An open concept for electronic credentials

August 3, 2018
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Colorado Technical University's Heather Sharbaugh, Director of Academic Records, and Colleen Wilson, University Registrar, shared their success in their digital diploma and badging initiatives in a session at the AACRAO Technology & Transfer Conference in Minneapolis, MN, titled "DIY Must Have: An Open Concept for Electronic Credentials."

Founded in 1965, Colorado Technical University (CTU) is an accredited for-profit university offering undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees, primarily in business, management, and technology. 

For CTU, the primary motivation for moving to digital credentials was student service. The typical CTU student fits the non-traditional student profile--adult learners, military, international students, working adults and transfer students. More than 90% of CTU students are fully online. Services for these students need to be fast, convenient, and easily shareable.

Offering digital transcripts since 2010, CTU wanted to expand their digital offerings to students beyond simple transcripts to socially shareable artifacts that students could use to promote themselves, with an added benefit of raising the university profile on social platforms like LinkedIn.

“We wanted to move the diploma from the personal wall to an electronic portfolio,” said Sharbaugh.

They described their roll-out as a collaborative process that cut across multiple university departments--University Registrar, faculty, marketing, career services, and alumni relations--over a relatively short implementation timeline of four months (January-April 2017) for a limited number of programs to offer digital badges and/or diplomas.

Post-implementation, the issuance of digital diplomas has unexpectedly created office efficiencies. Given their model with multiple completion dates, the CTU records office described functions that took up multiple staff hours spread across the calendar year. Wilson described her new experience: finishing degree clearance and diploma-issuance processes completed in a single afternoon.

Early results indicate a strong positive response from students, who report being pleased with the speed at which they are receiving their digital completion documents.  In particular, international students have been pleased with the ease of receiving their diploma digitally, and have found that the processes used by CTU have been acceptable to receiving entities all over the globe.  Students who have completed programs that have issued badges are posting them on their LinkedIn profiles and are reporting positive value in the workplace.