Moving Your Studies Forward with Alternative Credentialing

The future is here and it is very, very digital. Alternative credentialing, or “non-degree” programs are all the rage in the post-secondary circuit. And for good reason.

Employers today are increasingly looking for more than just a BA on a resume. The job market is saturated and more often than not, simply having a degree isn’t enough to guarantee that a new graduate will successfully break into it. The days of four years of post-secondary education followed by a new suit and a new position are long gone and in their place are young degree holders wondering just what to do with their four years and piece of parchment.

Alternative credentialing is the way forward without interfering with traditional studies. MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses), Online Bootcamps, Digital Badges and Certificate Programs are becoming increasingly popular as they give students real-world, relevant skills in a variety of areas in an online format. Going to school, but want to learn how to code websites for work? Take a MOOC. Want to work in Public Relations, but don’t know where to start? Try a bootcamp. Wondering if you can squeeze the extra hours of learning into your already packed schedule? No problem because most alternative credential courses are module based, freeing you up to do the work whenever you want.

“Many of our students are juggling work with other degree programs,” says Perry Gross, Admissions Officer at Ashton College. “They come to us because they need certification in a very specific area, but they want to do it on their own time. Our online learning department has grown tremendously over the past few years.”

Module based courses and workshops free students up to work at their own pace and whenever is convenient for them. As financial expectations placed on students grow, many are forced to live a frenetic lifestyle, running from class to work and back to class all over again. As a result, students are taking longer and longer to graduate from post-secondary institutions. And when they do, many don’t have the right skillset.

“A degree says something about you, it says that you can think critically and work hard. But it doesn’t necessary show employers that you can do the job that you apply for,” says Gross.

Employers know this and that’s why many offer paid support for new hires to enroll in alternative credential courses to round out their skillset.

“Take our CFP (Certified Financial Planner) program for example,” says Gross. “Insurance companies phone us up and send over teams of new hires to get certified.”

The government is also on board with alternative credentialing. Grants and scholarships are available for short-term courses aimed at filling in education gaps and helping with job skill development. For the disadvantaged who cannot afford the high cost of post-secondary education, but want to work, funding is available for job training programs across the country.

However, proponents of the more traditional models of learning point to the low completion rate of MOOC’s and other such online programs. While online degree programs do have a similar completion rate as in-class programs due to the high tuition costs, alternative credential programs typically see much lower numbers of graduating students. As such programs and courses are in their relative infancy, they are still not viewed in the same light as degree programs. But where there is consensus among educators is in the fact that demand for alternative credentialing is increasing.

“People want to learn,” says Gross. “And they’re going to do it however they can.

About the Author

Adam Bajan is a writer and PR Specialist. He holds a Master’s degree in communication and a Public Relations certificate from Simon Fraser University.

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