Kelly Hoyland, Higher Education Program Manager, 1EdTech
Creating a National LER: How 1EdTech Can Help Get Us There
The debate over how or if higher education needs to evolve always comes back to a few central needs and expectations of the students. To sum up, higher education is expensive, so people want assurances that their large investment will get them started on a rewarding career path once they graduate. That concern is compounded for people who aren’t certain higher education is the right path for them because if they don’t finish the degree, they lose all of the time and money they invested before leaving the institution.
One promising solution to all of these challenges, and one that is getting more and more attention, is Learner and Employment Records (LER).
LERs are records that individuals can hold, control, and build on throughout their lives as they acquire new skills. This includes everything from credits earned in higher education to professional development programs, certification assessments, and more. Thus, giving learners the ability to see how their investments tie into career requirements, maintain credit for their work even if they don’t complete a full degree, or can finish the degree on their own time. This also helps improve equity by providing flexibility in how and when a person earns the credentials they need for the career they want.
A recent whitepaper from Central New Mexico Community College, IBM, Western Governors University, Randa, Public Consulting Group, and Solutions for Information Design lays out recommendations to create a successful national LER ecosystem. Several of the contributors are 1EdTech members, and if you have the time, it’s worth a read, but here are my takeaways on how 1EdTech can help you get started with digital credentials and begin creating a national LER ecosystem.
1EdTech, our members, and partner organizations are already working on several of these recommendations. So, while it may feel overwhelming, starting your digital credential program from scratch is no longer necessary. Rather, a large community is ready and willing to help get you where you need to be, so you can help us make the dream of a national system a reality.
Breaking Down the Recommendations
So why are these steps so important? Let’s take it one at a time.
First, creating LER standards to meet the needs of the job market.
As the job market and the needs of employers evolve, so does the need for workers to reskill and upskill throughout their careers. Not everyone can return to school whenever a career change is needed. Instead, employers need a system that connects them to people with specific skills earned in various ways.
That system needs to be equitable and efficient to work, and that is where standards come in. The standards help make any credential work in any system. I like to use electrical outlets as an example. You can plug any lamp (credentials) into an electrical outlet (hiring system) and trust it will work because both the lamp and outlet are built to specific standards that ensure they will work together. It doesn’t matter if the lamp is tall, short, bright, changes colors, has a shade, or is a bare bulb, it will work in any outlet because it meets standards. All you have to do is pick the lamp you like and plug it in. That’s what standards do for credentials, you pick the ones you want, plug them into the system, and you can see what each applicant brings to the table without worrying if the format their credentials are in will work.
This does require all stakeholders to agree on one set of standards, which is why 1EdTech looks to partner with and align standards with other organizations, including aligning the latest Open Badge and CLR standards with W3C. This helps ensure we are all moving forward together.
Second, create a technical infrastructure that provides shared identity/trust and skill/credential services.
Seeing what skills a person has is one thing, but knowing what those various credentials and accomplishments mean is something entirely different. 1EdTech’s Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) standard can help with that too.
The study points out that the increasing diversity of job classifications and new job categories make a national LER system even more important. Employers are looking for individuals with specific skills, and they need to understand what each degree or credential means because they can mean completely different things depending on how a person earned them.
1EdTech’s Open Badges and CASE standards help serve as a type of decoder ring, providing context and data for each credential so the person reading them can verify the skills match what they need and that the credential comes from a trusted source.
This is important because currently, credentials are shared by the institution or company that issues them. So while they are trustworthy, the person who earned them can’t necessarily control or share them. Open Badges and CLR give the earner agency over their own credentials while also providing verification of validity.
Third, integrate talent marketplace provider offerings with the LER infrastructure.
Once you have the credentials, HR professionals and academic institutions must be able and willing to use them. 1EdTech’s Wellspring Project is focused on bringing institutions and employers together to drive the use of digital credentials and automate matching credentials with educational and employment opportunities. We also help facilitate conversations between educators and employers to ensure that what is taught in the classroom matches the skills needed to find a job.
To help move this forward, we recently partnered with the HR Open Standards Consortium to match digital credential standards with resume standards, making them easier for employers to access and use.
Fourth, invest in regional LER projects.
This isn’t something 1EdTech can do directly, but our contributions to the first three recommendations allow our members and organizational partners to take this need and run with it. The white paper mentions several case studies of their partners and 1EdTech members creating valuable and verifiable digital credentials in their local ecosystems. You can find more examples on 1EdTech’s Achievement, Opportunity, and Employment Imperative web page. These organizations are leading the way in creating a national LER ecosystem by proving it can work on a smaller scale.
The fifth and sixth requirements are creating legal and regulatory terms and creating an organization that certifies LER technologies and applications.
These are beyond 1EdTech’s purview, but we continue to partner and work alongside groups taking on these important issues to ensure the standards support and evolve along with the needs of learners, employers, institutions, and industries.
It’s a collaborative effort, one that is close to 1EdTech and our members. We are collaborating to create an open, trusted, and innovative ecosystem that works to benefit all. That’s what we do here. We join forces and find solutions together because we know that for this to succeed, it needs to work for everyone.
About the Author
Kelly Hoyland serves as the program manager for higher education at 1EdTech, where she works with members to meet the challenges they face in the rapidly growing and evolving digital teaching and learning landscape. This includes working across K-12, higher education, and corporate education to make life achievements more accessible, personalized and equitable from the start for every learner.