Higher education has entered a new frontier. Traditionally, students seeking professional careers have pursued degree programs. But now, digital credentials are becoming the desired path. After all, they cost less, take less time, are more accessible, and prepare new students and life-long learners for many industries. Therefore, to remain competitive, institutions of higher learning are adopting an attitude of not if, but when to offer alternative credentials. Here’s what provosts can do to help their schools make the change to digital badges successful.
1. Consider the Competition for Student Enrollment
To begin with, provosts should help their school leadership understand that the competition for students is already here. Out of necessity, companies like Google, IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft are becoming educators. They are frustrated with the workforce that is not keeping up with the required credentials and skills. As a result, corporations are creating their own certification courses, digital badges, micro-credentials, and other quicker, more relevant programs. With these programs, they are recruiting, training, and upskilling their employees. Consequently, colleges and universities are seeing lower enrollment rates. Therefore, they should consider the change to digital badges.
2. Prepare for Change to Digital Badges
To make this change, provosts need to create an industry council to design courses for digital badges and stackable credentials. These courses can be two-fold. On the one hand, this council can transform current degree program curricula into smaller, bite-size digital badges. At the same time, they can build digital badges from the ground up. This council should research current needs within industries. They should also project future needs to design relevant, marketable digital badges that both students and companies will flock to.
3. Provosts Can Partner or Compete Against Corporations for Digital Badges
As this research happens, provosts need to help schools decide if they should partner with or compete against corporations. On the one hand, companies can produce — and are creating — a digital badge system. Or, universities can design courses for and with them. By choosing to partner, schools capitalize on a company’s reputation, and it could attract more students and revenue. A partnership also allows the council to work hand in hand with industry decision-makers, resulting in digital badges that stay current. Most importantly, global corporations are already partnering with community colleges and universities to offer credit-bearing alternative credentials. These companies include tech giants like Salesforce and Facebook and industry leaders like Amazon and Google.
4. Create the Infrastructure for Digital Badges
Additionally, provosts need to help develop university-wide effective practices for creating digital credential programs. This initiative can take the form of pilot programs to assess their success and modify them as needed. Regarding the industry council, its members will develop curricula based on the key competencies identified. Besides that, they will award badges for each skill completed, creating bundles of skills that can lead to certifications or degrees.
5. Provosts Support Leadership While Transitioning to Alternatives Credentials
Moreover, provosts need to support those who are leading the changes to alternative credentials. They can design plans and empower leadership to defend the need for digital badges. Leaders will also need help seeking out and supporting teaching talent. Similarly, they will be designing accessible and valuable programs and finding ways to verify and document learning. Furthermore, leaders will need support from provosts in building awareness of these new programs. Moreover, provosts can help other school leaders maintain high standards of integrity and excellence as they develop and publicize alternative credentials.
6. Analyze and Promote the Success of Digital Badges
Finally, provosts must be prepared to use data analytics to assess and then promote the accomplishments of their schools’ digital badging programs. For example, they can analyze success by surveying students, employers, teachers, and graduates. With the information provosts gain, they should promote the value of alternative credentials to potential and continuing students and employers. They should emphasize how digital badges can help students position themselves for career opportunities and give them a competitive advantage. Similarly, provosts can Illustrate how these programs benefit corporations that collaborate with schools.
In summary, digital badges are the future of higher education. To remain competitive, schools should offer these credentials along with their traditional degree programs. Lastly, by adopting the above strategies, provosts can help their colleges or universities prepare and transition to digital badging.