The Incremental Credentialing Framework Strategies are not exclusive of each other. Many incremental credentials implement multiple of these strategies. For example, skill development that follows “Learn As You Go” may also build into other credentials using “Stack As You Go” approaches.

 

Key Definitions

 

Incremental Credentials capture learning as it is acquired along learning pathway to formally recognize that learning. Incremental credentials can be non-credit or credit-bearing; undergraduate or graduate; or of any size from small units of learning to entire degree programs.  The purpose of incremental credentials is to ensure that learners are recognized for what they know and can do as they acquire the learning and not leave learners without formal documentation of that learning. 

 

Incremental Credentialing is the overall design and process used to develop and connect credentials to further learning and employment.

Key Questions to Consider in Designing Incremental Credentials

 

  1. Which incremental credentials already exist at your institution?
    1. How do you know which incremental credentials exist at your institution? 
    2. Do you have a database inventory of all credentials? Other ways to identify? 
    3. Do non-credit and credit credentials exist in separate systems of information?
    4. What could be some next steps that expand upon these credentials?
    5. What are some related credentials that still need to be developed?
  2. How do your current credentials align with the Framework? 
    1. What do you want to continue to develop? 
    2. Which areas do you want to expand?
    3. Which newer areas can you now develop?
  3. Which certificates or degrees could be re-defined to create additional incremental credentials?
    1. How could an existing program be re-defined into smaller credentials? 
    2. Which introductory parts of an existing credential could be recombined to give entry points for learners?
    3. Which pre-requisite skills are addressed across multiple programs that could be combined to create entry points for learners?
    4. Are there some transition skills that are needed to move from one program to another? What are they?
    5. What are some transition skills that are needed to move from school to work? Or from work to school?
    6. Which industries or business associations could partner to strengthen skill development of learners? To integrate workplace learning with academic learning?

 

Understanding the Strategies

  1. Learn As You Go
  2. Add On As You Go
  3. Stack As You Go
  4. Transfer As You Go
  5. Partner As You Go
  6. Retro Award As You Go

 

Learn As You Go

 

Incremental credentials stand on their own, connected or unconnected to a degree, to prepare individuals for up-skilling, re-skilling, or developing new skills in specific workplace areas.

 

Strategies

  • Skills development targets specific employability areas
  • Entry skills for a degree program and/or employment
  • Skill development builds upon existing skills  
  • Prior learning is tied to new learning (upskilling, reskilling)

 

Examples

  • Training for specific entry-level or more advanced skills (e.g., customer service, management, manufacturing)
  • Skills development for employability (e.g., computer skills, writing skills, math skills)
  • Skills build upon prior learning 

 

Things to Consider

  • Industry Considerations
  • Skills Mapping
    • Which skills are needed for key employment opportunities?
    • Which skills are needed for advancement?
    • Which skills are already being taught in programs (non-credit and credit)?
  • How do prior skills fit into reskilling and upskilling?

 

Why Use This Strategy

  • Provides learners opportunities to return and keep developing skills
  • Provides learners entry points into programs
  • May offer more rapid entry to or upward mobility within employment

 

Add On As You Go

 

Incremental credentials are obtained for specializations that add onto a degree or employment pathway (could be credit or non-credit); may not necessarily be planned as part of the pathway.

 

Strategies

  • Specialized skills in a field
  • Minor area for a degree
  • Additional licenses, certifications, certificates, or other credentials recognized in the field  

 

Examples

  • Skills development for workplace advancements (e.g., HR for Managers)
  • Specialized licenses, certifications, or other recognized specializations (e.g., SHRM certification)
  • Additional majors or minors for programs (e.g., Entrepreneurship for Business Majors)

 

Things to Consider

  • What are specialized areas that your programs could support?
  • What skill areas do employers need to advance their employees?
  • Which formally recognized credentials are available to provide learners that are connected to your programs?

 

Why Use This Strategy

  • Provides learners with additional employability areas
  • Helps learners connect their field with additional areas
  • Provides opportunities for learners to return and develop additional skills, often in a faster timeline than skills acquired through a degree program 

 

Stack As You Go

 

Incremental credentials add together or stack into larger credentials including degrees, which are strategically planned into credentialing pathways. 

 

Strategies

  • Badges lead to Microcredentials lead to Certificates lead to Degrees
  • Non-credit to credit bridges
  • Transition credentials from one degree to the next

 

Examples

  • Entry level microcredential designed to feed into one or more associate degrees (e.g., microcredential in basic electricity leads to manufacturing associate degree)
  • Incremental credential designed to transition an associate degree into a bachelor’s degree (e.g., microcredential in basic management adds onto a technical associate degree and stacks into a business degree)
  • A bachelor’s degree is re-designed into multiple microcredentials that accumulate into a degree (e.g., bachelor’s degree in business administration is re-designed into three microcredentials plus general education courses)
  • A graduate certificate added to a microcredential, along with a few more courses, become a master’s degree (graduate certificate in urban planning, plus a microcredential in sustainable development, plus additional courses stack into a master’s program in community and economic development) 

 

Things to Consider

  • How do skills build along a pathway? What are the skills that are dependent on previous skills and lead into the next level?
  • What programs can be modularized to provide students with more entry and exit points?
  • What are the transition points between degrees?
  • What are the skills that learners develop in the workplace that can be integrated into a pathway?

 

Why Use This Strategy

  • Provides students obtainable credentials on the way to a degree 
  • Helps students transition from one credential to the next
  • Encourages students to return and continue to build to a larger credential

 

Transfer As You Go

 

Incremental credentials are designed to transfer across institutions, and can be a potential cost-sharing mechanism (students cross-register to another institution for a specialty not offered at the home institution).

 

Strategies

  • Transfer pathway from one credential to the next across institutions
  • Transfer pathway from undergraduate to graduate
  • Transfer from same level credential to another across institutions for content areas not offered by one of the institutions

 

Examples

  • Associate level to bachelor’s level (e.g., microcredential in business fundamentals goes toward associate degree and is part of a transfer pathway into a bachelor’s degree)
  • Bachelor’s level to Master’s level (e.g., certificate in human resources management goes toward a bachelor’s degree and is part of a transfer pathway into a master’s degree)
  • Transfer agreement between two baccalaureate programs for a specialty area (e.g., microcredential in museum studies is offered at institution A and built into an art and history degree at institution B through an articulation agreement)

 

Things to Consider

  • How can academic programs work together across departments, degree levels, or institutions to create a transfer pathway incorporating incremental credentials?
  • What cost savings can be achieved by sharing resources across departments, degree levels, or institutions?

 

Why Use This Strategy

  • Supports persistence and completion by developing integrated pathways across the levels of credentials
  • Enables cost sharing when pathways extend across departments, degree levels, and/or institutions

 

Partner As You Go

 

Incremental credentials prepare for and include field-expected credentials for work, as well as work-related credentials that are accepted into credentialing pathways, developed in conjunction with business/industry partner(s).

 

Strategies

  • Integrate evaluated workplace learning, training, licenses, or certifications into a credentialing pathway
  • Embed the acquisition of workplace credentials into the credential pathway in partnership with industry 

 

Examples

  • Evaluate workplace training and embed within a credential pathway (e.g., manager training provided by an industry partner is evaluated, and the results become core to a microcredential, certificate, or degree in management) 
  • Provide the preparation for a national certification as part of the credential outcomes (e.g., outcomes from business pathway mapped directly to the SHRM certification)
  • Gain industry approval for awarding professional certification as part of the academic programming (e.g., Cisco certifications gained within technology programs)

 

Things to Consider

  • Which industry partners provide training or require licenses or certifications that align with academic pathways?
  • Which industry partners require knowledge and skills that can be supported by existing or new academic pathways?
  • Map workplace knowledge and skills to academic learning outcomes within academic pathways 

 

Why Use This Strategy

  • Partnerships with industries can provide a pipeline of learners into the institution and a pipeline of workers back into industry
  • Learners do not have to repeat learning for areas that they already know, increasing persistence and completion while decreasing costs and time to completion 
  • Students are more marketable 
  • Many learners have educational benefits that can be used toward a program, which goes further when workplace learning is applied to academic pathways

Retro Award As You Go

 

Incremental credentials are awarded for learning already acquired but not yet credentialed. 

 

Strategies

  • Create different-length credentials other than the traditional degrees
  • Develop field-specific credentials that capture learning acquired in smaller increments
  • Create individualized credentials that capture what a learner has already acquired

 

Examples

  • Create credentials in high attrition areas (e.g., credential STEM courses completed successfully, credential social science and humanity courses)
  • Create a general education credential (e.g., microcredential in general education)
  • Create equivalent credentials (e.g., a two-year credential at a 4-year institution equivalent to an associate degree)
  • Create a self-designed credential that captures learning already acquired (e.g., degree audit against criteria set for credentials)

 

Things to Consider

  • Develop criteria for different types of credentials 
  • Examine patterns of attrition based on studies completed
  • Design a general education credential that can be used to capture learning already acquired 
  • Use degree audits to capture learning already acquired to meet new credentials
  • Develop criteria that could be used to design a non-degree credential

 

Why Use This Strategy

  • Provides learners with credentials for what they already know and can do
  • Provides pathways toward degree completion, encouraging learners to complete a degree
  • Links general education studies with many different fields and industries

Improving Education and Employment Outcomes