Data Collaborative for a Skills-Based Economy

The Lab is the first to lead a groundbreaking effort that collects data directly from education providers and connects their data with national organizations, government agencies, and others to paint a picture of education and work outcomes for non-credit programs.

The Lab’s Data Collaborative for a Skills-based Economy (Data Collab) is an innovative data hub that connects and aggregates data across a range of data sources to uncover how new education-to-work models can support economic mobility for new majority learners.

The Data Collab is a data collaboration infrastructure that enables the Lab and its partners to ask and answer deeper questions about equitable learner outcomes in the noncredit space.


Initially formed to support the Community College Growth Engine, the Lab has designed and deployed a new data collaborative with a growing set of innovative higher education institutions that are rolling out, at scale, data infrastructure for evaluating “what works” in the world of micro-credentials, alternative pathways, skills assessments, and other short-term, noncredit programs.

The Lab’s Data Collab lives at the intersection of design and data — our work in the field has taught us that education providers, policymakers, learners, and employers are eager for insights on the impact and ROI of short-term or noncredit programs. Importantly, (l)earners need better data on what programs are available and what their investment of time, money, and energy will yield for their own economic mobility.


The Lab, along with partners Brighthive (technical administrator), National Student Clearinghouse (Postsecondary Data Partnership submission), an external project research group (evaluator), and Credential Engine (data schema and mapping), established the data infrastructure, as well as the technical, governance, and legal frameworks to support data collaboration across education institutions, government agencies, community-based organizations, and others.

In year one of this multi-year effort, we have accomplished the following:

  • Built an infrastructure for gathering data, monitoring progress, and researching the impact of innovative alternative, short-term credentials and pathways;
  • Created and executed data sharing templates with colleges and national partners;
  • Developed data guides with submission templates identifying key data elements including (L)earner Enrollment + Progression, (L)earner demographics, and Programs (Competencies, Courses, Credentials, Pathways);
  • Performed a gap analysis of missing individual (l)earner demographic data and developed protocols for gathering this information in innovative ways;
  • Established the data architecture, data privacy, data protection, data security, and data governance to ensure compliance and elevation of individual data privacy rights;
  • Established collaborative partnerships with national organizations to maximize data standards and minimize duplicative data efforts; and 
  • Established a multi-pronged model for incorporating wage and employment outcome data elements.

Data Dashboard

Identifying the Impacts of Alternative Credentials

What’s Next

The Lab has identified six key areas of focus for the next two years to more fully leverage data to evaluate learner impact and generate new insights on non-credit programs:

Data Dashboard Products for Insights

Recognizing that educators and the field at large are lacking the ability to engage with noncredit data at scale, the Lab is investing in user-friendly data dashboards that allow for stakeholders to visualize learner impact and outcomes data.

Standardization of Noncredit Credential Data

A lack of standardized short-term credential data, pathways, and outcomes schema has made it difficult for the field to evaluate the benefits of non-credit programs. By leveraging partnerships with national partners such as Credential Engine, the Lab will build the capabilities of the Data Collab by normalizing noncredit credential, pathways, and outcomes data.

Test and Support Integration of K-12 Data

The Lab plans to test the feasibility of ingesting data from high schools as a proof point for normalizing noncredit data across K-12 systems.

Data Capacity-Building Support

We’ve observed great variance in data capabilities, governance, and practices within institutions. Colleges will benefit from support and technical assistance to ensure full participation and the ability to assemble the required data. The Lab will engage experienced Data Coaches to build the capacity of institutions to fully participate in the Collab.

Employment and Wage Data Integrations

Wage and employment data is a critical missing piece across the data ecosystem – and the most commonly limiting factor in data projects that evaluate outcomes. The Data Collab is exploring emerging opportunities for obtaining and linking reliable wage and employment data including partnerships with national organizations, pilots with federal datasets, engagements with private vendors, and state data-sharing arrangements with colleges. In addition, the Lab is exploring the development of an index to provide insight into the economic equity impact for the region being served.

Inclusion of Industry Certification and NonCredit Credential Data

Recognizing the field’s lack of data on noncredit outcomes, the Lab aims to incorporate noncredit completion data, including badges, industry credentials, and other micro-credentials into the Data Collab.


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