The incremental credentialing process formally recognizes learning that individuals acquire along the way so that they are better positioned for employment and further education. The Incremental Credentialing Framework provides six approaches to developing and implementing incremental credentials. Based on research (see Background), these six approaches represent ways in which higher education and industry are developing different types of credentials. These types of incremental credentials are not mutually exclusive; they often integrate with each other. The six approaches are:
- Learn As You Go credentials prepare individuals for upskilling, reskilling, and/or developing new skills in the workplace and academic disciplinary areas. Individuals often seek these credentials without intending at that time to pursue a longer-term certificate or degree. These credentials can stand on their own or be connected to other credentials, including degrees.
- Specialize As You Go credentials can prepare individuals for specializations in the workplace and in academic disciplines. They may or may not be connected to other credentials. Individuals seek these credentials to add advanced learning to more traditional certificate or degrees, often to improve employment prospects.
- Stack As You Go credentials purposefully stack into other credentials, forming a credentialing pathway. These credentials can be non-credit, microcredentials, certificates, skills badges, licenses, certifications, degrees, and other types. These credentials are purposefully planned to stack and offer transparent choices to learners.
- Transfer As You Go credentials are built to transfer across higher education institutions and/or academic programs. They may be built sequentially, leading to the next-level credential (e.g., non-credit to credit, associate to bachelor’s), or across institutions or programs at the same level. Transfer credentials provide potential cost-sharing when they can be offered across institutions or programs.
- Partner As You Go credentials prepare individuals for employment, as well as work-focused credentials are accepted into or embedded within credentialing pathways. These credentials often are developed in conjunction with business/industry partner(s), and they may or may not be connected to a degree or certificate program.
- Retro Award As You Go credentials are awarded for learning already acquired but not yet credentialed. They often target adult learners with some college and no credential and sometimes recognize learning “milestones” that are reached before completing a degree (e.g., general education).