Alternative Credentials: Considerations, Guidance, and Best Practices

July 12, 2022
  • Data Stewardship
  • Electronic Records and Document Exchange
  • Recordkeeping Compliance
  • Records and Academic Services
  • Systems Management
  • Alternative Credentials
  • best pratices
  • guidance
Person working on process management at their laptop.

The AACRAO  Alternative Credentials Work Group released a report today on campus guidelines and best practices for alternative credentials, primarily micro-credentials and certificates, and specifically to:

  • create broader awareness among institutions of higher education of micro-credentials and certificates.
  • create future consistency and meaning of these credentials by providing definitions and parameters.
  • establish best practices in the offering and issuance of alternative credentials so that their portability and acceptance is maximized for the learner.
  • identify the considerations an institution should have of launching and maintaining a successful micro-credential initiative or program.
  • highlight the important role the registrar (and admissions officers) can/should play in their campus micro-credential initiatives/programs.

Download the report here. Specific considerations outlined in the charge included minimum/maximum standards for credit and non-credit based credentials; target audiences; learning outcomes; alignment with workforce or professional standards; proposal/approval protocols; budget and vendor considerations; academic record and SIS impacts; assessment; and digital/open standards.

The considerations, guidelines and best practices documented throughout this report were written from the lens of and intended for admissions, enrollment management and registrar professionals. This is important to note because establishing comprehensive and quality micro-credential program initiatives involves many campus stakeholders, namely faculty and others who have innovative ideas as well as the best interest of learners driving their decisions.

The AACRAO Alternative Credentials Workgroup is excited to share this report and best practices with our AACRAO colleagues.  As a rapidly changing environment, alternative credentials and badges present an opportunity to equip learners with the ability to demonstrate new skillsets and knowledge to potential employers, higher education institutions, and other consumers. We hope that these best practices will be helpful to our AACRAO colleagues as they work with their campuses to implement these new credential types. - Brenda Schumann, Work Group Chair, University of Texas at Austin.

The report breaks down these considerations and best practices into sections focusing on:

WHAT
What alternative credentials, namely micro-credentials are.

WHY
Why a campus might consider offering micro-credentials.

WHO
Who should be involved in proposing, issuing and managing alternative credentials, and who are the potential learner populations.

HOW
How micro-credential initiatives might be implemented for long-term success;

WHERE
Where micro-credentials and digital badges are recorded and shared.

WHEN
When alternative credentials should be awarded to foster their relevance and usefulness to learners.

The Alternative Credentials work group was comprised of a core group of AACRAO members representing diverse institutional types, positions, and geographic locations:

Brenda Schumann (Work Group Chair)
Deputy University Registrar and Director of Operations and Compliance
The University of Texas at Austin

Kristi Wold-McCormick (AACRAO Board Liaison)
Assistant Vice-Provost and University Registrar
University of Colorado Boulder

Tara Arneson
Registrar
Champlain College

Lisa Delaney
Assistant Registrar
Ohio State University

Noah Geisel
Micro-credentials Program Manager
University of Colorado Boulder

Ashley Moran
Registrar
College for Financial Planning

Traci Rees
Business Analyst for Business Operations and Continuity
George Mason University

Tricia Ryan
Director, Graduate Admissions & Program Evaluations
San Jose State University

LacyJane Ryman
Registrar
Rowan College at Burlington County

Polixenia Tohaneanu
Assistant Director Graduate Admissions
University of Idaho

Mark McConahay (Report Contributor)
Retired, Indiana University Bloomington
AACRAO Consultant and CLR Coordinator

In addition to the AACRAO workgroup members and contributors, industry partners from the American Council on Education (ACE), Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE), IMS Global, and University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), shared their professional experience and expertise to assist in the creation of these best practices and workgroup report.