Higher education has a paper problem. Physical diplomas, certificates and student records are becoming increasingly inefficient as core administration processes digitalize and students interact more frequently online.
According to recent research from Accredible, higher education institutions account for a 21% market share in the digital credentialing space, the second highest of any individual industry. As these credentials grow in popularity, they will become an expected value add for learners of all backgrounds.
Fortunately, many universities are already catching on. Take Ohio State University, for example: Late last year, the university’s VP of business and finance announced micro-credential programs were a crucial part of its affordability plan, a sign that this digital shift is accelerating at even the country’s most prominent institutions.
As more students seek short-term certifications and ongoing reskilling, universities must equip themselves with the knowledge to build effective credentialing infrastructures and ensure students have access to the best possible outcomes for their effort.
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Why Are We Going Digital?
1. It’s better for the environment
Beyond being easy to implement, digital credentials eliminate wasteful printing and shipping while still allowing students to print if they prefer. The same goes for institutions that accept digital credentials. On the large, universities should be more amenable to digital transcripts and credentials for graduate program applications, as well as transfer students at all levels. As these changes occur across institutions, universities will find themselves building a greener network of credential transfer together.
2. Students can market their skills
It’s one thing to post a picture of a diploma or certificate on LinkedIn with an emotional caption about one’s achievements. It’s another to have an authentic, verifiable digital badge to share as evidence.
When students earn digital certificates through universities, depending on the credential provider, they can link those badges to their social profiles and resumes. Not only will this make it easier for employers to gauge their qualifications, but social sharing can also elevate the university’s name brand. As a result, universities should see digital credential offerings as a marketing and recruitment tool as much as they are a value-add for students.
3. They’re easily verifiable
A 2020 Savoy Stewart Survey found that 63% of job seekers admitted to lying on their resume, and experts believe resume fraud will only continue to increase with the advent of AI and ChatGPT for everyday use. In fact, 89% of college students have already admitted to using ChatGPT for homework assignments. This rise in blatant cheating has dangerous implications.
As a result, more universities are moving to digital credentials for their security and verifiability. In a matter of seconds, recruiters and universities can verify a digital credential without an extensive and costly process. Moreover, they’re far more secure than traditional paper and PDF credentials, which can be easily forged. Most digital credentials offer bank-level encryption and even blockchain verification options for indisputable proof.
The Student Advantage
Traditional learner profiles are changing; universities are implementing digital credentials as a way to accommodate diverse educational needs.
The business world is moving towards skills-based hiring as more companies begin to loosen college degree requirements and U.S. lawmakers seek to make Pell Grants, once exclusive to undergraduate students, available for specific workforce-related credential programs. With this shift, even degree holders may need to seek additional credentials to bolster their resumes and prove their skills to potential employers.
Students have seen the value of digital credentials with electronic transcripts, which make it easier to apply to graduate schools, deliver proof of their academic standing to a job, or submit for any other educational and professional opportunities that may require academic credentials.
Digital credentials are also advantageous for “fluid” students, who may be pursuing a degree on a less traditional schedule, be that because of a full-time job, family life, or their health. These more flexible programs allow students to complete coursework at their own pace and on their own terms, earning stackable credentials as they go.
As digital transformation accelerates, long-standing administrative practices—many of which are over-reliant on paper—will cease to be, forcing universities to rapidly adapt. With robust digital credential programs emerging at schools across the country, it’s clear that academic records and credentials are a natural place to begin this change. Not only do they streamline processes, but they provide immense value to students, improving the experience across the board.