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Podcast: What’s Needed for the Future of Work Part 2


Continuing our discussion with Dr. Nan Travers, Director, Center for Leadership in Credentialing Learning (CL2) SUNY Empire State College, we dive into what’s needed for the future of work.

Listen to the full interview here:


Susan Manning:                   Welcome to the Credly podcast, where we touch base with our issuers, earners, and partners, and explore themes of interest in digital credentialing. I'm Susan Manning. In an earlier episode, I shared part of my conversation with Dr. Nan Travers, Director for the Center for Leadership in Credentialing Learning at Empire State College. Nan and I discussed some of her work with frameworks for adult learning competencies and the importance of self-assessment. We continue that conversation now and more explicitly discuss what's needed for the future of work. Here's Nan.

Nan Travers:                           Some very current work I'm doing, we have had a project through a grant working with a charter adult school, and so I've had again another faculty team working with me, and we've taken another set of frameworks, both on industry side and on higher education side with the question of, "What competencies are being listed as being essential for higher education, and which competencies are essential for the workplace?" If you look at the commonality across the two of them, what we also found is that many of the frameworks are really saying the same thing, but saying it slightly differently, or they're emphasizing some other kinds of pieces. For example, one might say decision-making. One might say creativity, but creativity often is meant around being able to do it around decision-making, not just being creative for the sake of being creative, and therefore if you pair them together, you start to get a little bit bigger picture. We've come up with seven different competency clusters, and we have just written curriculum to go with those, and self-assessment is a big piece of this.

If you can get people to take their experiences, integrate it into new learning, and be looking at how that, in combination, gets applied to future learning, then we're preparing people for all kinds of things. The question becomes, how do we start to focus our students in getting, in preparing for the ability to transfer what they know and what they can do to all new learning, whether it's in the workplace, whether it's in additional education, or if it's in the homeplace. That's where some of our emphasis is going, which really starts to put prior learning assessment as an integrated part of the learning process, not this thing that's for getting credit so that you can, not check something off on your degree.

It's been focused so much over there, yet if you look at the research in terms of what people are gaining out of that process, and there's not a lot of research, but the research that's there really points to people developing better study skills. They have a better understanding of themselves. They develop the self-regulated skills, being able to do, to access tacit knowledge, these kinds of things, which are, again, within that category of what we look for in a really good student or a really good worker. If we can really think about that, the process of what we've learned from prior learning assessment, and start to think about how that integrates into the whole learning process, then I think we start to think about it from a much holistic way.

What this also does is, it starts us to start to think about the way in which prior learning assessment can play a part in the competency-based education arena and also in the micro-credentialing badging arena. When we start to think about source doesn't matter, but what matters is, can you articulate what you know? Can you self-assess that? Are you able to draw on the competencies that you've developed and look in the ways that that starts to apply to these different situations, or different knowledge, or additional knowledge? That's what we're trying to support, and therefore, how do we build systems to do that?

Susan Manning:                   Where do badges fit into that?

Nan Travers:                           Well, here, we're calling them micro-credentials. We're designing a few of them here in which the prior knowledge gets recognized and built into, so if we build them as a competency-based process, then they're able to bring in the prior learning as part of the documentation of how they have met the competencies. Right now, the typical thing is, you do a portfolio, you get it assessed, you get the credits, you fit it into your degree. That might be partially there, but if we define the knowledge in such a way that if you've already gained this knowledge and you demonstrate it maybe through the portfolio, but that can count towards meeting those competencies. The assessment of the learning doesn't have to be connected to the source of the learning. Your source can come in in these different ways, but you still have to document that you have the knowledge. You just don't have to do it in these segmented pieces.

Susan Manning:                   Do digital credentials or digital badges then become the documentation ...

Nan Travers:                           Yes, exactly.

Susan Manning:                   Are those, eventually, do you foresee those micro-credentials, badges, whatever you want to call them, giving students an additional boost in terms of the language they need to describe what they know, what they've learned, what they can-

Nan Travers:                           Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Susan Manning:                   ... do?

Nan Travers:                           I think that the process should be building that in. Students don't know how to do this before they walk in the door, and so the process needs to be designed in such a way that the students, they learn how to talk about their learning, they learn how to document their learning as they're going through the process. That's, I think that's where our guides have really highlighted this for us is that our faculty kept saying, "This is the right thing to do." Then as we stop and look at, "Okay, what have we done, and what are we seeing in terms of the samples of students that have been using them," is really seeing, "Oh, they're actually learning how to think about this and how to document it." Then those students who've gone on and done additional portfolios, we're seeing that they get better and better at it.

It really struck me about how one of the things we learned to do in our lives is to self-regulate to the environment and to the cues that we're getting in the environment, so if the environment, whether it be in school or in the workplace, if you're in an environment where you are being told all the time what to do, and you're supposed to follow those directions, then those that do well are the ones that switch to that. One of the problems is, is if that's all you're ever used to, then when you get into other environments, you don't have as many of the skills to be able to now self-regulate and make more decision-making. When we think about the demands of the workforce and we look at the future of work, it does require much higher self-regulated learners, and yet we're really designed still very much, in both in primary and secondary education and in higher education, when we look at the way that the typical design is, we just reinforce students to rely on other people for all the feedback.

Susan Manning:                   All of that research also supports the idea that it's not about the technical skills or the content knowledge as much as it is about being able to regulate, to self-assess, to learn, to adapt. Yeah.

Nan Travers:                           Exactly.

Susan Manning:                   Thank you for listening to this portion of my conversation with Nan Travers. In what ways does your work lead learners to self-assess, self-regulate, and translate those competencies to the workplace? Thank you, listeners, for joining us. If you'd like to suggest upcoming topics, feel free to write us at