There is an ongoing transformation of education towards a skills-focused and tech-enabled educational model. The learning community is shifting away from traditional four-year degrees, with major tech companies no longer requiring them and instead emphasising skills. In this information-rich Credentialate Guide, we ask – what does Next Generation Learning look like? What are the challenges and opportunities associated with shifting to skills-based education? How can technology, such as digital credentials, be leveraged to create a more robust and accessible system for documenting and verifying skills and competencies? What role do community colleges, vocational education, and emerging technologies like AI play in the evolving education landscape.
The Essentials: Tech enablement of next-generation learning
- How has tech enablement changed the education landscape, and why is it important?
Tech enablement has transformed the skills ecosystem, as seen in the shift from traditional degrees to skills-based hiring criteria. Big tech companies like Apple, Google, Tesla, and IBM stopped requiring college degrees in favor of skills, marking a significant shift in their hiring policies. This transformation highlights the importance of adapting education to align with real-world employment needs.
- What are the key shifts in hiring practices and their impact on education?
Hiring practices have shifted towards skills-based approach, reducing the emphasis on traditional degrees. This shift is reflected in the fact that digital badges and credentials gained importance, laying the groundwork for more robust learner records with personalised skills evidence. This evolution signifies the changing landscape of how skills are recognised, verified, and valued.
- How do learners and employers benefit from tech enablement in education?
Learners benefit by gaining confidence in their skills, as demonstrated by the example of Rich Skills Descriptors (RSDs) paired with robust skills evidence records. These tools enable learners to showcase their skills with extended levels of mobility, trustworthiness, and verifiability. Employers benefit from tech enablement by streamlining hiring processes, as demonstrated by big tech companies shifting away from traditional degrees, reducing verification processes, and hiring based on what the candidates are truly capable of doing.
- What role do community colleges play in skills-based learning, and why are they significant?
Community colleges are crucial in offering stackable credentials and providing accessible pathways to career success, particularly for underserved populations and remote areas. By offering college credit for programs, community colleges empower learners to return and pursue further education, making education more flexible and responsive to individual needs.
- What challenges and opportunities arise from technological advancements in education (e.g. artificial intelligence), and what skills are deemed essential in this context?
Technological advancements in education offer both challenges and opportunities. John Rohner, a VP at Booz Allen Hamilton, highlighted the need for artificial intelligence (AI) adoption and responsible AI, underlining the shift towards AI workforce skills. This emphasises the need for skills like adaptability and digital literacy to navigate these evolving learning environments effectively. Thanks to tools like Rich Skills Descriptors (RSDs) and more robust evidence records, learners can now have instant visibility into their skills and competencies.
- How Credentialate provides a new perspective
As the world’s first Credential Evidence Platform, Credentialate helps you discover and share evidence of workplace skills. It creates a highly interoperable skills infrastructure that connects, collates and creates order from chaotic or dark data. It identifies skills in the curriculum, maps them to globally recognised skill definitions and aligns to frameworks. Institutions can manage and track skills attainment across the institution, against frameworks and see where improvements can be made. For each learner, a personal evidence record is created – as unique as every learners’ journey. Rich skills information, qualitative and quantitative performance data and links to artefacts of learning are baked into a verifiable digital badge that can be shared. This gives learners the confidence to speak to their strengths, the evidence to prove it and boosts their employability by sending a ‘ready-to-hire’ signal.
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The Full Story: Tech enablement of next-generation learning
- Accessible, mobile, secure and verifiable
- Credential mobility and accessibility
- Security and verification
- Learning transitions
- All of your learning counts
- Community colleges and vocational education
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and rapid innovation
- My competency, skills and mobility – building confidence
- How Credentialate provides a new perspective
Over the last several years, there has been a lot of discussion regarding what the future of education looks like. There was wide agreement that change was both necessary and inevitable. What no one seemed certain of is what that change would look like.
What we did know was this:
- College enrollment decreased, at least in the United States, and the public perception of the value of a four-year degree to a learner took a similar nose dive
- Big tech companies stopped requiring applicants to have a college degree and began to focus on skills instead. Although some argued that hiring practice did not always follow what the company said out loud, this still marked a major policy shift
- Many companies, including Apple, Google, Tesla, IBM, and others, created in-house certification programs to equip both current and potential employees without degrees with the skills needed to advance their careers
- Many Federal governments, including those in Australia, Europe and the U.S. began to focus on skills-based hiring criteria rather than degree requirements
- Digital badges and credentials grew in both importance and credibility, laying the groundwork for the creation of Learner Evidence Records (LERs) that were more robust and contained personalised information and skills evidence
In short, the skills ecosystem transitioned from concept to reality. From K-12 programs to four-year colleges and trade schools, evaluating and tracking skills and making it possible for learners to share them in a meaningful way with both educators and employers.
Technology provided the answers: companies that each provided a piece of the puzzle came together to form new partnerships and initiatives for the tech enablement of next-generation learning.
That tech enablement is here. With the right tools, it is possible – right now. In this Credentialate Guide, we’re going to explore what tech enablement is, what it looks like today, who is already using it, and how it can be implemented by others in an efficient way, revolutionising how we think of Learner and Personal Evidence Records.
We’ll look at visibility and mobility from the perspective of learners, educators, and employers. We’ll look at learning transitions from one institution (or even geographic area or country) to another. Then we will look at gathering data, moving it, and what exactly a learner can “show” using their evidence records.
Finally, we’ll discuss the confidence this type of system can provide for learners, educators, and employers, helping learners become earners, helping learners advance their careers, and enabling employers to hire for skills, saving them time, money, and the frustration of hiring the wrong person with the right degree.
Tech enablement of next-generation learning is already here so let’s take a closer look.
Accessible, mobile, secure, and verifiable
Many of us can remember ordering a transcript from our high school or college, waiting for it to arrive or having it shipped directly to a prospective employer, and carefully leaving it in a sealed envelope only to be opened by the person it was addressed to.
Even when it became possible for digital records to be transferred, often older records were never digitised or in some cases were even lost. When online universities went out of business, graduates often found credentials useless.
These “credentials” in the form of transcripts were neither mobile nor easily visible. An unsealed transcript was considered useless (after all, the learner could have tampered with it), and official-looking embossed seals were often the only way they could be verified. Digital credentials might be hard to get, too, and depend on underfunded IT departments and overworked records departments.
What learners and everyone else needed was something that could be viewed easily, was mobile and transportable, and that could be authenticated.
Credential mobility and accessibility
Credential mobility has slowly evolved. Programs like Electronic Transcript Exchange and Parchment allow easier, secure sharing of these documents, Parchment, in particular, enables students to access diplomas, college transcripts, digital badges, and professional certifications all in one place.
However, the student and the institution issuing credentials must share the same platform, and while there are free and inexpensive options, these platforms address only a small part of the challenges both learners and employers face.
However, at least credentials are somewhat mobile through a web portal and accessible, with a free account signup in most instances.
Security and verification
The other issue involves security and verification. The Netflix series Suits is based entirely on a fraudulent Harvard Law graduate, and unfortunately, it’s not that far-fetched. In fact, according to Indeed, 40% of people lie on their resume, and three out of four employers have caught an applicant in a lie. It is no wonder that employers are sceptical of credentials and the old “sealed transcript” held on for so long.
One of the most famous imposters was Ferdinand Demara, who impersonated everyone from a doctor to a lawyer and even performed dental surgery and other surgeries, saving lives during the Korean War despite his lack of medical training. But even as recently as 2016, a young Florida teen faked being a doctor, opened a clinic, and practised medicine without a licence before being caught.
Educators explored solutions like the blockchain, although creating Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) or other permanent, unalterable credentials is quite expensive, and a decentralised system like the blockchain makes fraudulent credentials difficult to detect and debunk easily.
Our answer is Credentialate, the backbone of creating a robust and portable Personal Evidence Record. This technology enables institutions to:
- Create a single source of truth for your skills data from multiple sources
- Surface 21st century and durable skills in a curriculum at scale
- Align skills to known frameworks and give job market context
- Digitally credential achievements in a Personal Evidence Record (PER)
This backbone is the foundation for creating PERs that can be “carried” by learners in digital wallets, accessed by third parties like employers and educators, yet is secure and verifiable through the institutional structure.
There are groups working to implement this technology at scale, including Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC). They are a national and global nonprofit membership organisation that helps make mastery learning – or Competency-Based Education (CBE) – available to all learners.
However, since this approach does not generate “traditional” metrics, they co-create uniquely flexible and scalable learning records that empower learners to showcase competencies and share evidence of their learning despite the unconventional nature of their learning.
This type of thinking enables students smoother learning transitions no matter where the learner is headed next.
While some still maintain the ticket to the middle class and beyond is a college degree, there are all kinds of reasons a learner may not get a degree right after high school – or ever. Many see certificates or community college as an option, but in Utah in the United States, students are pursuing other options that speak directly to the mobility and accessibility of credentials.
Because when we talk about mobility, ideally, this includes across state lines, international borders, and from institution to institution. Lifelong learners should be able to showcase education and skills regardless of where they earned them.
In 2020, the state created the Utah System of Higher Education, combining what had been separate governing bodies overseeing the state’s technical colleges and universities. Technical programs are now required to issue college credits, making the program “stackable” into a degree.
A great example is Weber State, which started as a community college to including a vocational school and finally a university. Through that transition, the administration tried to make moving from one part of the school to the other as seamless as possible. Now, the state of Utah wants to make that possible across all the schools in the state.
The program still has a long way to go. Right now, students and often their counsellors must try to navigate the system to determine what credits are available and how they transfer. However, things are getting better, and often students who receive a certificate come back for additional courses to pursue an associate degree or even a bachelor’s degree.
They are by far not the only ones who are doing this. Melbourne Assessment is a program through the University of Melbourne that “provides next-generation research-based transformative assessment tools, credentials, and services, empowering systems and schools to assess and credential the complex competencies learners need for life.” They are working with schools to create these credentials and make them meaningful for students as they move from one stage of their education to another.
Back in the United States, the Aurora Institute, an advocate for work-based learning, says, “Work-based learning is inherently competency-based, providing students with hands-on opportunities to apply, grow, and demonstrate their skills. Learning and employment records communicate the competencies learners are building over a lifetime, changing the way individuals access education and career opportunities around the world. Work-based learning helps make high school and even middle school more relevant and engaging to a wide range of young people.
And that is really what this tech enablement is all about: mobility and transferability. But this is not just a movement or a dream. It’s rapidly becoming a reality, or at least a potential outcome, for students all around the world.
It starts with K-12 students, and as Edalex explored in this blog post, a system developed for and implemented by Hunter School of the Performing Arts (HSPA) can serve as a model to other schools at many different levels. Learners have immediate visibility into their performance via a Learner Dashboard, one that shows their relationship to other students in their cohort, where they are doing well, where they might need additional help and study, and the skill areas where they are most proficient.
This progressive form of credentialing is not just a concept but is already a reality and something that these students can carry with them for a lifetime. But lifetime learning is about more than portability. It’s about learning that can happen anywhere at any time.
All of your learning counts
Until recently, the learning that counts the most is what you learned in school. Resumes contained large sections where applicants showcased their degrees: after all, what other standard was there? But as Gen X and Millennials have aged and what a career looks like has evolved, the truth is, what matters is more about “what have you done for me lately” rather than the degree a prospective employee earned more than a decade ago.
This is not to say that degrees do not count or have value: as we have seen above, that is not true as many want to decry the death of the four-year degree program. But it does mean that lifelong learning often counts more: the skills gained from earning that degree and the experience the applicant has had in using them matter more.
That’s why even in the HSPA dashboard, there are digital badges that can be earned or even self-reported related to work and learning performed outside of the school environment, from jobs to clubs to extracurricular activities. Because those skills should and do count as well.
The beauty of tech-enabled Next Generation Learning is that it allows those skills to be captured and documented in entirely new ways and shared with educators and potential employers at all levels. The takeaway is that through a robust personal evidence record, a more holistic picture of the learner is created, one they can transport and showcase throughout their lifetime.
In addition, there are other paths, new educational opportunities, and options that have been around for a while and those that are developing as we speak. That benefits educators, learners, and employers and is revolutionising the skills ecosystem and the way we approach education.
Community colleges and vocational education
For a long time, community colleges have been seen, at least in the United States, as a gateway to higher learning for disadvantaged and low-income populations. For those who are not familiar, these colleges offer two-year associate degrees and early college courses, and some even offer certificate and vocational education.
They are ideally positioned in their communities next to the businesses that hire graduates, and many offer alternatives in rural areas where universities and four-year schools are located miles from the learner’s home. However, there have been drawbacks.
First, graduation rates are low, and dropout rates are high. While some feel these may be exaggerated numbers, even the best scenarios tell us that around 75% of those who enter community college do not graduate in a timely manner, if at all. Often this is due to the population they serve: students may have dropped out not because they wanted to, but because finances or other life circumstances compelled them to.
When they do graduate, many do not go on to complete their four-year degree simply because they would have to relocate or cannot afford the higher tuition of a traditional college. Finally, some classes simply do not “count” at certain higher learning institutions, and learners find themselves retaking (and paying for) courses they have already completed.
But tech enablement of next-generation learning is changing all that. Take Weber State which we mentioned before, for example. The automotive vocational program must provide learners with college credit for the program, so if that student wishes to return and pursue another career, they have that option. The same is true of every course or certificate they offer: all of them are stackable into a degree should the learner desire to use them that way.
There are other groups working on ensuring that community college credits are transferable, carry the same weight as four-year university classes, and that learners can showcase the skills they have learned regardless of where the credit came from.
California’s Vision 2030 program aims to do just that in a system with well over 100 community colleges located throughout the state. Systems around the United States are working on similar initiatives.
These colleges are ripe to be a part of the tech enablement of next-generation learners, and with the support of state and local governments, this underutilised resource could become one of the cornerstones for the advancement of skills-based learning and credentials that can be stacked to form degrees. But more importantly, this can be a place where learners can add skills evidence to their PER whether or not they graduate.
For low-income and disadvantaged populations, not to mention simply those who reside in remote areas, community colleges could offer a viable path to greater career success. These colleges have been around for a long time, but tech enablement offers them new opportunities to take advantage of their community connections.
But while community colleges are established pathways that could be better utilised, a new tech boom is seeing the need for and embracing tech enablement.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and rapid innovation
Business consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton has a VP of Artificial intelligence. And his number one concern? “What I’m seeing evolve – and we’re doing this within our own job taxonomy now – is we’re acknowledging that there’s a technical side to AI but there’s actually a much larger side on AI workforce, AI adoption, AI consultant, for lack of better terms,” John Rohner said, pointing to a set of employees focused on adoption, responsible AI, and change management.
But generative AI jumped onto companies’ radar earlier this year, and few have had a chance to really come to terms with how it will integrate with their company, let alone how to hire for positions that did not exist only months ago.
Booz Allen is approaching firm-wide AI upskilling through an “AI Ready” training program and through the firm’s internal “badging program,” which offers recognitions like an “AI Expert.”. But despite upskilling and hiring AI talent “as fast as we can,” Rohner said. “I still don’t have enough.”
That’s where the nonprofit, AI Education Project (aiEDU), comes in. They are focused on creating “equitable learning experiences that build foundational AI literacy.” But there is little agreement on where and how AI should be introduced into education.
“In a world where we have tools that are basically going to supplement the need for content knowledge, and broadly speaking, technical knowledge, what are going to be the differentiating skills that students are going to need?” CEO Alex Kotran said, pointing to a need to highlight both computational thinking and “softer skills” like creative and critical thinking and interpersonal skills.
The next generation of learners will not receive their education in the same way any other generation has. However, according to Kotran, “Zooming out, the more important core skill is this orientation toward lifelong learning. In the context of AI, it’s really a licence to constantly explore and try to understand new tools, and figure out how they can be applied to whatever domain kids are interested in.”
In other words, as we need more AI experts, we also need to learn what that means and what skills are transferable from other occupations. And upskilling and cross-skilling workers must happen quickly to fill a need not even realised a year ago.
The tech enablement of education makes this type of rapid adaptation possible. But while there are many stakeholders in the skills ecosystem that benefit from these changes, the greatest beneficiary is the learner.
My competency, skills and mobility – building confidence
Tech enablement is a large topic, and in a few short years, what we thought might be a far-off future has arrived. Learner and Personal Evidence Records have changed, and the resume as we know it may soon be a thing of the past. But so will some of the clunky parts of verifying education, experience, and skills.
For learners, the benefits are many. First, learners can understand better what they actually know. What are their core skills and competencies? What do they really bring to the table? Rather than guessing what the employer might be looking for, tools like Rich Skills Descriptors (RSDs) paired with more robust evidence records can give learners new confidence. They can say without doubt, “Yes, I can do that. Not only can I do that, but I can prove my skills before you hire me.”
This is a game-changer. Robust and portable evidence records also mean learners can showcase skills and education instantly, avoiding long and often tedious verification processes. Not only that, but they can land a job based on their skills even before they graduate, increasing their earning potential and the likelihood that they will finish their education.
Learners not only gain more confidence, but so too can employers. They can know a candidate is qualified and prevent wasting precious time and hours training someone only to have them leave or simply not fit the offered position.
Tech-enabled next-generation learning is here. From educators to employers, from learners to earners and lifelong learners, the way we showcase what we have learned and the skills we possess is forever changed. It’s up to us to shape the direction of education going forward. Because we’re at the dawn of a bright new day, not one that will be without challenges, but one where we are better prepared to meet them than we ever have been.
How Credentialate provides a new perspective
As the world’s first Credential Evidence Platform, Credentialate helps you discover and share evidence of workplace skills. It creates a highly interoperable skills infrastructure that connects, collates and creates order from chaotic or dark data. It identifies skills in the curriculum, maps them to globally recognised skill definitions and aligns to frameworks.
Institutions can manage and track skills attainment across the institution, against frameworks and see where improvements can be made. For each learner, a personal evidence record is created – as unique as every learners’ journey.
Rich skills information, qualitative and quantitative performance data and links to artefacts of learning are baked into a verifiable digital badge that can be shared. This gives learners the confidence to speak to their strengths, the evidence to prove it and boosts their employability by sending a ‘ready-to-hire’ signal.
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