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What does skills validation mean? Education Design Lab defines key terms and shares market scan of skills validation methods

Two new resources from the XCredit Skills Validation Network will help strengthen the skills-based ecosystem and promote greater collaboration among stakeholders.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 12, 2023) — Education Design Lab (the Lab), a national nonprofit helping colleges and employers design equity-based education solutions toward the future of work, today released a market scan of skills validation methods, as well as a skills validation glossary, both produced by the XCredit Skills Validation Network (SVN).

Skills validation isn’t yet happening at scale across the skills-based ecosystem, and the Market Scan: Skills Validation Methods is a key first step in enabling that. The market scan documents the current landscape of established and potential skill validation methods, including (1) automated assessments, (2) social endorsements, and (3) other AI-powered approaches. The SVN will use the market scan — along with the Glossary of Key Terms & Concepts in Skills Validation — to inform their prototypes of skill validation methods in the coming months.

Key terms defined in the glossary include:

  • Skills visibility
  • The difference between skills-based economy and skills-based ecosystem (with help from ChatGPT).
  • And most importantly, the definition of skills validation itself:

Skills validation: The process by which an assertion (“I assert that I have a skill!”) is substantiated.

  • Typically conducted by qualified third party
  • Creates trust that individual possesses skill
  • Based on a shared understanding/rubric of meaning of skill
  • Indicates level and context of skill
  • Can be conducted through various methods
Why it matters

Since November 2022, the XCredit Skills Validation Network (SVN) has brought together innovators from more than 10 organizations in service of expanding opportunity and improving economic mobility for STARs, talented individuals Skilled Through Alternative Routes, as opposed to a bachelor’s degree. STARs comprise half of the U.S. workforce — and they have developed skills on the job, through military service, in community college, or through other means.

The SVN is committed to helping drive a national dialogue around the criticality, terminology, and methods of skills validation, offered by leading thinkers and doers from diverse organizations across the skills-based ecosystem.

Dr. Naomi Boyer, Executive Director, Digital Transformation: “The Lab is honored to engage such stellar, innovative, equity-focused partners in the SVN community. The two foundational documents are evidence of the action orientation of the members and ways SVN can contribute to existing gaps in the field.”

Dr. Tara Laughlin, Senior Education Designer + SVN Network Lead: “The XCredit Skills Validation Network seeks to enable equitable economic opportunity for individuals who are Skilled Through Alternative Routes (STARs) through diverse, proven methods of skills validation, and these two documents are critical early steps toward achieving this goal.”

What’s next

To move these innovations forward, the SVN will be co-designing a set of design criteria that can serve as a guide for the development and evaluation of skill validation methods. The network will also iterate on the market scan and glossary over time, and suggestions are welcome.

Go deeper

Read the resources:

For more information about the XCredit Skills Validation Network, visit

This work is made possible by the generous funding and support from and program officer Sean Murphy.

About Education Design Lab: The Lab is a nonprofit intermediary that designs, tests, and scales new models + tools with and for new majority learners that address systemic and environmental barriers to success and help to prepare learners, educators, and employers for the emerging digital skills economy. Learn more:

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