More and more of today’s students stand to benefit from a promising new trend: certification-embedded education programs. These are partnerships between education institutions and industry and professional associations that stack industry certifications within education programs. The practice lets learners simultaneously obtain marketable industry certification(s) and education credentials such as degrees, diplomas and certificates. The certifications are not typically awarded for completing an education program based on students’ seat time and grades; rather, they’re awarded through assessment and validation that the learner has indeed achieved specific learning outcomes or attained a defined level of knowledge or skill relative to a given industry standard. Many certifying bodies (e.g., business and trade associations) are providing industry-validated skill standards and curricula that are aligned with the certification requirements to institutions to embed within education programs.
Is this growing practice a “win-win” for learners, employers, and other stakeholders in the credentialing marketplace? Lumina Foundation and the Connecting Credentials initiative joined forces in spring 2016 to conduct a survey designed to answer this question and several related questions:
- Who is involved in these practices?
- Why are these practices being implemented?
- What are certification-embedded practices?
- Where and how are they being implemented?
- What are the benefits, outcomes and return on investment, especially for students, employers, and higher education institutions?
Here are 10 key takeaways from the survey’s 149 respondents, 80 percent of whom represented community and technical colleges with the remaining representing four-year institutions, employer groups and others: