- Credential Engine on Wednesday announced it is partnering with six companies to help colleges and other education providers publish information about the credentials they offer in a national, cloud-based registry.
- The partners — BrightHive, Credential Commons, Ellucian, Credly, DXtera Institute and Powerminds — will work with credential providers to translate data about their programs into a common vernacular, the Credential Transparency Description Language.
- The effort aims to make it easier for students, educators and employers to compare and understand information about different credentials, regardless of whether they're offered through a traditional college or alternative education provider.
The size of the U.S. credential marketplace has swelled in recent years, growing to some 650,000 unique certificates, traditional degrees and other programs currently on offer.
And while alternative education providers such as boot camps are driving a large part of that growth, colleges and universities have also been ramping up their offerings. In fact, 94% of colleges said they offer some form of alternative credential, according to a 2016 survey of 190 institutions.
However, students still often lack important information about the data and quality of the credentials they seek.
That can make it difficult for them to figure out which programs will lead to better employment outcomes, according to speakers on an industry panel on the topic last year. Some students may even enroll in and complete a program only to discover that local employers don't accept the credential.
Credential Engine hopes to fix those issues by unlocking "key data that may be challenging to access" through its new partnership, said the company's executive director, Scott Cheney, in a statement. Searchable and comparable data could stand to benefit "students, counselors, employers, and other users who need clear data to make critical education and career decisions," he added.
Other efforts are underway to make it easier for students to earn credentials that will help them in the workforce.
For example, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the University Professional and Continuing Education Association recently announced plans to partner with Workcred, a nonprofit aiming to improve the credential marketplace. The groups will explore ways colleges and credential providers can collaborate to integrate certifications with undergraduate degrees.
And earlier this month, a partnership between industry and universities in the Washington, D.C., metro area, called the Capital CoLAB, announced that several member colleges have added a shared tech credential, which covers areas such as cybersecurity and data visualization. Students who complete the credential will get priority for job interviews with CoLAB member businesses.
Offering credentials may become increasingly important for colleges stay competitive, according to the International Council for Open and Distance Education. Last month, the organization issued a report that argued colleges need to develop more digital credentials or else lose out to "nontraditional and tech-savvy organizations." The group also predicted credentials will eventually render traditional transcripts obsolete.