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Alternative Digital Credentials

This page is for MU faculty and staff to learn about this new program offering and get help deciding whether ADCs are right for your unit. Welcome!

What are ADCs?

Alternative Digital Credentials (ADC) are non-traditional (non-degree) online credentials offered by institutions of higher education. ADCs provide agile, flexible, economical, secure, electronically sharable records in a format that can be used by learners to demonstrate certain learned achievements, skills, and competencies. These are often earned as compliments to traditional academic degrees, minors, and certificates as well as in non-academic settings. ADCs provide a legitimate, verifiable documentation of learning not captured by traditional credit-hour transcripts.

Terms to know

  • Alternative digital credentials: non-traditional (non-degree) online credentials offered by institutions of higher education.
  • Micro-credential: represents the acquisition of knowledge and mastery of specific skills or competencies.
  • Digital badge: the visual representation of having earned a micro-credential. Digital badges can be shared on various online platforms to showcase the earner’s achievement.
  • Digital badging systems: refers to the technology used to display the badges.

Benefits of ADCs

There are growing demands from learners that educational opportunities be on-demand, unbundled, and low-cost. Additionally, there are increasing calls for ways to document learning, skills and competencies not captured by our current policies, including but not limited to:

  • those earned outside of the traditional classroom setting.
  • those not recorded with a traditional transcription of credit hour.
  • those that document learning that is a subset of the learning represented in a traditional credit hour.
  • those that occur from training sessions, bootcamps, workshops, apprenticeships, et cetera.

Use the drop-down items below to learn more about ADCs at Mizzou.

In August of 2022, the Alternative Digital Credential Policy was approved by Faculty Council. ADCs are intended for Mizzou students, including non-degree seeking students. University of Missouri micro-credentials that are non-credit bearing and free-standing will be free to all participants.

Mizzou ADCs have two key components (credit-bearing/noncredit bearing; assessed/unassessed) that make up the ADC types (credit-bearing assessed; non-credit bearing assessed; non-credit bearing unassessed.

First, the components:

  1. Credit-bearing are ADCs that receive academic credit and are reflected on the Mizzou academic transcript.
  2. Noncredit bearing are ADCs that do not receive academic credit and will not be reflected on the academic transcript; they are considered digital participation awards. Examples include a continuing education offering; employee professional development program, seminar, or workshop; an event that involves a learning experience and assessment activity.
  3. Assessed ADCs are issued for evaluated learning accomplishments that demonstrate learning, skills and/or competencies.
  4. Unassessed ADCs are issued for unevaluated learning accomplishments, such as the completion of a series of tasks, attendance at events, or for learning that has not been assessed.

The table below outlines more details about the ADC types:

Characteristics of Mizzou’s ADCs

Credit-bearing ADCsNon-credit-bearing ADCs
Assessed ADCs-Issued by academic units only.
-Have clear learning outcomes that are assessed.
-Currently approved through a -Qualtrics process.
-Receive academic credit/on transcript.
-In academic catalog.
Adhere to University standards.
-Issued by academic or non-academic units.
-Have clear learning outcomes that are assessed.
-Approved through workflow process on Provost’s website.
-Will not receive academic credit/not on. transcript/not in academic catalog.
-Maintained in ADC system.
-Adhere to University standards.
Unassessed ADCsNot allowed.-Issued by academic and non-academic units.
-Verifies experience and/or participation but not evaluated.
-Approved within sponsoring unit.
-Will not receive academic credit/not on transcript/not in academic catalog.
-Maintained in ADC system.
Adhere to University standards.

All of Mizzou’s ADC badges conform to the Open Badges standard from the IMS Global Learning Consortium – 1EdTech. Open Badges provide a format for digital badges and include meta-data about the underlying requirements and learning objectives, academic work, and how it was assessed.

  1. Every proposal needs to meet the standards for assessed/unassessed, credit/non-credit as described above.
  2. Levels and type distinctions. All ADCs must meet University standards and clearly communicate the type of credential they represent. When ADCs are issued in the same subject area at two or more levels or types (assessed/unassessed, credit/non-credit) of competency, the levels must be clearly defined and obvious to the public.
  3. Issuance. ADC completion will be recorded using the current approved campus badging or other ADC system.
  4. Records of ADCs will be maintained in the data warehouse, or other University identified storage in accordance with the Records Retention Policy.
  5. ADCs may fulfill the requirements of a non-credit, credit or hybrid program (a combination of credit and non-credit), or contribute to requirements that meet workforce demands, but they need to match the mission and culture of the University of Missouri.

Each type of ADC has an official, branded design, customized with each microcredential name. Study Abroad’s Predeparture Orientation is used to illustrate each type:

Learning Objectives and the Comprehensive Learner Framework

Each ADC will be required to have learning objective(s) indicating what students will know (concepts, terminology, methods, history, etc.) and what students will be able to do when they complete the micro-credential (skills achieved). These should be broad enough to encompass all the knowledge acquired during the course of study, yet specific enough, using active verbs, to communicate clearly to students, parents, and other stakeholders. Feel free to refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy for examples or additional assistance.

A noteworthy feature of Mizzou ADC’s is the connection to Mizzou’s Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) and its framework. The CLR framework is an overarching Mizzou student learning framework with six distinct domains, intended to capture both curricular and co-curricular learning experiences. Existing Mizzou and National learning frameworks map to this overarching framework. This global framework provides connection points for aligning learning opportunities, awarding credentials, and translating learning across the institution. When completing the proposal for an ADC, proposers will be asked to tie one of the ADC learning objectives to a CLR domain.

View CLR Domains

Stackable Credentials

Credentials may be combined or sequenced like building blocks where each short-term credential that a person earns builds into a higher-level credential. ADCs can be stacked vertically, horizontally, or both. Vertical stacking is the most common in which a single topic is explored in advancing detail. Horizontal stacking is the acquirement of knowledge across several topics. Hybrid stacking is a combination of both vertical and horizontal stacking, where learners explore multiple topics in increasing levels of difficulty.

Approval is required for each ADC that will be part of a stackable credential as well as the stacked credential. For example, if you have three ADCs that will stack to create a fourth comprehensive ADC, all four will need individual approval.

Skill Tags

Skill tags are one-to-three-word descriptions of the skills that are acquired or demonstrated by participating in an ADC. Skills tags make up a part of the contextual information provided for digital badges alongside the title of the micro-credential, description, and date received. Canvas Credentials partnered with Lightcast to display skills directly from your learner’s badge award. The Lightcast skills library describes skills (such as “Analysis”), highlights related skills, and lists the top companies that include the skill in their job postings.

There are 3 ways to use Lighcast to identify appropriate skills tags for your ADC: 1) search the Skills Library; 2) Explore Skill Categories; and 3) Try the Skill Extractor.

1) Searching the skills library

If you are looking for a specific skill, the Skills Library will allow you to search from over 30,000 skills collected from resumes, online profiles, and job postings. For example, using the term “analysis,” dozens of skills associated with analysis are identified. By selecting “data analysis,” Lightcast then provides a summary of that skill.

2) Explore skills categories

Skills categories group the 30,000+ skills in the Skills Library into distinct categories. As an example, by selecting the category “Sales,” twelve sub-categories of sales are displayed. By selecting “Account Management,” ten skills within account management are displayed. Clicking on one of those skills provides a definition of skill, as in the example above.

3) Skills extractor

This tool analyzes the text you provide to identify useful and in-demand skills within your ADC descriptions or syllabi. As an example, inserting the description of the Agroforestry graduate certificate offered by CAFNR, both skills and related skills are identified.

Interested in creating an ADC?

If this type of program sounds like a good fit for your unit, use the the drop-downs below to learn more about planning and implementing a successful ADC program. After doing some initial planning, share your ideas with us via the ADC Interest Survey.

Tips for creating your ADC

Given that ADCs should be designed to offer learners specific skills, abilities and/or knowledge, it is important during the planning of the ADC to identify who those potential learners will be, what specifically they are going to learn or learn to do, how that learning will be assessed, etc. Given this, the following template will be useful as you plan your ADC.

The following are national recommended best practices and should be considered when you are creating your ADC:

  1. Think smaller and very focused on identifiable skills and specific learning outcomes. Take larger and/or broader learning experiences and break those into chunks.
  2. Conceptualize the ADC in hours, not years.
  3. Practice creativity, innovation, and consider more flexible delivery options.
  4. Assessments should be straight forward and directly aligned with learning outcomes.
  5. Create stackable ADCs when possible.  Each ADC should have value on its own by delivering specific skills, knowledge, and experiences, but each ADC can also put students on their way to earning the next credential. Consider making a series of ADCs with beginner, intermediate and advanced micro-credentials. 
  6. The ADC must have a job market focus, keeping in mind local, state, national, or international markets. This helps to provide opportunity for industry connections and partnerships. The proposal needs to be informed by current market data and align with relevant industry standards. When possible, consider current market demand and future needs.
  7. ADCs should provide workforce ready skills, knowledge, and experiences that will not be outdated in a short period of time. This helps to make the student learning visible to employers and other stakeholders.
  8. Keep the marketing and promotions tailored to prospective learners.
  9. These should complement your degree programs, not compete with them. Also, building them from existing curriculums makes them more sustainable and authentic. There is also an opportunity to create a connector between other programs.
  10. These should be kept consistent with Mizzou’s mission and strategic goals, academic quality, and rigorous standards.

ADC Proposal & Approval Process

To propose a new ADC at Mizzou, the instructor or designee must complete an application via a Qualtrics survey, which will go live after the ADC pilot period is complete. This survey will require that the submitter complete the form in one sitting. A list of questions on the form are linked below. Use this document to compile your answers ahead of time.

After applying

Once the proposal is submitted, it will be reviewed by the Registrar’s Office and the appropriate approvals collected. This approval could come from the Department Chair/Division Director (if one was identified), administrative unit leadership, the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies or the Graduate Dean (when necessary), and the Provost. Considerations for granting approval should evaluate the academic quality, market need, and financial sustainability of the learning experience.

Once approved, the ADC administrator in the Office of the University Registrar (OUR) will work with leads in eLearning to build the ADC in Canvas Credentials. If the ADC is non-credit, tracking may also be done in Engage, but all badges will be awarded through the Canvas Credentials badging platform. Students can upload other badges and will retain access to their canvas credentials account post-graduation. Once the ADC is set up and ready to be offered to students, all parties involved will be notified.

Requirements can be tracked in Canvas (if the ADC is for credit) or Engage (if the ADC is non-credit). Students will have a badge conferred in Canvas Credentials once the student has completed all requirements.