What makes a credential valuable? How does that value vary for different stakeholders, including learners, higher education institutions and employers? What constitutes quality, and how are credentials connected to each other and to opportunities for the people who have earned them?

Credentials Drive the Knowledge Economy

Credentials have rapidly evolved in recent years to meet the needs of our knowledge economy. By 2020, 65% of jobs will require postsecondary education or training. But the lack of transparency and comparability among credentials is causing confusion and mistrust that inhibit the development of valuable ecosystems among stakeholders. Individuals don’t know which credentials will help them get good jobs and advance their careers. Employers can’t find employees with the skills they need. Educational institutions have trouble transparently articulating what their credentials represent. And these stakeholders often disagree about what credentials mean and how they are related to each other.

Bringing Clarity to Credentials

Open standards for credential transparency can help address these issues. One particular tool is now available through a nonprofit organization called Credential Engine. Their Credential Registry provides practical structures for describing credentials, the institutions that issue them, and the quality assurance organizations that back them. The Registry launched on December 7, with submissions of over 1,500 credential listings from universities, colleges, training organizations and associations that award a wide variety of credentials. These include degrees, certificates, industry certifications, licenses and badges. The Registry’s listings also include detailed information about the quality assurance organizations that accredit, approve and/or endorse these credentialing organizations.

The Credential Registry provides the first of its kind open-standards-based system to collect, search and compare credentials. It offers free, public access to credential information through web-based, open-licensed services and apps. Credentialing organizations have the opportunity to provide accurate, transparent, standardized listings of the credentials they award. Employers can then use the registry to understand what’s included in credentials, so that they can make informed hiring decisions. Learners likewise have more information to make choices about which credentials are most useful for their own career pathways.

Open Standards for Credential Transparency

Transparency is a critical dimension of credential quality. To promote transparency, the credentials in the Registry are described using the open standard Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL). All of the credential listings include the same required metadata and use the same format for optional and additional information about the credentials. This provides not only consistency within the Registry, but also interoperability with other systems and standards. For example, related open standard credentialing formats such as IMS Global’s Extended Transcript and Open Badges can reference Registry listings, such that when a learner receives a verified academic record in the form of a digital Extended Transcript or Open Badge, that record is connected to the full body of related information about that credential in the Registry.

Our Commitment to Improving the Credentialing Ecosystem

At Learning Objects, we collaborate on standards-based initiatives like the Credential Registry, Extended Transcripts and Open Badges because they support ecosystems where stakeholders can more easily communicate the value of credentials. We can help educational institutions articulate what’s included in their credentials; learners make decisions about which credentials to pursue; employers signal which credentials they endorse; and government agencies and industry associations promote valuable, relevant credentials.