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How micro-pathways are transforming Pima Community College

Quote by Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert

This is the first story in the Lab’s Transformation Profile series spotlighting innovative partners in our Community College Growth Engine Fund. 

Background

Pima Community College (PCC) is located in Tucson, Ariz., and serves Pima County with a population of just over 1 million, the second most populous county in Arizona. The college enrolls over 15,000 learners and is a Minority-serving institution (MSI), with nearly 50% of their learners identified as LatinX. The Education Design Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund (CCGEF) is part of the college’s recovery and reskilling efforts to assist adult learners gain the skills they need to get back to work and to help those disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pima designed eight micro-pathways through the CCGEF in 2020-21, prompting PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert and Lab Founder + Board Chair Kathleen deLaski to co-author this November 2021 op-ed in AACC’s Community College Daily: Have we found the gateway to transform community colleges?

 

What is a micro-pathway?

Co-designed with learners and employers, micro-pathways are two or more stackable credentials, including a 21st century skill micro-credential, that are flexibly delivered to be achieved within less than a year and result in a job at or above the local median wage.

Explore all eight of Pima Community College’s micro-pathways in a gallery at the bottom of this post.

 

The foundation of PCC’s transformation is what Chancellor Lambert calls the “two curves of community colleges.” The premise is that community colleges are transitioning from an industrial curve to a digital curve. The industrial curve is the current status quo defined by structured certificate and degree programs, fall/spring/summer semesters, and where the Carnegie Unit (credit hour) is the driver of learner readiness and educational attainment. All of the processes are built around the credit hour, including faculty time, student financial aid, and accreditation. There has been some transformation at community colleges, but it has been limited by the current system. For example, six- week sessions. This system shows favoritism toward those who can drop everything and go to college and does not address the needs of new majority learners.

The digital economy is the second curve. It is not stable, it is unpredictable, and it offers a lot of opportunity, but it also comes with risks. It is learner-centric. The complex lives of new majority learners don’t revolve around the time-bound structures of the credit hour. As a society, we are in the “transition” stage. Our economy is moving toward the digital economy and skills-based hiring, but we are not there yet.

“We’ve had a decade or more of declining enrollments. Our relevancy is in question. We need to get to know that our first curve model is not going to get it done.”

Chancellor Lee Lambert, Pima Community College

 

Community colleges will need to adapt to continue to be relevant since the first curve is not going to meet the needs of new majority learners.

Transformation highlights

+ Over 4,000 learners are interested in Pima’s micro-pathways. PCC’s micro-pathways target adult learners and are called PimaFastTrack. The college invested marketing dollars to launch a stand-alone landing page for PimaFastTrack as well as program-focused landing pages in both Spanish and English. The messaging centers on priorities relevant to adult learners: Financial assistance, support, speed, all-inclusive pricing, and simplicity. In addition, PCC outsourced speciality expertise to build an online presence around the value proposition for the eight micro-pathways. This has led over 4,000 learners to complete online interest forms, which exceeds, by far, anything the college has ever seen.

+ Designed for “universal access” to be more inclusive to adult learners. Adult learners may experience barriers with starting their education journey on the credit side of a college. Pima has combated these barriers by offering the micro-pathways as noncredit options. Once learners complete their micro-pathway, they can choose to enroll in a certificate or degree program at that point or at any point in the future. In line with Universal Access, learners also have entry points to the college through dual enrollment (enrollment in high school and the community college simultaneously) or direct enrollment (after graduating high school).

+ Instituted a “universal design” approach to their PimaFastTrack program. The Center for Excellence in Universal Design defines universal design as “the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people.” For PCC in the context of PimaFastTrack, designing universally means designing with an intentional focus on the needs of adult learners so they can succeed in their goals. PCC delivers micro-pathways through online, in-person, and hybrid formats simultaneously, making them available to learners in the format that works best for the learner.

 

+ PCC uses Standards of Practice for program development where academic and workforce are aligned using CCGEF’s design criteria. PCC is using the Lab’s micro-pathways design criteria as the foundation for their Standards of Practice for scaling PimaFastTrack across the college. For each of the eight design criteria, they’ve included “design in action” detailing how to address the design criteria, including the steps, tools, and examples from the work they did with the CCGEF. They also lay out the structure and roles for deans, department heads, the workforce team, and contributing team members. The workforce function at the college drives the idea, but the instructional departments carry out the design and development process. The Standards of Practice provide a holistic approach and structure to scale micro-pathways. The inclusion of learner and industry feedback ensures PCC is getting multiple perspectives before finalizing any design. They even include a Design Checklist similar to what the CCGEF design teams used to validate the design criteria prior to launching their micro-pathways.

+ Leadership changes reflect the focus on learners, micro-pathways, and innovation. As shared by Dr. Ian Roark, Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development + Innovation, “We intentionally did a robust pilot vs. a small one for the Community College Growth Engine Fund. It had enough boldness to give us the traction we wanted. We paired that with the vision and expectation starting from the top, which enabled us to deliver and to begin transformation across the college. We framed the decision with our faculty and deans that we have confidence in you – we know you can get this done – and that our learners need this. We have set a tone that we treat learners with dignity and respect, and that we serve all of them in the same way.” This demonstrates the colleges’ commitment to their learners, micro-pathways, and innovation.

Obstacles to overcome

The transformation demonstrated by PCC in only two year’s time is truly remarkable. However, as they will share, there is still work to be done. Two of the biggest obstacles to overcome are around integrating 21st century skills, including badging these micro-credentials, and developing Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) capabilities. They are still at least six months to one year before these two capabilities will be in place.

“We’ve done things like improve PLA, invest in a registration system for noncredit, which was great, but CCGEF has been a way to bring all of that together and give it a name: Micro-pathways, which we are calling Pima FastTrack. It gave us a cause and a purpose. Working with the Lab provided us with a way to become part of something bigger than Pima – a greater sense of purpose.

Amanda Abens, MC, Dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education

 

This article by Valerie Taylor is part of the Lab’s work helping community colleges innovate and transform through the micro-pathways design process. Learn more about the Community College Growth Engine Fund here, download our January 2022 Design Insights Brief, subscribe to our email newsletter for updates, and follow along on Twitter: #Micropathways.

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New service offerings! The Lab teams up with Credential Engine to offer preparation support for Learning and Employment Record pilots

Learning and Employment Records (LERs) – digital records of an individual’s learning and work – have the potential to create more equitable access to employment and education opportunities by equipping individuals with verifiable and shareable data about their skills, achievements, experiences, and credentials. As  states, postsecondary institutions, and employers explore piloting LERs, it is important that pilots are designed with: equitable outcomes for learners as an explicit goal; and that they use linked open data to support interoperability within a skills-based talent ecosystem. 

The Lab and Credential Engine (CE) have teamed up to offer services that will help stakeholders prepare for LER pilots, laying a strong foundation for pilots designed to empower learners in the sharing of  their verifiable credentials and skills as currency towards job opportunities. Together, the Lab and CE bring a blend of human-centered design tools and processes, best practices in data transparency, and technical knowledge that will position emerging LER pilots for success. The partners will work with you so that LER pilots are prepared with a strong use case and value proposition for learners, a plan for incorporating credential and pathways data, and a rich understanding of the human and technological requirements to support an LER workflow.  A description of services for springboarding LER pilots is below. These offerings can be customized and combined with additional services to address specific circumstances and needs.

Download the Full List of Services (PDF)

Learn More About Our Work with Credential Engine

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How to better serve adult learners: 5 ways community colleges align noncredit + credit programs through micro-pathways

The six colleges and systems in the first cohort of the Lab’s Community College Growth Engine Fund— CCGEF or the Fund, for short — are piloting their 30+ micro-pathways.

Micro-pathways are two or more stackable credentials (21st century skills included) validated by employers that lead unemployed, displaced, and low-wage workers to median-wage occupations and on a path to a degree.

Cohort 1 colleges have focused on adult learners as their primary target audience. Data shows these are the majority of learners that enroll in noncredit courses. They are more likely to be older: The average age of students in noncredit programs is 34 compared to 22 for students in credit programs; more likely to have a GED rather than a high school diploma; and more likely to be students of color*. With that in mind, Cohort 1 intentionally designed their micro-pathways to begin with noncredit programs. This provides adult learners an entry point into postsecondary education and a bridge to higher credentials and degree programs on the credit side. However, this has meant bridging the noncredit-credit divide typical at community colleges.

As stated by Dr. Ian Roark, Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development & Innovation at Pima Community College: “Equity is really at the center of all of this work. Everything we do in higher ed that hierarch-alizes the learner, and even otherizes them, especially when you put “non”-in front of a learner and call them a ‘noncredit’ learner, we have other-ized them. That’s why we have embraced this vision of the new majority learners that EDL has taught us to embrace and bring about in the context of equity.”

Pima and the other Cohort 1 colleges have embraced micro-pathways as a gateway to community college transformation.

Below are five of their accomplishments in aligning noncredit and credit.

1. Noncredit micro-pathways courses + credentials articulate to credit programs.

For CCGEF, Cohort 1 colleges put the onus on themselves to align competencies and assessments to ensure credentials and courses completed in noncredit programs are credit-worthy, rather than learners having to prove themselves through additional assessments or other Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) activities. This was accomplished through articulation of mirror or mirrored courses (which are the same courses offered in credit and noncredit), industry certification crosswalks and equivalency agreements.

2. Learners can enter and exit micro-pathways at their own pace.

Cohort 1 noncredit micro-pathways provide an on-ramp to a credit career pathway and the opportunity to earn higher credentials. Learners can move along the career pathway at their own pace, and enter and exit at different points along the pathway as their career goals dictate. For example, many learners can move into employment after completing the micro-pathway, but can choose to return to earn a higher- level credit certificate and/or degree as their personal and professional career goals dictate. These pathways and entry and exit options were communicated to learners in advising, on institution websites, and through infographics.

3. Colleges are developing a culture of ‘a learner is a learner,’ regardless of where the journey begins.

Cohort 1 design teams have worked to overcome the typical division in support services offered to noncredit learners. Two of the colleges have established formal advising programs for learners who start on the noncredit side and others are doing this on a more informal basis through faculty members who oversee both noncredit and credit pathways. One college has set up a co-enrollment process with their local workforce system to ensure learners have access to tuition assistance and wrap-around services — services that would normally only have been offered on the credit side. Colleges are also providing noncredit learners access to work-based learning opportunities and scholarships, with new funds established specifically for CCGEF learners.

4. CCGEF colleges launched a Data Collaborative to better understand learners.

Cohort 1 launched the Data Collaborative with partners Brighthive, the National Student Clearinghouse, Urban Institute, and Credential Engine. Cohort 1 wants to learn more about their noncredit learners, including whether they matriculate into credit-bearing programs or disconnect from the college after completing noncredit courses. The Data Collaborative’s goals are to yield valuable information about learners, credential completion, employment and wage data, among other items.

5. Colleges are scaling their noncredit and credit alignment through micro-pathways design.

For each of the Cohort 1 design teams, micro-pathways have served as a way to innovate around noncredit and credit alignment. Most of the teams have been learning and iterating on a handful of programs but have plans to scale across the college. For example, Prince George’s Community College designed and launched three micro-pathways and added a fourth early in 2022. Pima Community College launched eight micro-pathways and added another, with plans to scale even further during 2022.

What’s next?

The progress Cohort 1 has made is tremendous, yet if you ask any of the design teams, they will say there is still more work to be done. They would like to see more resources to support noncredit advising models and a greater focus on marketing to noncredit learners. The Lab is grateful to have partnered with our six colleges and systems and their dedication to serving new majority learners.

To learn more about Cohort 1 and the Community College Growth Engine Fund, download: Design Insights Brief: Community College Growth Engine Fund Micro-pathways: A Gateway to Community College Transformation.

This article by Valerie Taylor is part of the Lab’s work helping community colleges innovate and transform through the micro-pathways design process. Learn more about the Community College Growth Engine Fund here, subscribe to our email newsletter for updates, and follow along on Twitter: #Micropathways.

* Citation: Xu, D., & Ran, X. (2015). Noncredit education in community college: Student, course enrollments, and academic outcomes. Community College Research Center, 2015. Available: https://ccrc.tc.columbia.edu/media/k2/attachments/noncredit-education-in-community-college.pdf 
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XCredit Phase 1: Explore the skills ecosystem with Andrea

Meet Andrea. She’s 24, single, and has three cats that she adores.

Andrea is currently serving in the Navy and plans to transition into the civilian workforce in the next few months. She wants to get a good job after her six years of service without going back to school for a degree. She would love to work in IT and make her way toward a management role so that she’ll have the financial stability to start a family.

While in the service, Andrea gained a lot of skills, such as leadership, problem solving, and technology skills, and she wants her next employer to see all of the value she can bring to their workplace using those skills.

While Andrea is a fictional persona, she represents the goals and characteristics of the learner-earners – or (l)earners – the Education Design Lab aims to serve.

Over the past 18 months, the XCredit team at the Lab has explored the design question: How might we validate and credential existing skills to make (l)earners more visible in the talent marketplace?

In collaboration with our partners, the Lab spent XCredit’s first year prototyping an interoperable skills ecosystem to help military-connected individuals like Andrea, as well as unemployed and underemployed civilians, move toward the careers they want.

How does it work? Follow along as Andrea validates her skills within the XCredit ecosystem.

Andrea’s journey

Andrea begins in a platform for military-connected individuals to connect their learning and experience to customized career and education opportunities. Within this tool, Andrea is presented with her Learning and Employment (LER) record, a document that tracks her experience, training, and competencies. Near the bottom, she sees her military experience has already been translated into a number of validated 21st century (or soft) skills, including those associated with Critical Thinking, Oral Communication, and Creative Problem Solving.

Along with her validated skills, Andrea sees that she has the option to validate additional 21st century skills by taking a few digital assessments.

When she clicks the “Submit to XCredit” link within her LER, Andrea passes into the Lab’s central “Ecosystem Hub,” where she’s greeted with a banner reading, “Welcome to XCredit!”

Within this Hub, she sees her skills profile, which lists all her validated skills, along with all the relevant assessments she’s able to take.

 

Looking at which skills she hasn’t yet validated, Andrea decides to begin with the “Listen Actively” assessment, a part of Oral Communication. She navigates to this section and launches the “Listen Actively” assessment, which moves her into an extended reality environment.

As the XR assessment loads, Andrea realizes she has the option to either click her responses with her mouse or speak her responses directly into her computer’s microphone. She loves how this option engages her as a human being, tapping into her empathy and engaging her soft skills.

Ten minutes later, she’s done. Andrea scores well on the assessment, and when she returns to the Lab’s central Hub platform, she sees her skills profile has automatically been updated, the “Listen Actively” skill now validated.

In her skills profile, Andrea sees that she only needs to pass one more Critical Thinking assessment to earn a Critical Thinking micro-credential, so she navigates to the Critical Thinking section of the Hub.

 

 

She clicks on the assessment, titled “Question Assumptions,” and this time, a chat-based simulation assessment launches in a new window.

 

After reading the assessment scenario and what she’ll be measured on, Andrea clicks “Play.” She then chooses an avatar that represents her, and completes the assessment by making choices in the chat-based simulation that follows. When she reaches the end of the assessment, Andrea sees her scores from the assessment pop up and is excited to see that she has validated this final Critical Thinking skill!

After Andrea navigates back to the Hub, she sees a notification that she has been awarded the Critical Thinking badge, so she opens her email. She can’t believe how quickly the micro-credential was awarded — right after completing the final assessment!

In her email is a message with a link to claim her badge, so she clicks the link and is redirected to the badging platform. Here, she claims her micro-credential, which identifies all of her validated skills.

Andrea feels a rush of pride, knowing that she’s being recognized for skills she gained in the service. She assumes this is the end of the process, but a pop-up informs her that there’s one more step she can take.

A digital skills wallet has been created on her behalf, and she’s encouraged to add her new badge to this skills wallet. Unsure of what exactly this is, she adds the badge to her wallet, where she learns that she’s able to pull in other learning and employment records to create a more complete picture of her skills.

Now, prospective employers will see that she’s validated one of the critical skills they’re seeking when hiring new employees.

Andrea is now ready to apply for the jobs she’s targeted, knowing employers will recognize the skills she gained in the service.

XCredit: What’s next?

During Year One, our instructional designers created sub-competency assessments and industry capstones measuring users’ critical thinking, oral communication, and creative problem solving skills. Through user testing, jobseekers and hiring managers alike evaluated the authenticity of the experience and the value users found in the 21st century skills micro-credentials. And after an externally conducted equity and bias review, the team addressed potentially problematic aspects of our assessments, including but not limited to an examination of representation of who held power and how people in simulations, especially people of color, were positioned.

Moving forward with Phase Two, the XCredit team has ambitious goals.

  • We’re expanding the catalog of available 21st century skills credentials from 3 to 9, and the number of assessments from 23 to 110.
  • We’re seeking ACE accreditation for all assessments so that credential earners are also eligible for college credit when validating their skills.
  • We’re layering in additional skill validation methods and opportunities, further leveraging individuals’ lived and working experience in new and innovative ways.
  • We’re conducting two research-focused pilots on our assessments and prototype ecosystem to enable early proof points, iteration, and improvement.
  • And we’re expanding the ecosystem to incorporate further entry points and connections with external hiring systems, to help our users connect their skills to employment.

We, and Andrea, are just getting started.

 

This article was written by XCredit team members Casey Andree and Dr. Tara Laughlin. Follow our journey at https://eddesignlab.org/project/xcredit/.

Want to get involved? Email us at xcredit@eddesignlab.org.

Special thanks to our Year 1 XCredit partners, whose tools are featured throughout Andrea’s story above.

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How Alamo Colleges are scaling digital skills badges in Texas

UpSkill SA! — a partnership between Alamo Colleges, Goodwill San Antonio and the Education Design Lab — led to the Alamo Colleges District creating more opportunities for students to earn marketable skills badges. The district issued 851 badges in Fall 2021 to students who demonstrated  21st century skills mastery inside their traditional academic courses. 

 

“By 2030, at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-34 will have a certificate or degree” – that was the overarching goal of the 2015 Texas Higher Education Strategic Plan known as 60x30TX.

The state’s 2022 plan, Building a Talent Strong Texas, aspires to the same goal, but includes more adult learners: “at least 60 percent of Texans ages 25-64 will have a postsecondary credential of value by 2030.”

Luke Dowden, Chief Online Learning Officer/Associate Vice Chancellor for the Alamo Colleges District and its AlamoOnline division, comprised of five community colleges in the San Antonio region, has been on a mission to meet that 60×30 goal sooner rather than later. That path opened up in early 2019 when Dowden and two of his District colleagues, Instructional Designer Amber O’Casey and Online Learning Coordinator Eryn Berger, joined forces with the Education Design Lab (the Lab) and Goodwill San Antonio to launch UpSkill SA! in partnership with Palo Alto College. Their work is focused on the creation of meaningful additions to the district’s catalog of noncredit digital badges and for-credit, stackable, certificate programs that now typically include courses embedded with badges. 

UpSkill SA! offers Goodwill frontline employees (called team members) tuition-paid enrollment in a series of three non-credit online badges in resilience, collaboration, and creative problem solving — called “SkillsBooster” — and a 21-credit Level 1 Certificate in Logistics Management that incorporates the creative problem-solving badge into the first course of the certificate program. As noted on the UpSkill SA! project website, the idea was to “quickly upskill incumbent retail workers to prepare them for careers in Advanced Manufacturing and other growth sectors that can enable their social mobility.”

Dowden explained the entire UpSkill SA! effort was well thought-out with a highly supportive Goodwill staff comprised of professional counselors, a career navigator, and an enrollment coach that worked in concert with Palo Alto College enrollment professionals. “An advising team of faculty and program coordinators were ready to work,” Dowden added. “Goodwill would do the internal marketing and vetting, and then their career navigator would begin working with our enrollment coaches to get them [team members] through the admissions process so they would not get hung up there.”  

See related story: COVID didn’t stop these working moms from earning stackable credentials through Goodwill San Antonio and Alamo Colleges

 

Alamo Colleges Boost Badges + Certificates

Their efforts thus far have been hugely successful, despite being severely waylaid by the pandemic. For instance, a Goodwill San Antonio Digital Literacy program, which helps potential enrollees garner the foundational digital skills needed for studying online, was developed and implemented through lessons learned during the piloting and launching of UpSkill SA! in 2019. More significantly, UpSkill SA’s development of its SkillsBooster and the Level 1 Certificate programs became the spring board that helped to enable the entire Alamo Colleges District to boost the integration of more marketable skills badges into academic courses. 

“The certificate program, which was really our first attempt at embedding marketable skills badges into academic coursework, has exponentially expanded our work,” Berger said. “Now we have an initiative called Course + Badge [launched in the summer of 2020], where we train our faculty on how to embed digital skills badges into our academic courses, and they are the Education Design Lab badges.”  

Through Course + Badge, faculty undergo a semester-long training that teaches them how to map competencies and embed marketable skills badges into their academic courses, and about 100 faculty have completed the training to date. After successfully completing the training, they become credentialed badge specialists who can offer marketable skills badges in all their courses. 

Encouraging numbers

All this work has led to some impressive results. For example, in late 2019 and early 2020, 54 Goodwill employees earned a total of 72 badges through UpSkill SA’s SkillsBooster digital badges program offered at Palo Alto College. Since then, 1,258 skills badges have been earned by students through the scaling up of digital badge offerings throughout the entire Alamo Colleges District, with 851 digital badges earned during the Fall 2021 semester alone. “We’re getting really positive feedback,” Berger said. “It’s helping us to socialize badges around the district.”

Student testimonials

“We reorganized our team with people dedicated just to the development and support of micro-credentials at the Alamo Colleges,” added Dowden. Working with Goodwill San Antonio through UpSkill SA! “really influenced what we are doing, and we are excited about it. We think you need to be able to have something as evidence that you have skills, and our students are confirming that.”

“I took this course while applying for new jobs,” said a working adult learner who earned a resilience badge during the summer 2021.  “Believe it or not, the exercises forced me to really think about my previous experiences. I had an interview a few days ago and I was so relaxed and confident because of the exercises. The interviewer loved me, and I start my new position on Monday.”

Another learner who completed the Goodwill SkillsBooster program said “the experience brought to light strengths and knowledge that I did not know I possessed. During the exercises I often found myself sharing the reference articles and questions with others. Writing out the responses helped me reflect on how I handle situations. Multiple times I was able to apply what I learned directly to things actively occurring in the workplace.”  

“I was able to go to work every day and help my team members on how they can meet their goals,” said another Goodwill employee who completed the SkillsBooster program. “It felt great.” 

 

Want to learn more?

Here’s how to contact the Lab.

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COVID didn’t stop these working moms from earning stackable credentials through Goodwill San Antonio and Alamo Colleges 

UpSkill SA! offers Goodwill San Antonio employees tuition-paid enrollment in a series of noncredit online badges, called “SkillsBoosters,” and a stackable, for-credit certificate in Logistics Management provided through Alamo Colleges District’s AlamoONLINE. Goodwill team members Carmen Frias (from left), Maryjo Barrera, and Angela Ashworth are all working mothers who completed the certificate in 2021. Photo courtesy of Goodwill San Antonio.

Many of us think of Goodwill as a great service for donating clothes or household goods we no longer need or want. But behind the stores and drop-off locations, Goodwill is a 120-year-old, international nonprofit social enterprise comprised of 155 community-based, autonomous organizations in 12 countries and 3,200 stores in North America that combined do a lot more than accept and sell donated goods.

In a recent Harvard Business Review Imagining the Future of Work podcast, Goodwill International Industries President and CEO Steve Preston said, “Most people do know us for our stores, but our mission in life is to help people reach their full potential through learning and, ultimately, through employment. We work to tool people with the right kind of supports and services so that, ultimately, they can take care of themselves and move down a successful career path.”  

The mission of providing meaningful career education and advancement assistance is not lost at Goodwill San Antonio, a 77-year-old organization with 1,500+ employees (called “team members”) who serve Texans within a surrounding 24-county territory. Goodwill San Antonio offers many no-cost-to-enroll programs, three of which include: Good Careers Academy provides comprehensive and accredited vocational training. The Good Careers Centers assist job seekers with job readiness and immediate access to employment. Youth Services, through the NXT Level Program and in partnership with the City of San Antonio and Community In Schools of San Antonio, assists young adults, ages 16 to 24, with their career goals. And Digital Literacy provides computer and internet training. 

UpSkill SA! is the most recent addition to their free, career-enhancement programs, developed through an innovative partnership with Alamo Colleges District’s AlamoONLINE at Palo Alto College and Education Design Lab (the Lab). UpSkill SA! offers Goodwill team members tuition-paid enrollment in a series of noncredit online badges, called “SkillsBoosters,” and a 21-credit Level 1 Certificate in Logistics Management provided by AlamoONLINE. Both got off to a strong start in late 2019 and early 2020. During that time, 54 team members in two cohorts earned a total of 72 badges. In addition, 23 learners enrolled in the first two flex semesters of the certificate program, which officially launched during the Fall 2019 and Winter 2020 semesters. 

Then came the pandemic, which brought a temporary cancellation of the program in early 2020. Of the 23 learners enrolled in the certificate program, three currently employed team members continued and earned the certificate in 2021. 

The program has since re-constituted itself and is back on track with more team-member cohorts increasingly coming on board for both the SkillsBoosters badges and the certificate program. As an added benefit, the Goodwill San Antonio Digital Literacy program, which helps potential enrollees learn the foundational digital skills needed for studying online, was developed and implemented through lessons learned during the piloting and launching of UpSkill SA.  

See related story: How Alamo Colleges are scaling digital skills badges in Texas

UpSkill SA! success stories

The three team members who completed the certificate – Angela Ashworth, Maryjo Barrera, and Carmen Frias – are all working mothers who are a testament to the effectiveness of the program.  

Ashworth, 36, is an engaged mother of four children, ages 9 through 15. She’s an eight-year Goodwill employee who currently works full-time at the Randolph Air Force Base location. “The world was in a pandemic, and I was able to hold down a full-time job, four kids, and school,” she said, adding that the certificate program was a fast and convenient “adventure” but also very challenging for someone who had never attended college-level classes, let alone fully online. “I had to make time to study and do all the school work,” Ashworth explains. “I feel I have grown a lot. In the future, I will continue to expand my education because this experience showed me that I can do more things than I gave myself credit for.”

Barrera, 33, is a married mother of eight (four of whom are step children), ages 11 through 25. She, too, works full-time at Randolph Air Force Base and was a newbie to college. “It was difficult for me being out of school for so long. I was reaching out to my professors almost every single day,” she said, adding that the support staff at Palo Alto College “helped me every step of the way.”  Since the certificate is stackable, Barrera has enrolled in the Logistics and Supply Chain Management A.A.S. program and is currently taking general education required courses. She says she got her inspiration to pursue a higher education from her children. “I needed to show them if their mom can go back to school and finish, they have the choice to do it, too.” Her teenage son, for instance, is enrolled in a high school early-college program. “He tells me all the time, ‘Mom, you’re doing it. I’m going to do it.’” 

Frias, 46, is a married mother of five adult-aged children. She’s been working for Goodwill San Antonio for 17 years and is currently the full-time manager of its Gateway store in Live Oak. She attended a four-year college about 20 years ago but had to drop out after having her fifth child while working part-time. “It was just overwhelming,” she said. “I was not able to really commit to it.” With her children now grown into adulthood, she decided to enroll. “When I went to the orientation and found out I could do this at my own pace from home [fully online], I thought it was doable for me, so I signed up,” she added. Frias was inspired to earn the certificate by her daughter, who at the time was in the process of earning her bachelor’s degree. “She was my motivator. She kept telling me I could do this.” Now Frias is encouraging her coworkers to enroll. “I’m just thankful Goodwill provided this program. It has really been an inspiration in my life to be able to do this.”

“It was an uplifting experience to teach Goodwill team members through Palo Alto College’s partnership with UpSkill SA! Seeing individuals coming in and gaining their certificate in logistics to advance their careers is very encouraging, especially now that training in these areas is so vital due to growing demand,” said Ronnie Brannon, lead instructor for the Logistics and Supply Chain Management program at Palo Alto College. “They emerged industry-ready and ready to make a difference in their organization or future organization.”

A program whose time has come

“Goodwill San Antonio deeply believes in growing their team members,” said Don Fraser, the Lab’s Chief Program Officer, who spent time on the ground with some of the San Antonio stores and its central office. “You can see pictures of team members everywhere. They are able to transform peoples’ lives, and they celebrate that all the time,” he explained, adding that many of the support services provided by Goodwill — such as life-skills coaching, career navigation, and giving enrollees paid study time during their full-time shifts — “is a key difference.” The end result is that team members feel like they belong there and are valued. Last year, Goodwill San Antonio held a celebratory breakfast for the three graduates.  

“We are doing amazing things here in San Antonio for our team members, providing them with an opportunity to upskill themselves – at no cost – so their lives get better, their family lives get better,” said Jessica Greenway, Goodwill San Antonio’s Director of Training and Development. “They are achieving amazing results both personally and for the business of Goodwill.”   

 

Want to learn more?

Here’s how to contact the Lab.

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Skills Visibility: The next frontier of the Learner Revolution

A (l)earner mom works on her laptop while her two children play at home in the background
A Letter from Kathleen deLaski, Founder and CEO, Education Design Lab

It’s been eight years since we introduced the construct of the Learner Revolution with the Lab’s first white paper.

We predicted technology and changing learner attitudes would force the unlocking of degrees to empower all learners to disintermediate their education, choosing their learning pathways on their own terms. By 2019, our second Learner Revolution white paper named the beginning of the shift from degrees to skills as a more equitable, inclusive currency for being hired and promoted and suggested how colleges could transform to serve learners in this new paradigm.

Now it’s 2022, and the Learner Revolution has joined forces with the Skills Revolution.

Who would have predicted then a global pandemic? Or the national racial reckoning after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others? Both sets of events accelerated the pace of interest toward more inclusive, skills-based learning and hiring models. They coincide with the readiness of a set of national standards and technology capabilities that still need “human trials” before being ready for prime time. If you haven’t heard about “learner wallets” yet, several major pilots are coming online by the end of 2022. If we can get those trials right over the next few years using the equity vision of many players, we could begin to close the wage and skills gaps that plague this country.

Do we understand this opportunity? Do we see the potential? Are we mitigating the risks?

This paper — Skills Visibility: Why and How a Skills-Based Economy can be More Equitable — attempts to organize that thinking as more than the sum of the interesting parts that are emerging. We attempt to organize it into a new talent ecosystem vision made possible by the skills-based learner revolution. And to urge that we act now to consider the promise and the risks as these tools, standards, and practices begin touching humans. And to design accordingly before it is too late.

Think about it. We move away from a world where a $200,000 history degree gets me a job interview because blue-chip companies only come to the best campuses to interview candidates. We are now tantalizingly close to a world where my skills are telegraphed digitally to any employer around the nation, or even the world, looking for that skills cocktail. And it works the other way: all employers looking for certain skills can feed into a real-time skills ticker tape, signaling to learners and the learning providers that serve them what combination of skills will yield employment.

The magic of this vision, coming to a job market near you in the next two to five years, is “visibility.”

You may not see it happening, but several sectors are leaning in. Technologists are creating the data infrastructure and “digital wallets.” Machine learning companies are scaling skills translation and assessments. Learning institutions are ramping up micro-credentialing strategies with competency-based stacks and one-off badges, attempting to translate their degrees and learning outcomes to a language that speaks to employers. Employers are open to looking at talent differently; in fact, they have to, with the labor shortages and 10-year outlook for new entrants to the workforce. And perhaps most importantly, to enable all of this, learner views about degrees are changing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these changes with millions of people leaving lower-wage jobs and positions that do not align with their career goals or economic needs. The call for more skills training and programs that closely align to employer needs is being heard at local, regional, and national levels. Without a shift to skills, politicians see the economic growth drag that is predicted to slow the economy down by $1.3 trillion by 2030.

Before we turn to the paper, let us honor the degree and its important signal value for a learner’s confidence and (for now) required entry to regulated fields such as medicine, teaching, and law. Nothing we have said should be construed as disrespecting the degree. We simply recognize that expecting it as the gateway to professional success has been an exclusionary practice for so many, and we need alternatives.

These alternatives must be driven by the needs and goals of learners most harmed by the existing system, and not just by their needs and goals, but by these learners themselves. People are incredibly resilient, and many of the learners we’ve worked with over the last eight years have solved for their problems despite operating within a system setting them up to fail. It is on us as systems leaders and decision-makers to change the system itself, and to capture this turning point, this moment, so that all people have what they need to succeed on their own terms.

This paper addresses what that will take at the ecosystem level. And, it calls us all to action.

Download: Skills Visibility: Why and How a Skills-Based Economy can be More Equitable

news and events

The Lab’s top 3 hot takes from SXSW EDU 2022

Pictured from left: Don Fraser Jr., Leah Moschella, Miriam Swords Kalk

Education Design Lab team members are excited to return to in-person conferences, and SXSW EDU 2022 has been the biggest so far. Three Labbies each shared their most impactful takeaway from the March conference in Austin, Texas.

 

1. We’re not going back to normal

Leah Moschella, Senior Education Designer: Like many others, it had been two years since my last large-scale, in-person conference, and attending SXSW EDU in early March did not disappoint. The energy of the event was palpable as colleagues and partners from around the nation exchanged real-time connections, hugs, and laughter. Attendees crowded vendor tables, and speakers were flooded with thought-provoking questions and insights. As I boarded the plane home, I couldn’t help but think, it’s almost as if things are getting back to normal.

However, the message of the speakers, sessions, and vendors was clear: Education and workforce leaders cannot go back to normal. Instead, now is the time to innovate and reinvent to build more effective, transformative partnerships across education, workforce, and the community.

Dr. Miguel Cardona, U.S. Secretary of Education, affirmed the call to reinvent in an inspiring morning keynote: “We’re closer to a reset in education than ever before. We’ve already been disrupted, so why are we building it back the way it was when it didn’t work for everybody?” Cardona spoke to how shifts in access to remote learning could support opportunities to embed work-based learning models into the school day. Leading global employers such as Deloitte spoke to the growing interest and efficacy of digital mentoring opportunities. During the global pandemic, we saw education and workforce systems reimagined overnight, and now is the time to consider how these innovations can continue to benefit learners as they navigate their earn-and-learn pathways.

2. Practices + policies must shift to enable equity- and learner-centered futures

Miriam Swords Kalk, Senior Education Designer: “This is the moment to make sure that all students have purpose, self-determination, and connection to communities. This is our moment to transform and do right by our learners.” This quote from Dr. Amy Loyd of the U.S. Department of Education brings together so many of the messages that spoke loudest to me during SXSW EDU.

People from far-reaching corners of this giant education world spoke to the need (always, but especially now) to shift the focus of education systems from controlling and regulating students to supporting them along paths toward their individual goals – and how this shift is necessary for us to make headway toward more equitable futures in education and the workforce. Dr. Monique Umphrey of Austin Community College discussed bringing learners in as co-creators of their learning experiences rather than just consumers of higher ed, saying, “We don’t need to be patriarchal with learners. We’re here to help them self-actualize.”

Acknowledging the responsibility that learning providers have to design environments that respond to learners’ needs – both tangible and psychological – resonates strongly with the approach to human-centered design that we utilize at the Lab, especially with our engagement framework. As Dr. Gregory Fowler of University of Maryland Global Campus said, “We need to make our colleges student-ready rather than our students college-ready.”

Dr. Leon Prieto of Clayton State University and Dr. Chanelle Wilson of Bryn Mawr College spoke about how decolonizing curricula – and education systems more broadly – inherently entails shifting from top-down, command-and-control environments to deeply supportive learner-centered models that encourage learners’ self-determination. So much of what they discussed – from making assessment more participatory, future-focused, and formative rather than judgmental and unidirectional, to co-designing learning experiences in partnership with students – underscored how supporting each learners’ sense of growth, belonging, and agency is a critical component of making education more equity-centered.

Practice shifts by learning providers must play a critical role in pivoting higher ed’s focus to sit squarely with learners who have been underinvested in, but we can’t stop there. Policy changes at the state and federal levels need to become more human-centered, seeing education throughout people’s entire lives as a public good rather than a private service. Amari Fennoy of NAACP, Chelsea Miller of Freedom March NYC, and Jemere Calhoun and Mary-Pat Hector of Rise spoke powerfully about the impact of student loan debt on Black learners and their families – how absolute student loan forgiveness and truly free college could have a major impact on narrowing racial wealth and pay gaps and stimulating our economy. Rewinding to the beginning of our lives, Cody Summerville from Texas Association for the Education of Young Children highlighted how early childhood education must also become a strong area of financial investment by federal and state governments in order to equitably support young learners’ brain development, parents’ flexibility to work, and early childhood educators’ access to family-sustaining wages.

3. Shorter, cheaper, BETTER

Don Fraser, Jr., Chief Program Officer: Those three words played over and over in my head as I left sessions. They played in my head when I finished talking shop with old and new friends, even after hours. Shorter. Cheaper. Better. Yes. Yes. And well, sort of. Maybe? It depends. Are we tackling better? The consensus at SXSW EDU was no, but the call for better was an enthusiastic and resounding, we must!

Whenever the economy has had a very specific need, our education system has historically stepped up to meet it — to create certificates or degree pathways that positioned learners to satisfy employers and fill emerging job roles. Given the pace of change and technological advances, however, it has become harder for higher education to respond quickly to market demands and be the learning provider of choice. This created a marketplace for other learning providers to fill in skills gaps that meet the needs of the workforce. The value proposition for these learning providers has been that the investment is tailored to the market (in ways bulkier certs and degrees aren’t) and SHORTER than what a two- or four-year college offers. And in comparison to the rising costs of a higher education, these programs are sometimes CHEAPER. Learners of all types voted with their feet, trying these shorter, cheaper options … but with mixed results.

Much to my delight, the acceptance and growth of micro-credentials, competency-based learning, and credit for prior learning have enabled higher education to get back in the game, to be more responsive, to stand up programs that meet the needs of a rapidly evolving, skills-based economy. To offer shorter and cheaper.

Community colleges have led the sector, but four-year colleges are churning, putting learners at the center to create responsive programs. It’s a call to action all of higher ed must embrace. I was particularly inspired by the session, “Future-Proofing Higher Ed: Serving New Demographics,” with Kate Smith, President of Rio Salado College; Gregory Fowler, President of University of Maryland Global Campus; and Justin Lonon, Chancellor-elect of Dallas College. Three leaders talked passionately about how centering learners leads to more responsive programming, and for most learners, they need shorter and cheaper.

But how are we addressing the quality of the new programs we’re rapidly standing up? No matter where they’re offered, we must design and build better programs. In our parlance, better means the program is (a) well-aligned to market needs, (b) provides increased entry and exit points, (c) leads to jobs with family-sustaining wages, (d) allows the learner to be nimbler in the workforce, (e) provides greater visibility into the skills needed to grow in the field, and (f) is offered in a flexible format.

That sounds like a lot because it is. But that’s what better has to be. That’s what better can be.

“Two out of three ain’t bad,” is fine if you’re Meatloaf, RIP, but learning providers cannot settle for SHORTER and CHEAPER. Our programs must be BETTER.

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University of Dayton students are learning skills employers want. Here’s how the Lab helped.

Six University of Dayton students discussing around a conference table.
Photo courtesy of University of Dayton
The University of Dayton – a private, Catholic University located in Dayton, Ohio – has awarded more than 500 digital badges in 21st century skills as part of the Lab’s BadgedToHire project. 

 

Brian LaDuca is on a mission. 

The founding Executive Director of the Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation (IACT) at the University of Dayton (UD) is working with his university to drive the awareness, understanding, and application of digital badges across all departments and curriculums. 

Digital badges, according to EDUCAUSE, are “validated indicators of skills or competencies,” typically representative of completing a micro-credential that is usually not recorded on a student’s official academic transcript.  

From an Applied Creativity Certificate to a set of digital badges

IACT’s digital badges are offered through a partnership with the Education Design Lab (the Lab) and its Lumina Foundation-funded BadgedToHire project, “a study to evaluate the value of mobility skills micro-credentials as a hiring signal for career readiness, particularly for underserved learners.” The UD badges also include elements first developed by LaDuca in 2014 for an innovative, one-of-a-kind Certificate in Applied Creativity for Transformation.

UD students can earn up to seven, tuition-free digital badges in “human skills” that are authorized by the Lab through the Credly platform and added to students’ resumes and LinkedIn profiles. The University of Dayton badges are being piloted in creative problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking, resilience, initiative, empathy, and oral communication. Each digital badge is non-credit bearing on its own and is similar in length to a one-credit course or is already embedded in existing courses. As noted on the IACT site, the goal is for students to demonstrate to prospective employers “their ability to navigate applied creativity skills within their organization and setting them apart from other job/internship/co-op candidates.” 

The digital badges “set my resume apart from other candidates in my field,” agreed mechanical engineering student Kathleen Gawelek, who earned micro-credentials in creative problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking.

To date, 321 UD students have earned a total of 535 badges in this pilot. “We are trying to influence educators and students to think differently about using creative skill-building within any major,” LaDuca said, adding that adoption and implementation of these digital badges entails using experiential and project-based learning techniques.  

Lab project launch

The BadgedToHire project officially launched in 2019 with three higher education partners: Central New Mexico Community College, San Jose State University, and the University of Maine system. Prior to the launch, the Lab spent four years developing a freely accessible T-Profile tool released in 2018, with resources supportive of the deployment of 21st century skills. The T-Profile — partially brought to fruition through a one-year study of micro-credentialing with institutions, learners, and employers called Tee Up the Skills — is “a visual construct that represents the optimal combination of 21st century skills and technical skills for a specified job.” 

Don Fraser, the Lab’s Chief Program Officer, explained that within 12 months of launching the T-Profile tool “with no marketing whatsoever, we had more than 1,000 people sign up for access that was located via a Google search. They were from 30 countries and 800 institutions. And now there’s more than 2,000 individuals signed up.” 

As noted on the BadgedToHire site, “the goal is to shape the opportunity for new credentials to serve as an equity tool, driving design principles of rigor, affordability and relevance to meaningful career advancement.” 

The arrival of COVID-19 in early 2020 caused the BadgedToHire project to extend into its third year in 2022. The University of Dayton, along with Cape Cod Community College, were added as new partner institutions during the Fall semester 2021. “We stumbled across the Lab,” LaDuca said. “We started pulling things off the Lab’s website. They have industry-standard language that we adopted into our work.”  

In essence, the digital micro-credentials align with rubrics, definitions, curricula, and assessments for evaluating the digital badges created by the Lab. UD faculty in collaboration with IACT and other users have designed their own content around these elements with assistance from the Lab. The platform links to numerous resources, including videos of class activities and workplace-contextualized, performance-based assessments. “These assessments are what we call ‘Proving Grounds,’ which are assessments with scenarios that include rubrics for assessing the mastery of specific skills,” said Naomi Boyer, the Lab’s Executive Director of Digital Transformation.

Reaching out to employers

Boyer and Fraser visited with the IACT staff during the early days of the new partnership. “We facilitated a T-Profile session with employers who serve in an advisory capacity for the University of Dayton,” Boyer said. Additionally, in December of 2021, IACT conducted an employer mock interview session with 12 local company hiring managers and CEOs, “because the main driving research question behind BadgedToHire is how we can help employers use micro-credentials, and specifically 21st century skills,” Boyer added. “The University of Dayton has been a phenomenal partner.”

The employer mock interviews with UD digital-badge learners were conducted to discern how employers perceive digital badges and how they can be utilized for hiring purposes. The learners were schooled in IACT courses to understand the value-add of being able to communicate and explain how these emerging competencies can be transferred and what skills they had gained from their digital badge experiences. “What was fascinating about the whole situation was that every one of the employer interviewers said they would hire this person [the digital-badge learner] in a minute, right now,” LaDuca said.  

“The expression of badges on resumes and during interviews can lend itself for employers, like myself, to distinguish between students who are ready for hire and prepared for our positions,” said Grace Schmitmeyer, Talent Acquisition Partner for Emerson, a global technology solutions company. 

Faculty testimonial

Jana Bennett, UD Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies, recently incorporated the creative problem-solving badge into her three-credit, face-to-face Foundation of Disability Studies course offered during the Fall 2021 semester. “The great thing about the digital badges program is that it suggests a number of possible class activities,” she said. “There was a mutual relationship in which IACT helped me figure out what to do in class. I was able to use my already existing content and help students make that connection between what they were learning in my class to help them in their future jobs and put inside their resumes.” Meanwhile, Bennett explained her students have given her positive feedback on their digital badge experiences, and she has started suggesting to her department faculty colleagues that they start thinking about adding digital badges to their courses. 

Heralding a bright badges future

UD was founded in 1850 and currently enrolls almost 12,000 students. The university has “a strong social justice, community-building, and servant-leadership development mission” and is one of three private, Roman Catholic, Marianist universities in the U.S. — the other two being Chaminade University in Honolulu and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. 

The positive responses from employers, students, and faculty continue to keep LaDuca excited about leading IACT’s work to “transform people, not products” [their tagline]. LaDuca’s passion, vision and drive to work collaboratively with faculty to scale digital badges across UD reveals how “it does not take a village, it does not take a department,” Fraser explained. “It takes a will and a way. He has the will, and the Lab has the way.”

Interested in using the Lab’s 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials? Learn more: https://eddesignlab.org/microcredentialing/microcredentials/

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Education Design Lab and Credential Engine partner to build equitable pathways

Education Design Lab (the Lab) and Credential Engine announce a partnership to support community college systems and related state agencies in their efforts to prepare for the heightened expansion of skills-based learning and hiring. This partnership will help multiple stakeholders — but especially learners and workers — navigate the growing credential landscape and embark on paths with strong workforce outcomes.

There are nearly 1 million credentials currently off­ered across the country, a significant portion of which are found in community colleges. While each credential represents an important opportunity for people to get ahead, the current landscape is not easily navigable. Not to mention how hard it can be for people to identify which credentials equip them with the necessary skills required by today’s workforce. With so many credentials to choose from — and without widespread adoption of standards for comparing and evaluating them—people get lost and lose out on opportunity. Learner-earners need better information to navigate pathways to credentials, into the workforce, and toward their goals.

Credential Engine has partnerships with 29 states and regions to provide more equitable access to information about credentials, skills, and pathways. These partners are working toward credential transparency and the shared benefits that all stakeholders get from a landscape where all credentials, their associated skills, and the outcomes they lead to are public, easily accessible, and actionable so that credentials can be better understood and pursued based on what it takes to earn them, what they represent, and the jobs they can lead to. Credential transparency gets people to their desired destinations more easily, efficiently, and equitably.

Credential transparency is made possible by technology such as the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL) — a common language that allows stakeholders to catalog, organize, and compare credentials. Stakeholders who use the CTDL to map their credentials and related outcomes are encouraged to add that information to the public Credential Registry so that it can be openly available for anyone, anytime, anywhere to understand credentials.

The Lab is working with 24 community colleges across the country to launch “micro-pathways” that are designed to make learners’ skills digitally visible to employers who may want to hire them. Co-designed with learners and employers, micro-pathways are defined as two or more stackable credentials, including a 21st century skill micro-credential, that are flexibly delivered to be achieved within less than a year and result in a job at or above the local median wage. By combining this work with the principles of credential transparency, we can create more impactful pathways for learners and earners. 

This is why the Lab and Credential Engine are working together to build community college pathways that are connected using a shared data structure for credential and skill transparency.  

“We have a short window to get this right as states, employer groups, and learning providers rush to map skills into what will become the digital next-gen versions of transcripts, resumes, and job postings,” said Naomi Boyer, Executive Director of Digital Transformation at the Lab. “For this to benefit the learner and the worker in terms of expanded opportunity, we need to align on definitions and data standards, and our partnership with Credential Engine allows us to set examples of how the work of many partners comes together for the learner-earner.”

This partnership advances the work of the Community College Growth Engine Fund (CCGEF, or the Fund for short), which is designed to meet the urgent demand from community college leadership for support to deliver skills-focused, market-driven education as regions struggle to mitigate the growing skills gap. The COVID-19 crisis, the massive disruption that has resulted, and the historic inequities in our labor market have forced higher education institutions to quickly adapt, clarify their value proposition, and create new revenue models. Six of the nation’s largest community colleges and systems joined the Fund’s first cohort, surpassing their goals by designing 30 micro-pathways in the first year (explore micro-pathways by sector). Four additional college systems are now joining the Fund. Each system or college received a startup award through the Fund, which is supported by over 15 foundations and investors.

Through the partnership with Credential Engine, these pathways include clear, transparent information that connects not only the pathways, but also other related credentials, skills, and learning and career opportunities. Going forward, the Fund is creating a roadmap for scale to reach every learner and worker in the country and give them a path to economic dignity.

Credential Engine plays a foundational role in this work by providing the linked open data structure that enables diverse stakeholders to create connected pathways. These pathways span community college courses, programs, competencies, credentials, industry certifications, the Lab’s 21st century skills micro-credentials, and occupational skills and requirements. Data from multiple sources is combined in order to create these pathways and connect them to additional state, regional, and occupational data. The Credential Registry enables stakeholders to publish and describe their pathway components using the shared data structure of the CTDL. Data in CTDL is also included in digital credentials issued to people progressing on these pathways, so that they can see their own achievements and understand how they fit into pathways and broader opportunities.

“Pathways without clear information about their meaning and value can be just another layer of confusion for learners. Together we are addressing the need for clarity, using linked open data as a public good,” said Deborah Everhart, Chief Strategy Officer at Credential Engine

The Lab and Credential Engine have shared determination to proactively respond to equity issues by closing opportunity gaps and elevating learner-earners through voice, visibility, and supportive open data infrastructure.

For more information, email vsbl@eddesignlab.org or info@credentialengine.org.