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Graphic facilitation by Karina Branson for the ShapingEDU's Mini-Summit.

ShapingEDU hosts event focused on credentials and their employment value

Stephanie King

— May 26, 2022

From the importance of trust, learner empowerment, ownership of data and more, a lot of ground was covered at last month’s ShapingEDU’s Spotlight Mini-Summit: Emerging Credentials x Future Employment.

Student panelists with moderator Samantha Becker during ShapingEDU Mini-Summit.The virtual event took place on Tuesday, April 26 and offered a platform for experts, technologists, educators, employers, learners and more to share what the credentials ecosystem looks like now and will look like tomorrow and 10 years from now. It also explored the importance of emerging credentials (think nondegree badges, digital credentials, microcredentials, e.g.) when it comes to education and employment.

Participants were able to dive deeper into the field of emerging credentials and their “worth” now and in the future by hearing from a breadth of voices. These diverse perspectives included high school, college and post-college students; educators of two- and four-year degree programs; employers, like Robots and Pencils’ Tracey Zimmerman, who shared valuable advice for young professionals; to technologists and more. Attendees also enjoyed a little Serious Play Studio fun with two creative games designed by ShapingEDU Innovator in Residence Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D. and experience strategist Laura Geringer.

Hosted by ShapingEDU’s Emerging Credentials Standards Action Team, the Mini-Summit was the first phase of the Action Team’s project, which is to create a toolkit for educators, employers and lifelong learners to use to navigate the world of emerging credentials, due out in July 2022. 

“The goals and values of the Action Team are to be focused on: how do we help the learners, how do we connect higher education to the employer market and how do we enrich what we do inside higher education,” said David Thomas, co-Team Leader for the Action Team and Executive Director for Online Programs at the University of Denver. Thomas co-leads the Action Team with ASU’s Director of Learning Experience Design Dr. Allison Hall.

The Mini-Summit aligned with the Action Team’s goals, sharing an overview of the emerging credentials space.“There is interest in where we are going in the digital credential space – more than 400 Community members registered to join the event – and we are happy we could create a space where stories and experiences were shared to educate, excite and inspire others,” said Stephanie Pierotti, Director of ShapingEDU.

Badgr’s Sheryl Grant kicked off the Mini-Summit by sharing the value of trust in the credentials space, a key theme that was heard often throughout the event. She also discussed how the evolution of emerging credentials is all about the evolution of trust, from local to institutional to distributed trust. “This framing of the conversation about distributed trust helps us understand where we are and where we’re going,” said Grant.

Sheryl Grant and Phil Long at the ShapingEDU Mini-Summit.

She later re-joined the virtual event for a Q&A with emerging credentials expert Dr. Phillip Long, who spoke about the relationship between credential issuers, holders and verifiers (known as the “trust triangle”) as the verifiable credential framework. They also defined and explored the evolution of Learning and Employment Records (LERs), which are comprehensive digital records of skills and competencies learned in school, on the job, through volunteer experiences or in the military. They include credentials, diplomas and employment history. “What we do know is that there will be an increasing number of employers who will see the value of these kinds of credentials,” said Long.

ShapingEDU Director Stephanie Pierotti with the Mini-Summit Innovator panelists.The Take Five! Innovators session featured innovative technology in the credentials space from technology titans like Coursera’s Quentin Story McAndrew, Ph.D, Digit.ink's Lucas Czarnecki and ASU’s Timothy Summers, Ph.D. and Kate Giovacchini. Summers and Giovacchini gave participants a glimpse into their latest projects for ASU: Summers showcased Pocket, a portable, secure and verified digital wallet that supports the learner journey in a deeply human way, while Giovacchini’s Trusted Learner Network offers institutions and credential issuers a space to explore complex challenges and develop new ways to record, curate, and share achievements and skills across the learner’s lifespan. Concentric Sky’s Nate Otto, who created Badgr, rounded out the session by sharing what the emerging credentials field will look like in 10 years if we’re successful.

Along with presenters sharing the importance of trust between learners, earners, issuers and employers, another key theme from the day was understanding the value of the credential to help validate their journey. “We need to do more outreach to the learners to help them understand the value of microcredentials and how to access their credentials,” said Lynn Szymanski, Director Workforce Development at Great Bay Community College, during the Fireside Chats: Educator Insights. “Then the importance of sharing them. We need to provide a lot of nudging and prompting for them to do that.”  

Credentials are also a tool to enable everyone at all stages of their learner journey. McAndrew said badging is a great opportunity to serve inequity in our society. "Helping the learner validate their journey and find what’s right for them is one of the most important things that we can do," said McAndrew.

Learn more about the important conversations that took place during the Mini-Summit:

Interested in joining the Emerging Credentials Action Team? Find out more

Stephanie King

Stephanie King