Eduventures Report on Alternative Credentials Shows Barriers to Mainstream Adoption

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Despite Growing Prominence, Many Institutions Lack Strategic Framework to Evaluate Options

"The enduring value proposition of conventional academic degrees coupled with a lack of clarity around alternative credentialing options may lead adult learners to question their value," said Brian Fleming, author of this body of research.

Eduventures, Inc., the leading research and advisory firm that is focused exclusively on analyzing the forces that are transforming higher education, today announced findings from research on alternative credentialing models that is aimed at providing insight into programming options based on consumer demand. Alternative credentials, which include certificates (for-profit and non-profit), digital badges and endorsements are designed to offer flexible and agile pathways to learning. The goal of this study is to help institutions understand the categories of programming that are emerging and how they will affect the adult learning market.

Confusion Surrounding Alternative Credentials
Higher education is abuzz with talk of alternative credentials, but the market is also very confused about what they are and whether they matter to an adult student consumer. Much of the confusion, Eduventures finds, stems from the fact that, unlike conventional academic degrees, institutions rarely have a handle on the types of offerings being offered across the market today. Compared to degrees, the appeal of alternative credentials among adult learners themselves is also quite elusive. Eduventures longitudinal consumer survey of adult learners nationwide found, for instance, that adults looking to further their education still, by a long shot, prefer conventional academic degrees.

According to Brian Fleming, Eduventures’ Senior Analyst for Online Education research and the author of this study, “Our research on this topic, combined with our recent survey of prospective adult students indicate that, by far, degrees still carry the most weight in this market. The enduring value proposition of conventional academic degrees coupled with a lack of clarity around alternative credentialing options may lead adult learners to question their value, especially in a labor market that shows equal favor to degrees.”

To create a strategic framework to Eduventures is recommending that institutions focus on the following three priorities:
1.    Define your alternative credentialing options, whether they are certificates, badges, formal statements of accomplishment, or endorsements of some kind.
2.    Determine the aim of these credentials. Are they to validate mastery of a particular skill? Do they really only serve as a more structured pathway to degree attainment? Or are they simply to demonstrate commitment to lifelong learning?
3.    Articulate ways which alternative credentials can augment traditional degrees or create a viable substitute to degree attainment.

When properly positioned to the market, this strategic framework can help define a value proposition that makes these programs a viable option for adult learners.

About Eduventures
Eduventures is the leading research and advisory firm that is focused exclusively on analyzing the forces that are transforming higher education. Building on twenty years of success in working with education leaders, Eduventures provides forward-looking and actionable research based on proprietary market data, and advisory services that support both strategic and operational decision-making. Our recommendations and personalized support enable clients to understand the top traits of leaders in critical disciplines and to evaluate the opportunities presented by new technologies. For more information about Eduventures research, practice areas, and team, visit us at http://www.eduventures.com.

Members of the media who wish to speak to the author of this research can contact Ellen Slaby, Vice President of Marketing at eslaby(at)eduventures(dot)com.

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Ellen Slaby
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