relevant quality assurance.
Diagram that shows the relationships among ideas to help users better understand, remember, and communicate information. Mind maps generally organize information into a hierarchy, showing relationships among pieces of the whole. A central concept or idea is usually placed in the middle of a spider diagram, with associated concepts/ideas that are connected branching out from the center (key words are called nodes).
See Relational Map (used at Learn & Work Ecosystem Library)
Modular learning unbundles the traditional learning “packages”—Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees—into more manageable learning chunks that are also tied to real career and life outcomes. Modular learning enables working professionals to learn new skills in shorter amounts of time, even while they work, and those seeking a degree are able to do so in a much more attainable way. They also earn credentials for the smaller modules of learning, thereby garnering value and positive feedback early in the process of advancing towards full degrees.
Eight competencies for career readiness: (1) Critical Thinking/Problem Solving (exercise sound reasoning to analyze issues, make decisions, overcome problems); (2) Oral/Written Communications (articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms to persons inside and outside of the organization); (3) Teamwork/Collaboration (build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, viewpoints); (4) Digital Technology (leverage existing digital technologies ethically and efficiently to solve problems, complete tasks, accomplish goals); (5) Leadership (leverage strengths of others to achieve common goals, and use interpersonal skills to coach and develop others; (6) Professionalism/Work Ethic (demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, e.g., punctuality, working productively with others, time workload management, understand the impact of non-verbal communication on professional work image); (7) Career Management (identify and articulate one's skills, strengths, knowledge, experiences relevant to the position desired and career goals, identify areas necessary for professional growth; Global/Intercultural Fluency (value, respect, and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations, religions).
Non-degree credentials include certificates, industry certifications, apprenticeships, educational certificates, occupational licenses, and digital badges.
Non-credit education includes any course or program that did not go through the process to be for-credit at a community college or university. They typically include personal enrichment classes, customized training for employers, English as a second language classes, and adult basic education. Many higher education institutions develop noncredit to credit bridge pathways to enable learners to earn credit for learning acquired through noncredit courses and programs.
Noncredit courses are designed for students who wish to advance their educational and career goals. There are a variety of bridge tools institutions can use to strengthen how noncredit courses translate to academic credits. Some schools will create formalized articulation agreements or internal equivalency agreements to illustrate how a noncredit course, industry certification, and credited course articulate. Another method is to cross-list courses within a learning management system and standardize learning outcomes, performance expectations, and faculty qualifications between credit and noncredit courses. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is also a common method for providing credit to students who can demonstrate competency based on work or noncredit course experience and education.
The standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy.
O*NET Standard Occupation Codes (O*NET SOC) define the set of occupations across the world of work. Based on the Standard Occupational Classification, the taxonomy includes more than 900 occupations which currently have, or are scheduled to have, data collected from job incumbents or occupation experts. Information in the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET database includes information on skills, abilities, knowledge, work activities, and interests associated with occupations. This information can be used to facilitate career exploration, vocational counseling, and a variety of human resources functions, such as developing job orders and position descriptions and aligning training with current workplace needs.
OER are publically accessible teaching, learning, and research resources created and licensed to be free for end users to own, share, and in some cases modify. Modify could include re-mixing, improving, and redistributing under some licenses.
UNESCO's 2019 definition: "Learning, teaching and research materials in any format and medium that reside in the public domain or are under copyright that have been released under an open license, that permit no-cost access, re-use, re-purpose, adaptation and redistribution by others. Stakeholders in the formal, non-formal and informal sectors (where appropriate) include: teachers, educators, learners, governmental bodies, parents, educational providers and institutions, education support personnel, teacher trainers, educational policy makers, cultural institutions (such as libraries, archives and museums) and their users, information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure providers, researchers, research institutions, civil society organizations (including professional and student associations), publishers, the public and private sectors, intergovernmental organizations, copyright holders and authors, media and broadcasting groups and funding bodies."
The detailed specifications in a credential management system shows how a technical system meets the needs of users and stakeholders. These typically describe how the system should work, what features and functions it should provide, and how it should integrate with other systems and tools.
Opportunity populations refer to people in America who have had limited access to educational and professional opportunities and who face barriers to employment and career advancement. They may include: opportunity youth: young adults age 17–24 who are out of school or out of work; members of the LGBTQ community; members of the immigrant or refugee populations; formerly incarcerated individuals; members of Indigenous communities; people with disabilities (physical and/or cognitive); people without a high school diploma; people with limited English proficiency; people who are (or who have been) homeless. Not all members of these groups experience barriers to employment; individual circumstances including family background, race, geography, and other factors play a significant role in one’s access to opportunity.
Some private and public sector employers are adopting internal Pay for Skills programs. A key element of these programs is to incentivize skill development among employees through internal training. Such systems typically provide pay raises for mastering new skills which are determined based on the needs of the company. Employees are often required to pass a series of written and hands-on tests that cover a set of skills and training related to quality, safety, company policy, and technical aspects of their job. If an employee scores above a specified level established by the company, they may earn a designated pay raise and move to the next level. Many companies develop their internal training and promotion systems and partner with local educational institutions.
Policy encompasses laws, regulations, procedures, administrative rules and actions, incentives, and voluntary practices of governments and other institutions. Many entities issue policies germane to the learn-and-work ecosystem: governments—federal, state, regional/local; state systems of higher education, state coordinating boards; accrediting organizations; higher education boards of regents; employer program policies affecting tuition assistance programs; apprenticeships, internships, and work-and-learn programs; requirements related to upskilling and reskilling; Union program policies, particularly those governing company-led and union-guided apprenticeship programs; community-based such as libraries and local initiatives that support immigrant centers, Goodwill centers, and others.
In traditional higher education institutions, quality has been viewed broadly, involving all institutional functions and activities to include teaching and academic programs, research and scholarship, staffing, students, building, facilities, equipment, services to the community and the academic environment. Quality assurance (QA) focuses on the process to achieve quality. It seeks to convince internal and external constituents that a credential provider has processes that consistently produce high-quality outcomes. QA also makes accountability for quality explicit at various points within an institution since quality is the responsibility of everyone in the organization. QA is a continuous, active, and responsive process which includes strong evaluation and feedback loops. At its core, QA asks the question, “How does an institution know that it is achieving the desired results? "The characteristics of quality are primarily expressed in the language of the employers who hire institutions’ graduates: (1) Technical knowledge or competence in a major field; (2) Literacy (communication and computational skills, technological skills); (3) “Just-in-time” learning ability that enables graduates to learn and apply new knowledge and skills as needed—often referred to as lifelong learning skills; (4) Ability to make informed judgments and decisions (correctly define problems, gather and analyze relevant information, and develop and implement appropriate solutions);(5) Ability to function in a global community, including knowledge of different cultures and contexts as well as foreign language skills; (6) A range of characteristics and attitudes needed for success in the workplace (flexibility and adaptability; ease with diversity; motivation and persistence; high ethical standards; creativity and resourcefulness; ability to work with others, especially in groups; and demonstrated ability to apply these skills to complex problems in real-world settings). Key institutional characteristics and behaviors to increase the likelihood that the above outcomes will be realized include: (1) Clear statement of intended learning outcomes that provides explicit direction for assessment; (2) Satisfactory performance in graduate education and on relevant licensing and certification examinations; (3) Direct assessments of exiting students’ abilities that are consistent with institutional goals and demonstrate the “value added” by the institution, given students’ starting points; and (4) Students’ satisfaction with the institution’s contribution to the attainment of their goals, relative to the costs incurred.
Quality non-degree credentials provide workers and learners with the means to successfully achieve their employment and educational goals. In order to qualify, there must be valid, reliable, and transparent evidence that the credential constitutes quality. Quality non-degree credentials have substantial job opportunities associated with them, have affiliated competencies, and are part of educational or training pathways.
A quality, trusted, and valuable credential is widely recognized and respected by employers, professional organizations, and other relevant stakeholders. Recognition and reputation are built over time through consistent delivery of high-quality education, training, and assessment. Employers often value credentials from reputable institutions and/or certification bodies that have a proven track record of producing competent professionals. A credential's reputation is often influenced by (1) faculty expertise, (2) research output, (3) alumni success, and (4) industry partnerships.
A relational map visually presents connections among entities within an ecosystem, such as organizations and initiatives. Relational maps help users understand the overall structure or domain of an area of interest.
In 2024, the Learn-& Work Ecosystem Library will use relational maps to complement it is narrative descriptions of key searchable artefacts such as Key Components of the learn-and-work ecosystem, Topics, Initiatives, and Organizations. The Library's relational maps are depicted at the end of a narrative artefact. The map depicts how a particular Initiative is related to various Organizations working in that space, is related to Glossary Terms, is related to other Initiatives, and is related to other Topics. Live links to the items on the map are provided. See examples in prototype maps.
The maps are developed by integrating manual data tagging with inferred AI-driven relations. This work includes a unique collaboration with ChatGPT’s API under an open licensing agreement that allows the Library to train and continuously refine the AI model.
Related Terms in Mapping
Concept Map: Diagram that shows the relationships among ideas to help users understand how ideas are connected. Concept maps are generally composed of two elements: concepts (usually represented by circles, ovals, or boxes and are called nodes); and relationships (usually represented by arrows that connect the concepts; the arrows often include a connecting word or verb and these arrows are called cross-links. There are four types of common concept maps: (1) spider maps, (2) flowcharts, (2) hierarchy maps, and (3) system maps.
Mind Map: Diagram that shows the relationships among ideas to help users better understand, remember, and communicate information. Mind maps generally organize information into a hierarchy, showing relationships among pieces of the whole. A central concept or idea is usually placed in the middle of a spider diagram, with associated concepts/ideas that are connected branching out from the center (key words are called nodes).
Demonstrates relevance to the current needs and trends of the industry or field, reflecting the knowledge and skills that are in demand, aligning with the evolving requirements of employers and stakeholders. Regular updates and revisions to the credential's content and curriculum help ensure currency and maintain trust over time.
Remedial education (aka developmental education) is required instruction and support for students who are assessed by their institution of choice as being academically underprepared for postsecondary education. The intent of is to educate students in the skills required to complete gateway courses, and enter and complete a program of study. Remediation at the postsecondary level is delivered at both community college and university campuses although some states have established policy to limit public university provision of remedial education. The bulk of remedial courses focus on advancing underprepared students’ literacy (English and reading) skills or math skills. Students are often placed into remedial courses through placement tests such as the ACT, ACCUPLACER, or COMPASS assessments. Typically, each college or university sets its own score thresholds for determining whether a student must enroll in remedial courses. Some states are moving toward a uniform standard for remedial placement cut scores.
Often refers to evaluating what students will earn professionally based on their investment in an undergraduate or graduate degree, to determine if there is a positive return on their investment. The concept of ROI is that the upfront investment in acquiring the credential is offset by the increased earning potential and career advancement opportunities it provides. Indicators typically are economic and may include obtaining a job (employability), wage level, job mobility, and benefits acquired through employment. Economic ROI is just one measure of ROI in higher education.
Another important ROI is the maturation process students go through during their college experience (research finds that college serves as a capstone course for life by helping students mature and develop socially in order to become well-rounded and productive adults).
New ROI models are under exploration. One proposes a three-way model to measure the value of credentials which include short-term credentials: (1) Economic Value – value ascribed to credentials that directly connect to high-wage good jobs, and/or high-demand jobs. (2) Mobility – value ascribed to credentials that directly connect to academic (educational) and workforce advancement. (3) Engagement – value ascribed to credentials that directly connect to continued postsecondary investment by learners, such as credentials that increase the confidence of learners that future education is indeed for them -- that they can pursue an educational journey and career journey.
Reverse transfer is the process by which a student is awarded an associate degree after transferring and completing degree requirements at a four-year institution. Through reverse transfer, students can combine the credits they earn at their four-year school with those they had previously earned at community college and retroactively be awarded an associate degree.
A detailed, machine-readable, standardized representation of skills used in education and in employer hiring processes. RSDs allow educational institutions to design curricula aligned with employer needs to ensure that learners acquire relevant and marketable skills. RSDs allow employers to create job descriptions that attract candidates with the specific competencies needed for a role. This level of specificity can expedite the hiring process and enhance quality matches between job seekers and employers.
RSDs typically have the following components:
RSDs build on Credential Engine's Credential Transparency Description Language or CTDL-ASN that enables skill authors to publish definitions that can be referenced from digital credentials, pathways, and job profiles.
RSDs are authored by the owners (providers) of skills.
Self-issued credentials refer to self-asserted claims about an individual’s skills, knowledge, and experience which are separate from the verifiable credentials issued by recognized authorities. Such credentials can be aligned with existing standards and include documentation to bolster the credibility of the claim (e.g. a letter from a supervisor, a sample of completed work). In the context of the learn-and-work ecosystem, this term is distinct from the self-issued credentials used for online identity verification and refers instead to demonstrated competencies which lack credentials issued by a third party.
Short-term credential programs typically run from 8-15 weeks at a postsecondary education institution. Short-term credentials may include licenses issued by state or federal governments, certificates awarded by postsecondary institutions, and certifications awarded by industry organizations.
Skills define specific learned activities, and they range widely in terms of complexity. Knowing which skills a person possesses helps to determine whether their training and experience has prepared them for a specific type of workplace activity. Competencies identify the observable behaviors that successful performers demonstrate on the job. Those behaviors are the result of various abilities, skills, knowledge, motivations, and traits an employee may possess. Competencies take “skills” and incorporate them into on-the-job behaviors. Those behaviors demonstrate the ability to perform the job requirements competently.
Are a new way of looking at the labor market than occupational classifications or degree qualifications, as described by the National Skills Commission of the Australian Government. Skills clusters contain similar specialist tasks that are broadly transferable (if you can do one task in the cluster, you can likely do the others). Clusters show how skills are related and connected to one another without consideration to occupations they are connected to. Skills cluster approaches offer a new way to explore skills transferability; however, skills clusters are not a measure of overall similarity or direct transferability between occupations that use these skills, nor do they take into account degree qualifications, registration, or licensing that is required to undertake certain tasks.
The skills ecosystem is a term popularized with the advent of skills-based hiring. Skills-based hiring is hiring for skills required for a particular job role. Employers are trying to match their existing employee talent to new job positions and fill them with new employees. In the past, many employers used the college degree as a proxy for the ability to do the job—for perceived skills that have been achieved. Increasingly, the degree is not a very precise way of hiring so the skills ecosystem has been gaining attention as a new currency for hiring.
A structure that allows organizations to develop strategy on how to acquire necessary skills. It provides key sector information, occupations/job roles, and the required existing and emerging skills. The Frameworks are typically co-created by employers, industry associations, educational institutions, unions, and government for use in workforce development. Uses of Skills Frameworks include: (1) creating a common skills language for individuals, employers, and training providers; (2) facilitating the recognition of skills; and (3) supporting the design of training programs for skills and career development.
A centralized and structured compiling of skills data, qualifications, and attributes that helps to create a unified understanding of skills for an organization in areas of employment need, curriculum development, job architecture, or competency grouping. Other names for a skills library include skills inventory, skills taxonomy, skills framework, skills catalog, and skill ontology.
Graphic depiction of the abilities that an individual employee possesses. The mapping process assesses the employee's proficiency with a specific skill, particularly those associated with certain projects, positions and duties. This process is often known as competency mapping, even though the latter term includes more than just skills. A skill is a single capacity to do a task effectively, whereas a competency is a collection of the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and characteristics necessary to complete a task.
A system of classification that categorizes and organizes skills into groups or skill clusters. The process of developing a skills taxonomy involves identifying the skills and competencies required for a particular job position. Skills taxonomies can be used by employers, workforce development organizations, and educational institutions to create a framework for conducting skills gap analyses and prioritizing which gaps to address within companies, industry sectors, and education and training programs.
The process by which an assertion that 'I have a skill' is substantiated. The assertion is typically conducted by qualified 3rd party to create trust that the individual possesses a skill. The process is based on a shared understanding of meaning of a skill, it indicates the level and context of a skill, and can be conducted through various methods.
Skills-based hiring focuses on skills, not degrees. Skills-based hiring emphasizes practical, working knowledge; it prioritizes what an applicant can do, rather than the education they have.To succeed at a job, an employee needs the skills to perform their role and duties; this is the foundation of skills-based hiring. The prevailing hiring mode is for companies to prioritize degrees and academic achievements over practical skills in looking at job applicants’ qualifications. The recent global pandemic has forced companies to re-evaluate their hiring methods and shift to skills-based hiring.
Incremental credentials, frequently known as microcredentials, are an evolving concept in postsecondary education and training. Less comprehensive than a degree, they represent the attainment of a specific competency or set of skills. The case for skills-based incremental credentialing posits four key uses: (1) retention (helps promote persistence and completion among current students); (2) recruitment (smaller, standalone credentials are more attractive to adult learners, a large and growing market); (3) equity (helps students whose life circumstances and finances force delays to see if they're accumulating more than debt); (4) workforce development (partners with businesses to help employees upskill, reskill, and adapt to a dynamic economy.
As the workplace changes, some private and public sector employers are turning to skills-based promotion. A skills- or merit-based promotion is based on an analysis of the employee's performance. Skills-based promotion systems take into account ability, behaviors, experience, strengths, and technical skills. These systems are a strategy to keep high-achieving, high-quality employees engaged and motivated. This approach contrasts with traditional tenure-based systems that promote or reward workers based on seniority and service within the organization.
Refers to employer hiring that puts skills at the forefront of hiring strategies. Individuals seeking employment are recognized for their skills and capabilities, and these are aligned with the roles requiring specific skills and competencies needed to perform these roles well.
Skills-first hiring does not exclude traditional hiring systems that focus on college degrees and other credentials; rather, this newer evolving approach enables employers to widen opportunities to hiring a more diverse workforce, specifically to expand the talent pool, democratize access to jobs, and make the labor market and workforce more resilient.
LinkedIn has studied the benefits of skills-first hiring and reports in Skills-First: Reimagining the Labor Market and Breaking Down Barriers (2023) that this approach can:
Refer to day-to-day work within an occupation. Specialist tasks are useful for differentiating occupations. They can be transferable across occupations and industry sectors, but they are not viewed as universal.
Stacking credentials is part of a sequence of credentials that can be accumulated over time to build up an individual’s qualifications and help them to move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to different and potentially higher-paying jobs. Stackable credentials can be viewed as building blocks where each short-term credential that a person earns builds into a higher-level credential. There are 4 types of stackable credentials: (1) Traditional or progressive stackable credentials follow a linear path where a student earns a short-term credential (e.g., certificate) and continues their education by pursuing a higher-level credential (e.g., associate’s and/or bachelor’s degree). (2) Supplemental or value-add stackable credentials do not follow a linear path, but still allow a student to enter and exit the higher education system as needed. A ‘supplemental’ stackable credential is when an individual may have already earned a bachelor’s degree, then attends a bootcamp to learn additional skills to supplement their degree. (3) Independent stackable credential is when an individual accumulates multiple credentials but does not pursue a degree. In this case, an individual’s certifications build on one another and the individual acquires skills that craft a path forward in their career, but they do not ‘ladder’ into a singular degree pathway. (4) Work-based learning, apprenticeships, and employer-sponsored training combine on-the-job training with formal educational instruction. For example, stacked apprenticeships are shorter-term programs where individuals pursue a series of related apprenticeships to build on their skill set. An individual participating in an industrial manufacturing technician apprenticeship program could learn how to operate production equipment, and then pursue additional manufacturing opportunities to learn more related skills.
Consist of free-standing body of knowledge with organized, graded higher education courses, and are often offered in an interdisciplinary manner. Generally, learners are certificate-seeking students although some may choose to apply to be degree-seeking learners and enroll subsequently into academic degree programs.
State-level data infrastructures in the U.S. that securely bring together specific data on early childhood, K-12, postsecondary education, and the workforce. Data from these sectors enable leaders, practitioners, and community members to better understand the progress, predictors, and performance of learners throughout their educational and employment pathways.
Stranded credits refer to academic college credit that students have earned but cannot access because their former higher education institution is holding their transcript as collateral for an unpaid balance to the institution. The unpaid balance, often referred to as student debt, can refer to unpaid tuition, unpaid room and board, unpaid parking tickets, and library fees. The outstanding debt often incurs interest, increasing the amount owed by a student over time if unresolved. Students who leave their higher education institution without graduating but owing the institution money are often unaware of the hold on their transcript. They may encounter the hold years later when they request an official transcript for a job, or the debt comes up on a credit report. Holds on transcripts may also result in lost credits for students trying to re-enroll at a different institution. Students cannot access the credits earned at the prior institution until the debt is paid off. Some students then start over, and their prior credits are lost. Policies on transcript holds have been found to disproportionately affect students of color and those from low socio-economic backgrounds.
Technology tools and systems are hardware tools which include computers, mobile devices, servers, networks, printers, and other physical components that enable technologies; and operating systems which include software that manages computing resources and runs applications.
Transcript holds occur at many higher education institutions when a student incurs unpaid balances for unpaid tuition, room and board, parking tickets, and library fees. The unpaid balance, often referred to as student debt, can additionally incur interest, increasing the amount owed by a student over time if unresolved. Students who leave their higher education institution without graduating but owing the institution money are often unaware of the hold on their transcript. They may encounter the hold years later when they request an official transcript for a job, or the debt comes up on a credit report. Holds on transcripts may also result in lost credits for students trying to re-enroll at a different institution. Students cannot access the credits earned at the prior institution until the debt is paid off. Some students then start over, and their prior credits are lost. Policies on transcript holds have been found to disproportionately affect students of color and those from low socio-economic backgrounds.
The related term, "stranded credits" refers to the academic college credit that students have earned but cannot access because their former higher education institution is holding their transcript as collateral for an unpaid balance to the institution.
Refers to the confidence and reliability attributed to a credential by various stakeholders, including employers, educational institutions, professional organizations, and individuals themselves. It involves the belief that the credential accurately represents an individual's qualifications, knowledge, and skills; and that it has been earned through a legitimate and credible process. Many elements help ensure trust in credentials: (1) accreditation, (2) recognition, (3) transparency, (4) accountability, (5) rigorous assessment, (6) relevance, (7) ethical standards, and (8) proven track record.
Unbundling is the process of disaggregating educational provision into its component parts, very often with external actors. Rebundling is the reaggregation of those parts into new components and models. Both are happening in different parts of college and university education, and in different parts of the degree path, in every dimension and aspect—creating an extraordinarily complicated environment in an educational sector that is already in a state of disequilibrium.
Refers to the worth, usefulness, and tangible benefits that a credential provides to individuals, employers, educational institutions, and society as a whole. Many elements help ensure value in credentials: (1) employability, (2) career advancement/mobility, (3) wage levels, (4) industry recognition and relevance, (5) personal and professional development, (6) credibility and trustworthiness, (7) access to further education, and (8) contribution to society and community.
Verifying learning and recording that learning on a portable record is the main way learners communicate their readiness for further education and work. Most job seekers rely on resumés, job applications, and credentials to communicate their skills and work experience to prospective employers. These traditional methods do not capture the full range of a job seeker’s knowledge, skills, and abilities. These documents cannot be combined easily into a single profile that represents the entirety of an individual’s abilities. They have other drawbacks as well: they typically fail to represent skills in a manner that is universally understood, do not allow for easy verification that a specific skill was demonstrated by the learner, and do not indicate if and when the skill becomes outdated or needs to be renewed. While most institutions continue to use the traditional college and university transcript, many reforms are underway related to student learning records: (1) Comprehensive Learning Records; (2) Learning and Employment Records; (3) Comprehensive Navigator; (4) Digital Wallets; 5) Blockchain.
Work-based learning refers to education and training carried out by students or employees while working. This approach contrasts with traditional methods of learning, which tend to take place in a classroom, laboratory setting. or even in the home via remote learning methods. Work-based learning includes: apprenticeships, internships, cooperative education, service learning, and career and technical education. Three components typically occur in work-based learning: (1) alignment of classroom and workplace learning; (2) application of academic, technical, and employability skills in a work setting; and (3) support from classroom or workplace mentors.
Workforce development refers to the broad range of initiatives offered by government offices and agencies to help create, sustain, and retain a viable workforce. The objective of workforce development is to create economic prosperity for individuals, businesses, and communities. Workforce development focuses on an individual’s ability to grow his/her skills and develop the tools needed for career success. Workforce development typically includes education, training, and career navigation and employability services.
Workforce equity means the elimination of racial gaps in employment and income such that the workforce – both public and private – is racially representative of the general population, at all different levels of skill and pay, across occupational groups and sectors. (National Fund for Workforce Solutions)
Individuals who are both working for pay and enrolled in formal learning programs that lead to a recognized credential. They are the majority of part-time students and more than a third of the fulltime student population in the United States.
The main international standards organization for the World Wide Web. The Consortium was founded in 1994 and composed of member organizations that work together to develop standards for the W3C. In March 2023, W3C had 462 members. W3C also engages in education and outreach, develops software, and provides an open forum for discussion about the Web. It provides critical digital infrastructure for the global learn-and-work ecosystem.
A term used to describe a package of services found in the research literature to support learner success. Tutoring, counseling, childcare, transportation and other non-instructional services can help learners at community colleges and universities complete their credentials. These services may include full or partial payment of tuition expenses, full or partial payment for books and materials, frequent contacts with a career counselor, mentoring, academic advising, tutoring, childcare voucher for hours spent in classes for students actively enrolled at the institution, transportation assistance (e.g., local bus passes), and one-time emergency assistance with rent or other expenses on a case-by-case basis.
Refers to reducing or eliminating the financial burden on learners by offering educational materials, including textbooks, at no cost. This can involve utilizing open educational resources (OER), library resources, or other freely accessible materials.