Study: Alternative credentials here to stay, but evidence of ROI 'thin'
- A new study from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences examines the growing field of alternative credentials and pathway options for academic degrees, including MOOCs and online micro-credentials, labor market training programs, and competency-based education programs and certificate programs.
- The number of alternative degree options has increased drastically over the last 15 years. These programs are popular because they can be flexible, time-saving and more aligned with employer-desired skills than traditional postsecondary pathways. However, the study also shows that evidence of their actual efficacy and quality assurance is thin.
- Though traditional postsecondary degrees are likely to maintain their value, they are already adapting to incorporate alternative characteristics, like online learning. The study's authors urge higher education stakeholders to research alternative options, and consider whether and how they are offering students significant return on investment, Campus Technology reports.
The profile of the "traditional" college student has vastly changed. Student bodies are now more diverse, older, and have different responsibilities, a reality which demands that not only campuses, but higher education leaders adapt their business models. The new AAAS study further validates the idea of "disruptive innovation," which, among other things, means more flexible, cheaper, shorter degree options, which has given rise to trends like online learning through MOOCs and skill-centric certificate programs.
But even so, such credential options still have little evidence of offering the same quality assurance and success in the workforce as the traditional two or four year degree, as data regarding their features, costs, and enrollment is still lacking. Higher ed may find that more partnerships between traditional degree-granting institutions and some of these alternative providers may be beneficial to both institution types. As administrators try to adapt to meet the needs of new generations of students, there is much to be gleaned from the flexibility and trend towards unbundling program offerings, which is already available with many of the alternative providers.
- Campus Technology Evidence of ROI for Alternative Credentials 'Weak'
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