Tools & Tips

Credential Chaos – The solution is a common language and a searchable registry

The credentialing marketplace is characterized by a serious lack of transparency, trustworthiness, and comparability. This is not surprising in a sector as complex and decentralized as that of education, training, and skill assessment. But in a knowledge-based economy, the result is misguided investments, regretted hiring decisions, and serious skills gaps, which in turn weaken workforce quality, economic growth, and social mobility.

To address this market failure, in 2013 concerned stakeholders and experts launched the Credential Transparency Initiative (CTI). The purpose of CTI was to develop and test three things: 1) common terms for describing all kinds of credentials; 2) a web-based registry, modeled on the Learning Registry, for aggregating and sharing the resulting comparable information; and 3) a prototype application that would allow customized searching of the registry. Three years of pilots and stakeholder feedback led to a decision to take the system up to scale, and in 2016, CTI morphed into an independent nonprofit, Credential Engine, with its own board, staff, and advisory committees. Credential Engine now maintains the key components of the system: the Credential Transparency Description Language, the Credential Registry, and Credential Finder.

The Credential Transparency Description Language is a metadata infrastructure that conforms to the World Wide Web Consortium’s specifications and its vision for open Linked Data. The Credential Registry is an open-source, web 3.0–based database that captures, connects, and makes searchable current information about credentials of all kinds, the organizations that award those credentials, and the quality assurance bodies that endorse, approve, accredit, or otherwise recommend them. That information is published voluntarily by participating credentialing and quality assurance organizations.

Credential Finder is Credential Engine’s prototype search app. It enables employers, job seekers, students, career counselors, and others (e.g., program operators, policymakers, researchers) to nd credentials of interest and compare them along many dimensions— from competencies, assessments, and quality assurances to costs, pathways, and labor-market outcomes. Because it is “open source,” other organizations— from commercial vendors to national associations—can develop their own competing or more specialized apps, and some are already doing so.

This system is well designed to provide the transparency, trust, and comparability that the credentialing marketplace desperately needs. However, realizing its potential depends on the registry reaching a critical mass of credentials, and not all credentialing organizations are prepared to provide them. Some imagine that posting the required information takes more time than it does. Some worry about how they will look when compared with others.

Nevertheless, a rapidly growing number of credentialing programs is seizing the opportunity to be more visible and “findable” on the Internet, and the registry now contains over 2,200 credentials. Yet, with hundreds of thousands of credentials in the United States alone, there remains a long way to go.

Fortunately, state governments and education commissions are stepping up to this challenge by undertaking to achieve critical mass in their states, industry by industry. Some have signed agreements with Credential Engine, and others are preparing to do so.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Fixing the Credentialing Chaos – A National Tool and State Application

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