Research

Report: 4 Possible Future Credentialing Systems

Systems of documenting the knowledge and skills of students and employees could change dramatically over the next 10 years, according to a new report from KnowledgeWorks, a nonprofit organization that works with schools and communities to foster personalized learning.

The report, "Certifying Skills and Knowledge: Four Scenarios on the Future of Credentials," examines trends in education and the workplace to identify four possible scenarios for changes to credentialing over the next 10 years, including a baseline future that is much like the current system of credentialing, two alternative futures and a wild-card scenario.

In the baseline future, diplomas, degrees and certificates remain the dominant form of credentials. However, even this baseline future foresees increasingly diverse paths to achieving those credentials, such as online education, charter schools and homeschool, and an increase in micro-credentials such as badges to represent acquired skills and knowledge at a granular level.

The first alternative scenario envisions a future where employers accept micro-credentials, such as badges, and other alternative forms of micro- and nano-credentials on a standalone basis, "breaking higher education's near monopoly on credentialing for professional careers," according to the report.

The second alternative scenario envisions a future where technology allows people to track all of their experiences and document them as a form of credential.

The wild card scenario describes a future where technological breakthroughs enable brain functions to be mapped and tracked to create credentials based on an individual's cognitive abilities and socio-emotional skills.

"Workforce development would benefit from an updated credentialing system for the 21st century," said Judy Peppler, president and CEO of KnowledgeWorks, in a prepared statement. "As education changes to a more vibrant learning ecosystem, so will the workforce continue to change to a more networked environment. We will need to be able to track learning experiences to better understand an individual's qualifications and skill set. Through alternative credentialing options, the employment sector will start to see a more robust and diverse workforce."

The paper expands on KnowledgeWorks' 2012 report, "Recombinant Education: Regenerating the Learning Ecosystem," which outlined five potential changes to education in the future.

A free PDF of the report, "Certifying Skills and Knowledge: Four Scenarios on the Future of Credentials," can be found on the KnowledgeWorks site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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