New Focus on Transparency in Credentials Helps Validate Learning Experiences
August 15, 2018

​The U.S. credential marketplace is vast and confusing, creating an increasing challenge for students, employers, education institutions, quality assurance entities, and policymakers to obtain the data needed to make informed decisions about education and training. The fluidity of learning and how it occurs today—especially for adult working learners—necessitates the expansion of flexible completion pathways to recognize and provide currency for quality validated learning experiences. 

Credential Engine Registry Brings Clarity 

To address this complexity and build a transparent credential landscape, the Lumina Foundation​ and Business Roundtable joined forces to create Credential Engine. Launched in 2016 to bring clarity to all credentials (degrees, certificates, apprenticeships, licenses, badges, etc.), Credential Engine set out to build a cloud-based Credential Registry, develop the first common credentialing language to describe credential information, and support a marketplace for applications to more effectively use and integrate credential information. 

Information available through the organization’s Credential Finder, allows anyone to “pop the hood” of a credential and see what’s inside—including critical information such as competencies, learning opportunities, connections to other credentials, quality assurance information, assessment details, costs, and more. Since the public launch in December 2017, the Credential Registry has grown to over 200 participating organizations and over 3,000 credentials. 

Yet, this is just a first step. Credential Engine identified in an April 2018 report that there are over 330,000 credentials in the United States alone, but even this data appears to be incomplete as the organization estimates that the true number is likely closer to 500,000.

States are already taking notice of Credential Engine’s efforts. Early partners from the ​​Indiana Commission for Higher Education​ have already published all their state’s healthcare credentials to the registry to assist the state’s educational and economic planning efforts for this growing industry which already represents 25 percent of the state’s in-demand jobs. 

This video highlights Credential Engine's work with Ivy Tech Community College​ in Indiana, the nation’s largest singularly accredited community college. 

In addition to Indiana, eight other states already have formal agreements with Credential Engine and are working to publish data about credentials issued by their public institutions. The organization is expanding further, with sector initiatives already underway in retail and hospitality as well as with the military

Credential Engine's goal is to publish 50,000 credentials by the end of 2018, and at least 100,000 by the end of 2019. Through this work, the organization looks forward to partnering with institutions, organizations, and states to map the credential marketplace, increase credential literacy, and empower everyone to make more informed decisions about credentials and their value. 

ACE Member Spotlight: Elon University

Elon University has also developed a close partnership with Credential Engine and is the first postsecondary institution to post all of its credentials (94 in total) to the registry. 

Rodney Parks, Elon’s registrar, noticed the value of Credential Engine’s vision since before its public launch and supports a transparent and standard credentialing marketplace. Such a marketplace empowers students to seek pathways motivated by market and empirical data rather than speculation and advertising. When all credentials are accessible through a common credentialing language, learners, education providers, and employers can compare credentials and make informed decisions on knowledge acquisition and pathways toward personal and professional advancement.

While Credential Engine continues to expand, Parks is optimistic that Credential Engine will continue to adapt to meet the new and evolving issues in the ever-changing workplace. Data from the registry can help institutions develop enrollment management strategies to promote regional economic development and institution-employer partnerships. This data can be used as an open resource for institutions to compare and align learning outcomes and competencies attained from peer institutions. The registry also can support the articulation of advanced standing agreements between institutions. 

A Digital Innovation to Expand Flexible Completion Pathways

ACE’s College Credit Recommendation Service (CRE​​DIT®) also is focused on creating transparency in the marketplace. 

ACE’s work centers on transcripts and making the credentials attached to them more relevant. ACE will be working with the organization Credly over the next year to develop a digital credential with on-demand access to an academic transcript for every individual who completes alternative credit courses or workforce training recommended for college credit through ACE. 

Any student who completes an ACE credit-recommended course will receive a digital badge from the provider that is endorsed by ACE. This badge will contain useful information for the recipient, including competencies and skills the learner acquired from the provider. A second benefit from this new transcript, is that they will display in a format that adheres to the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council XML transcription standards. Meeting these standards ensures the student achievements portability, interoperability, and transferability to other platforms. 

The efforts of ACE and Credential Engine are mutually aligned in their efforts to create a more transparent and interoperable environment for credentials. Credential Engine’s work will help create a more equitable marketplace by making available valuable credential information for students. ACE’s work will champion the equity piece by helping students share their transcript in a format that is simpler and easier to use. 

ACE’s work will also focus on completion. The use of standard metrics increases the likelihood that credits will be accepted and, in turn, help students graduate in a shorter time. Both efforts will continue to adapt to the needs of the students to expand flexible completion pathways and provide a more transparent credential marketplace.