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Southern New Hampshire University Seeks to Unlock Opportunities with the Credential Transparency Description Language

“Imagine a new normal where students can see what knowledge and skills are required to earn a credential.” – Dr. Paul LeBlanc, Students First (p. 63)

Students deserve equitable access to information about their education and career options, including transparency about the skills and competencies that they achieve in courses and credentials. Working together, Credential Engine and Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) are providing this transparency. SNHU is using the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL) to provide public linked open data about their curriculum, including credentials, courses, competencies, pathways, and more.

In Students First, Dr. Paul LeBlanc offers a compelling analysis of the problems facing higher education today. Key among these problems are rigid, inflexible, time-based models that focus on degrees rather than competencies and do not provide transparency about what a person knows and can do. Furthermore, most students do not have equitable access to information that can help them make the best decisions along flexible learning and career pathways.

LeBlanc sets out a vision and roadmap for changes that are possible today, to build educational ecosystems that “harness technology to accommodate more learning pathways, include more providers beyond colleges and universities, provide a greater range and granularity of credentials, and offer much more flexibility and individualization than is possible today” (p. xxiii). In order to build these ecosystems, we need clear, transparent information about credentials from multiple providers, across K-12, higher education, industry certifications, apprenticeships, military, informal learning, and more. This is why Credential Engine has developed the CTDL, a common data language that enables providers to organize, connect, and consistently describe their credentials and publish them to the Registry.

Well-designed educational ecosystems can use agreed upon linked open data definitions to describe providers, credentials, quality assurance, outcomes, transfer value, and more. This shared data enables interoperability so that systems can “talk” to each other, for much easier and more transparent reporting, student mobility, and consumer protection (p. 23). SNHU is making a major contribution to innovative ecosystems by mapping its curriculum to CTDL and publishing it to the Registry, including (so far) 114 credentials, 1375 courses, and 957 competencies that are transparently linked to each other with hundreds of CTDL connections across SNHU’s curriculum. This is a powerful example for other higher education institutions to visualize the possibilities and map their own curriculum.

There are transformative opportunities for ecosystems that use, reuse, and build on this rich set of data, even more powerful than the CTDL connections within SNHU’s curriculum.  Connections across CTDL data from multiple providers unlocks opportunities. For example: 

  • Connections between education credentials and industry certifications
  • Transfer value among different types of institutions
  • Alignment of competencies to jobs
  • Clear, transparent learning and career pathways that connect data from multiple providers 

SNHU and thousands of other organizations publishing data to the Registry are building new learning ecosystems that put students first and empower them with interoperable information across a wider array of learning options. 

Together, we’re setting the stage for sharing and collaboration that transform educational models to more equitably “unlock opportunity and social mobility to allow people to improve their lives and the lives of their families and communities” (p. 167).

To learn more, contact us at info@credentialengine.org.