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New Articulations of Learning and the IMS Digital Credential Summit

“Digital credentials” has come to be a bit of an umbrella term encompassing everything from badges to competency-based education to comprehensive learner records, and conversations on the topic can grow to include not just new ways to articulate learning but corollary topics such as education-to-workforce and supporting technologies like blockchain, verifiable credentials, and self-sovereign ID.

The vigor and scope of the discussion reflects the fundamental nature of the level of impact that digital credentials could have on the education sector. This is not only a new modality of learning, but reflective of an increasingly new way of thinking about the value proposition and ownership of learning outcomes. As concerns grow among both employers and students about the practical value of the traditional transcript, beyond serving as a marker of completion, it may even be seen as part of a wider and more challenging conversation. As one sociologist recently put it, “The skills/competencies discussion represents an erosion of trust in Higher Education. Employers no longer trust Higher Education to produce the skilled workforce they need.” At the very least, it would seem to represent a dissatisfaction with the way that education represents the skills and knowledge acquired in completion of a degree or other learning endpoint. In addition, it speaks to the increasing need for learning data to be mobile and longitudinal across education domains, from P20 into employment and workforce education.

The IMS Digital Credentials Summit has grown to join the top tier of conferences focused on next generation learning articulation and the intersection of education and employment. This reflects what Unicon is seeing in the industry with an increase of focus towards microcredentials, the use of badging, the application of competencies to concepts of learning outcomes, and bringing it all together in the use of comprehensive learning records (CLRs) and other learning and employment record (LER) structures.

Unicon has directly experienced a steady growth in demand for expertise throughout all of these areas, so we’re looking forward to the upcoming 2022 Summit, to be held February 28-March 2, where some of the top thinkers and practitioners in the field will be gathered in Atlanta to review the current state of the art, and lay the groundwork for the work going forward. As I start to think ahead to it, I’m particularly excited about several sessions:

  • The State of the Digital Credentials Technology: The technology ecosystem in the digital credentials space is still relatively immature, but moving fast, and I’m interested in this group of corporate leaders’ perspective on where the technology is, and where they see it headed.
  • Maps and Gaps: Aligning Degree Competencies and Job Competency Profiles: More than a decade ago, when I led a product at a major HR software vendor, we were striving to accomplish this very task of mapping learning outcomes in corporate LMSs to job competencies, with limited success. I’m eager to find out about the progress that has been made and the traction that has been achieved across the community in the years since.
  • Empowering Learners Through Skills and Digital Credentials: Western Governors University remains at the forefront of competencies in education, and the WGU Achievement Wallet is serving as a fascinating testbed for new ways to express skills.
  • Developing a CLR: Critical Insights from Alumni, Students & Employers: I remain (maybe naively) optimistic that the CLR could be a seismic shift in how we think about the articulation of learning; not just traditional education outcomes, but experiential learning, competencies, and skills.
  • Connecting Competencies for Learner Mobility: Learner mobility is an increasingly frequent drumbeat in the work I do, plus I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with the folks from C-BEN on past projects, so I’m eager to hear what they have to say.

If you’re going to be at the IMS Digital Credentials Summit, track me down and let’s talk! I look forward to sharing what I learn when I get back!

Cary Brown

Cary Brown

Director, Strategic Project Management
Cary Brown serves as Unicon’s Principal Project Manager and joined the Executive Leadership Team to further Unicon’s presence in the education technology market. He helps lead Unicon’s consultants to coordinate impactful projects which guide campuses in finding a fresh approach with upgraded and transformative learning tools. Throughout his career, he has used his unique knowledge to facilitate the use of optimal strategic priorities and approaches for next-generation interoperability in campus digital ecosystems.