Creating Workforce-Aligned Programs with Professional Certificates

How Three Higher Ed Institutions are Using Coursera and Medcerts to Deliver Skills-Based Learning and Enhance Curricula

Micro-credentialing, or stackable certificates, has been cited repeatedly as one of the biggest trends to inspire academic innovation in higher education. Workforce-aligned programs allow institutions to: 

  • be highly responsive to changing professional trends
  • deliver work-based learning experiences that are industry relevant
  • keep up with the rapidly changing nature of the world today

EdTech insiders at a September conference in New York held by HolonIQ, a market analysis firm which recently ranked Acadeum as one of the 200 most promising start-ups in North America, heralded micro-credentialing as the future of higher ed and “stress[ed] that these smaller offerings will be a key part of higher education’s future.” This is backed up by Coursera’s recent survey of students, recent graduates, and employers that sought to better understand the role of micro-credentials and professional certificates in education today. They found that “88% of students and recent graduates said including industry micro-credentials, or in this case, entry-level professional certificates, in an academic program would make them more likely to enroll in that program.” 

In response to the incredibly fast growth of micro-credentialing and in order to better serve learners, Acadeum has partnered with Coursera and Medcerts to bring cutting-edge learning from leading employers to our network. Acadeum provides white-glove service for any institutions in the course sharing network interested in expanding their offerings to give students hands-on skills, while earning course credit on the path to graduation. “We’re here to support colleges and universities on their course sharing journey--as part of that commitment, we want to ensure institutions in our network have the resources to create and share in-demand courses that can help students and alumni hone skills that are valued by leading employers,” said Sarah MacDonald, Director of Partner Innovation. 

So how exactly are institutions incorporating micro-credentials and professional certificates into their courses? One of the easiest ways is to embed them directly in credit-bearing courses (especially courses on social media, digital marketing, and more) that count towards a degree. Read on to hear how three schools in our network are successfully using professional certificates to increase enrollments in courses that prepare students for the workforce.

Trine University

Trine_University_Angola_sealTrine’s academic leadership team is committed to building pathways to lifelong learning. “The future for non-traditional education is certificate programs that lead to pathways into an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, and even certificates at the graduate level that can lead into a graduate program. That’s what our [students] want,” said Provost John Shannon. The team at Trine is currently in the process of scaling up their certificate programs and are seeing year-on-year growth in enrollments.

Trine looked at the Coursera certificates available in partnership with Acadeum and found a Meta marketing certificate that mapped well to an existing class: Digital Marketing. They approached the instructor who had been teaching the class in-person, trained them in online course development, and then embedded the Coursera certificate--transforming and revitalizing the for-credit course. As Kiersten Eberts, Associate Vice President and Dean of Academics said, “If students can earn those certificates right along with their degree program, they’re going to be even more marketable and attractive to employers. We want to be preparing students for industry as it is today, not industry as it was yesterday.”

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Bay Path University

Bay_Path_University_seal.svgBay Path University was also intrigued by this “best of both worlds” concept: an opportunity to give their students hands-on, industry-specific training, while earning credit. In May/June 2022, the team ran a pilot for a six-week, online accelerated course with a newly embedded Meta certificate content. 

Senior Director of Business Programs, Megan Piccus, assessed the learning outcomes for an existing course (BUS245 Social Media for Business) and found a highly relevant professional certificate in Social Media Marketing from Facebook/Meta, through Acadeum's partnership with Coursera. “The Coursera learning content—co-developed with Meta—was incredibly up to date and dynamic and interactive,” said Piccus. “The pilot was a resounding success.” 

Ninety-five percent of the students passed the class and earned credit for the course, and seventy percent of learners completed all the Coursera requirements. Eighty percent of the learners that scheduled the certificate exam after the class passed on the first attempt. “We are so proud that [the learners] kept each other motivated by sharing their completions and accomplishments with each other and the faculty member—[it is] a true testament to the power of the experience.”

Given the success of the Meta marketing certificate, Bay Path has launched Coursera Career Academy, providing unlimited access to licenses throughout the year, including access to professional tools (like Facebook Ad Manager and Google Analytics) to give students, alumni, and even faculty applied learning experience. 

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Franklin University 

Franklin University coordinates with a high number of employers across the nation to ensure their professional-based programs are preparing students for the workforce. “Employers, and potential employees, want short educational opportunities to skill up through certificates and microcredentials that are verifiable,” said Dr. Patrick Bennett, Vice President of Academic Quality and Planning at Franklin. FranklinUniversitySealAsOf20180521

To meet this need, Franklin launched a five-year-project to help their learners (the vast majority of whom are adults or returning learners) demonstrate their skills and expertise. They launched an open marketplace, complete with point of sale functionality and enrollment management, to provide Coursera and Medcerts certificates to students, alumni, and faculty and, like Trine and Bay Path, have embedded micro-credentials into programs to offer up-to-date content. 

To make it easier for learners to showcase their expertise, Franklin provides badges at the end of a course sequence, so students can add skills to their digital resumes. “We’re helping learners who have struggled to articulate learning outcomes to their employers by giving them a badge that communicates their learned and applied skills to the world.”

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Interested in enhancing your programs or offering certificates to your campus community? The Acadeum team can provide one-on-one implementation and strategic support, identifying areas of opportunity where certificates can add value, and mapping certificates to existing curricula.  

Or, browse our catalog of courses to enroll your students in workforce-aligned classes from partner institutions like Trine, Franklin, and Bay Path.

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