Credential As You Go Co-Leads Nan Travers and Holly Zanville on EdUp Experience Podcast

Incremental Credentialing Key Terms

See the Credential As You Go Dictionary for key terms, concepts, and context related to incremental credentials. The following terms have been selected from the larger Key Definitions document. It should be noted, there are multiple definitions for many of these terms; i.e., there is no common standard definition for these terms.

CREDENTIAL − Documented award by a responsible and authorized body that attests that an individual has achieved specific learning outcomes or attained a defined level of knowledge or skill relative to a given standard. Credential, in this context, is an umbrella term that includes degrees, diplomas, licenses, certificates, badges, and professional and industry certifications. [Connecting Credentials – Glossary of Credentialing Terminology, June 2016]

CREDENTIAL AS YOU GO − Title of a national initiative working toward a nationally recognized transferrable incremental credential system that increases the number of high-quality, post-high school credentials that lead to further education and employment. The system captures and verifies learning that is currently uncounted, enabling individuals to be recognized for what they know and can do as they acquire it; provides pathways for learners to continue their education, increasing their ability to gain higher credentials and better employment. [Credential As You Go, 2022]

INCREMENTAL CREDENTIALS −Capture learning as it is acquired along the learning pathway and formally recognizes and connects that learning to a larger context. Incremental credentials can be non-credit or credit-bearing; undergraduate or graduate level; of any size, from small units of learning up through degrees. The purpose of incremental credentials is to ensure 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. [Credential As You Go, 2022]

INCREMENTAL CREDENTIALING −Overall design and process used to develop and connect credentials to further learning and employment. [Credential As You Go, 2022]

INCREMENTAL CREDENTIALING FRAMEWORK −Developed through a 2019-21 planning, research, and testing project in a Lumina Foundation grant (Credential As You Go, Phase I). Developed from an environmental scan, prototyping, and feedback from national leaders, the Framework six approaches of credentialing that can be used to design incremental credentials: The Framework includes auto-awarding of credentials to reduce the additional step students typically go through to apply for a credential or graduation, plus a focus on prior learning assessment. [Credential As You Go]

Other Common Terminology

Credential As You Go considers these different types of credentials as incremental.

ALTERNATIVE CREDENTIALS − Competencies, skills, and learning outcomes derived from assessment-based, non-degree activities that align to specific, timely needs in the workforce. [Pearson/UPCEA – the University Professional and Continuing Education Association]

MICROCREDENTIAL −(1) a record of focused learning achievement verifying what the learner knows, understands, or can do; (2) includes an assessment based on clearly defined standards and is awarded by a trusted provider; (3) has stand-alone value and may also contribute to or complement other micro-credentials or macro-credentials, including through recognition of prior learning; and (4) meets the standards required by relevant quality assurance. (Credential Engine, 2022).

NON-DEGREE CREDENTIALS − Non-degree credentials include certificates, industry certifications, apprenticeship educational certificates, occupational licenses, and digital badges. (Non-degree Credentials Research Network, 2021)

STACKABLE CREDENTIALS −Part of a sequence of credentials that can be accumulated over time to build up an individual’s qualifications and help them to move along a career pathway or up a career ladder to different and potentially higher-paying jobs. Stackable credentials can be viewed as building blocks where each short-term credential that a person earns builds into a higher-level credential. There are 4 types of stackable credentials:

  • Traditional or progressive stackable credentials follow a linear path where a student earns a short-term credential (e.g., certificate) and continues their education by pursuing a higher-level credential (e.g., associate’s and/or bachelor’s degree).
  • Supplemental or value-add stackable credentials do not follow a linear path, but still allow a student to enter and exit the higher education system as needed. A ‘supplemental’ stackable credential is when an individual may have already earned a bachelor’s degree, then attends a bootcamp to learn additional skills to supplement their degree.
  • Independent stackable credential is when an individual accumulates multiple credentials but does not pursue a degree. In this case, an individual’s certifications build on one another and the individual acquires skills that craft a path forward in their career, but they do not ‘ladder’ into a singular degree pathway.
  • Work-based learning, apprenticeships, and employer-sponsored training combine on-the-job training with formal educational instruction. For example, stacked apprenticeships are shorter-term programs where individuals pursue a series of related apprenticeships to build on their skill set. An individual participating in an industrial manufacturing technician apprenticeship program could learn how to operate production equipment, and then pursue additional manufacturing opportunities to learn more related skills.


(US Department of Labor)

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