Moving from a Degree-Centric Postsecondary System to an Incremental Credentialing System: What Happens to Learners’ Financing Options?

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Technology-Integrated Credential Management

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SUNY Empire State University

Institutional Examples

SUNY Empire State University

SUNY Empire State University offers a wide variety of credit-based credentials, including associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, undergraduate certificates, graduate degrees and certificates at the master’s level, and a doctorate in education (Ed.D). The university also offers multiple microcredentials, which are credit-based and connected with completing specific courses.

Credentials Offered

  •  SUNY Empire State University offers several certificate-programs within associate, bachelor’s, and graduate programs that are both degree and non-degree to assist learners in pursuing education and employment. It also offers microcredentials, with credits documented similarly to degree programs upon the completion of microcredential courses.

Technology Stack

  •  External website: The university uses a customized content management system.
  •  Curriculum management: Courseleaf’s CIM is used to propose, review, and approve programs and courses, including microcredentials and required program learning outcomes. Approved offerings are automatically integrated with the CourseLeaf catalog, and a manual process is used to integrate with Banner. The additional information required for microcredentials is captured in CIM and manually integrated with Credly.
  •  Catalog: Courseleaf’s CAT is used for the university catalog, which lists all credentials offered, including microcredentials.
  •  Student Information System (SIS): The university uses Ellucian’s Banner.
  •  Learning Management System (LMS): The university uses D2L’s Brightspace.
  •  Badge: Credly is used to issue badges for awarded microcredentials. The marketing department creates the badge image for the microcredential.
  •  Transcript: A customized transcript using Evisions Argos lists all earned credentials, including microcredentials.

Key Tactics

  •  Microcredential proposals are faculty-led and go through the governance system, with approval from the Committee on Undergraduate Programs and the Senate. They are not submitted to SUNY or the state department of education for approval. Microcredential implementations do not have a designated lead person due to their limited number.
  •  All microcredentials are credit-bearing and earned upon completion of one course. Learners who pass the course receive the microcredential, which is manually documented in the SIS as having been awarded for listing on the transcript. A corresponding microcredential badge is also issued by staff via Credly.
  •  Microcredentials are documented similarly to degree programs in the curricular system but are differentiated in the SIS. The difference is in the awarding of microcredentials. Initially, microcredentials were treated as a non-course function with a comment on the transcript. Later, microcredentials were treated as “degree issuance” with different outcome codes, specifically using a degree awarded field of “MC” for microcredentials vs. “AW” for degrees and certificates. Microcredentials also use a different graduation status code of “Micro Credential earned” vs. “Graduated” for degrees and certificates.
  •  The documentation approach helps differentiate microcredentials for multiple reports. It excludes microcredentials from National Student Clearinghouse reports and other reports that relate to credentials with financial aid. The university also reports to SUNY every semester on microcredential enrollment and completions and annually on all awarded credentials.

External Initiatives

  •  SUNY’s Student Information and Campus Administrative Systems (SICAS) Center, which provides system-wide support for Banner campuses, including programming and report configuration. The center interacts with Courseleaf, hosts webinars, and SUNY registrar association meetings twice a year at which microcredentials are a common topic. While there is no single standard for implementing microcredentials across all campuses, the center advises institutions on implementing their own microcredential programs.

Lessons Learned

  •  On transcripts: “I was one of these registrars who was of the mindset that if this credential isn’t registered with the state, then I’m not going to list it on the transcript. However, my thinking has changed as we talk more about it and what it means. It helps the learner communicate what they have actually earned.“

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