Initiatives: Alternative Credentials

Alternative credentials offer institutions a way to validate a range of knowledge, skills, and abilities students have developed, deepening the level of information otherwise provided through student transcripts or resumes. Well-designed alternative credentials help students to articulate their skills and academic accomplishments and make visible, through digital badging or other means, the specific learning outcomes students have achieved, what artifacts students produced to demonstrate their learning, and how those outcomes were assessed.

Within this area of focus, the Kirwan Center has been leading the Badging Essential Skills for Transitions (B.E.S.T.) initiative, which is designed to more clearly communicate graduates’ career-ready skills to employers through digital badging. B.E.S.T. focuses on eight essential career-ready skills—Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Globalism, Interculturalism, Leadership, Problem Solving, and Professionalism—and is a system-wide, scalable approach to career preparation that maximizes the value of curricular and co-curricular opportunities already available to students. Nine USM institutions are currently involved in the initiative.

The Kirwan Center has also formed a strategic partnership with Portfolium to pilot their BadgeLink tool through B.E.S.T.  BadgeLink will be used to help institutional teams build scaffolded badge earning pathways, support students’ own collection and curation of evidence, foster student self-reflection, enable rigorous assessment at scale, and ensure consistency of quality across programs/institutions.

Also within this area of focus, the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) has piloted a digital “extended” transcript, which help students better demonstrate their competency vis-à-vis defined learning outcomes and allows employers to understand the skills and knowledge that potential employees have gained through their college experience.

Our Work in Alternative Credentials

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January 26, 2018

As a way to help bridge the gap between students’ accomplishments in college and their workplace readiness, the USM Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation is working with institutions within the System to develop digital badges that will help students choose experiences aimed at developing career-ready skills and better communicate what they know and are able to do once they enter the world of work.

June 19, 2017

Traditional transcripts provide basic information about the courses students took: course names, dates of the course, credit earned, and grades.  What traditional transcripts don’t provide is more in-depth information on the skills students learned and their competency in these skills.  In Fall 2016, the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) piloted a digital “extended transcript” to better reflect student’s progress and competency of defined learning outcomes.  UMUC is one of twelve institutions around the country to take part in a $1.27 million Lumina Foundation grant to participate in the Comprehensive Student Record Project, a partnership between the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, to develop different models to track students’ academic progress.