How To Transform Business Education with Alternative Credentials and Employer Partnerships

    Discover how business schools within higher education institutions can transform education with alternative credentials and employer partnerships. Explore the rise of alternative credentials, integration strategies, and steps to establish productive partnerships.
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     Business schools collaborating with employers to form partnerships as part of a digital credentialing strategy  Education with Alternative Credentials and Employer Partnerships

    With the cost of student loans increasing and no guarantee of return on investment, there is a growing awareness and discussion about the effectiveness of the current higher education system in adequately equipping students for the demands of the modern workplace. In fact, a recent survey showed that 70% of senior business leaders do not believe it does. In response, higher education institutions are experimenting with various approaches to address the challenges, and alternative credentials have emerged as a growing solution.

    In this blog post, we will discuss how business schools within higher education institutions can capitalize on the increasing popularity of alternative credentials by collaborating with employers to provide added value to students.

    Alternative Credentials on The Rise

    Alternative credentials verify, validate, and attest that the learner has achieved specific skills and/or competencies. They differ from traditional degrees and certificates because they are generally offered in shorter or more flexible timespans. Alternative credentials can be offered online, in the classroom, or a combination of both.

    There are three main types of alternative credentials: certificates, digital badges and microcredentials. According to a December 2023 report that studied nearly 100 UPCEA members representing institutions focused on online and continuing education, 94% said their institution offers alternative credentials. A poll from the MBA Roundtable also shows that 64% of business schools currently provide alternative credentials and 71% view them as a critical strategy. 

    Alternative credentials have become increasingly popular due to their convenience, adaptability, and practical applicability.

    Alternative credentials allow business schools to offer additional value for credit courses by providing detailed metadata and information associated with digital badges. These badges allow students to clearly and verifiably demonstrate the skills and competencies they have acquired during the course, which can provide targeted expertise tailored to specific industries or career paths they may aspire to pursue after their studies. 

    The Rise of Alternative Credentials in Hiring’ report found that people who hold alternative credentials bring value to the workplace, according to executives (87%), supervisors (81%), and especially HR professionals (90%).

    According to a recent study led by Pearson VUE, 92% of individuals with digital credentials are more confident in their abilities.

    Integrating Alternative Credentials into Your Strategy Through Partnership

    In pursuing education, students are placing a substantial emphasis on enhancing their employability. Concurrently, employers increasingly value skills beyond traditional degrees, emphasizing soft skills like critical thinking and communication. Engaging in direct collaboration with employers stands out as one of the most direct approaches to pinpointing and providing students with the most relevant and sought-after skills in the current job market.

    With the help of digital credentials, students can showcase their skills and knowledge in the workplace, setting them apart from their peers. Here are three essential steps to establish a productive partnership with employers using digital badges.

    Step 1: Strategic Planning and Team Formation

    In this initial step, a dedicated team is strategically formed to champion digital credentials. Comprising individuals from within and outside the institution, this team focuses on creating a harmonious credential ecosystem. Key to this process is the inclusion of employers who understand the industry's skill requirements. By aligning internal processes with employer expectations, the collaborative effort ensures that the developed credentials meet the needs of both learners and the workforce.

    The team may also include a limited number of industry champions serving as external validators. These participants, such as workforce development professionals, public and private partners, and community-based organizations, contribute valuable insights to refine the strategy. Once finalized, the credentialing champions establish a common goal and language, ensuring a targeted approach that directly links education with workforce needs.

    ‘'Organizing a core group of credential advocates—both within the university and among external partners—is one of the most impactful parts of our journey. These individuals are both points of contact and crucial sources of energy and expertise for our new initiative.”

    - Dr Darien Rossiter Project Lead, 21 CC Initiative Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

    Step 2: Credential Development and Marketing

    The next step focuses on developing a credential program, the skills gaps and competencies identified earlier by the working group form the foundation of this system.

    Selecting a reliable digital credentialing platform is crucial. Based on the agreed-upon goal, outline key features required, such as platform integration, analytics, and global security measurement. [Access your checklist for choosing the right platform]

    Then, define the badge structure and taxonomy, considering granularity and whether credentials are stackable. Draft short narratives for each credential, emphasizing the importance of the competency. These narratives become metadata within the digital credential, aiding external understanding.

    Once credential details are finalized, effectively market and communicate these benefits to stakeholders for a seamless adoption process, ensuring tangible advantages for both learners and employers.

    Don't worry if you need help developing or reviewing your program. Check out our Credentialing Mastery Assessment. It will thoroughly analyze three key areas of your organization's credentialing strategy and provide suggestions for improvement.

    Step 3: Continuous Improvement and Analysis

    The journey towards workforce-relevant digital credentials doesn't end with issuance. Institutions must recognize the importance of continuous improvement through after-action reviews.

    With any review, institutional leaders should consider a blend of expectations, process considerations, and outcomes, including:

    • What was expected to happen?
    • What actually occurred?
    • What went well and why?
    • What can be improved and how?

    Areas to be assessed may include:

    • Implementation Process: Assess the efficiency of the processes involved in developing, issuing, and managing credentials.
    • Stakeholder Feedback: Gather feedback from various stakeholders, including learners, employers, and educators, to understand their experiences in the digital credential ecosystem.
    • Acceptance Rates: Review the badge acceptance rate to determine the popularity and understanding of the value of the badges among students.
    • Cost and Resource Efficiency: Evaluate the cost-effectiveness and resource efficiency of the digital credential initiatives.
    • Alignment with Educational Goals: Assess how well the digital credentials align with the educational goals and mission of the institution.

    By identifying areas of enhancement, institutions pave the way for scalability, ensuring that the benefits of digital credentials extend across the entire educational landscape.

    The collaboration between higher education institutions and employers in developing and utilizing digital credentials represents a significant paradigm shift. Through strategic planning, focused team efforts, and continuous improvement, institutions are not only meeting the workforce's demands but actively shaping the future of education. This evolution empowers learners with credentials that truly bridge the gap between education and employment, fostering a new era of career-ready graduates.

    To learn how digital credentials can enhance your school's success, download our whitepaper. Our comprehensive guide explores different strategies for integrating digital credentials into business programs.






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