This blog originally appeared on WGU Skills here and is part of a three-part series, stay tuned for the final release. You can read Part 1 of the series here

Within the realm of modern education, students traverse a landscape brimming with a wide array of academic credentials, from traditional degrees to the rapidly emerging digital badges signifying expertise in various skills. Western Governors University (WGU) has maintained its status as a guiding light for those charting their course in this educational sea. As the team behind WGU’s Achievement Wallet considered extending this beacon to all learners—past, present, and future—the question loomed: Would the value of such a wallet be readily apparent, especially to those who had concluded their educational voyage before the digital credentialing ecosystem began to take shape?  

The journey of education at WGU is akin to a coracle, a woven boat where each piece represents a skill, a competency, and a course – all launching a person towards a new horizon.  The idea initially was simple: connect the ​​​Credential Transparency Identifiers (​CTID​s​​)​ of a degree-level credential with the monthly degree verification reports sent to the National Student Clearinghouse. A Credential Transparency Identifier (CTID) is a unique alphanumeric identifier assigned to each credential record in the Credential Registry. This identifier serves as a reference key for accessing and linking detailed information about the credential, such as its type, issuer, and requirements. Yet, this approach lacked the intricate detail required to capture the true narrative of a learner’s academic journey, considering the individual variances in course transfers, program changes, and catalog updates.  

 It became evident that there was a more genuine path to follow. Rather than a static record, why not create a living transcript that reflects the learner’s passage through academia, including all the course corrections and intermissions? The linked open data published to the ​Credential ​Registry seemed a perfect ​match​​     ​ for such an endeavor. This union could allow the WGU Achievement Wallet to chart a learner’s progress, course by course, competency by competency—transforming every twist and turn of their academic journey into incremental value. The Wallet’s relationship to the larger Learning and Employment Records ecosystem will allow individuals to display their progression from education to employment and beyond. The LER is a cohesive network that integrates education, skill development, and job opportunities, facilitates smooth transitions and interactions between students, teachers, and employers. 

 Looking to the horizon, the anticipation grows for the day when the Achievement Wallet becomes a universal compass for all WGU learners. Envision a tool that doesn’t merely reflect past educational achievements but actively directs learners towards their future career goals. Alongside the rich weave of skills gleaned from resumes and various verified credentials, the Wallet promises to pinpoint the “You Are Here” on the map of a learner’s personal and professional voyage.  

 This brings us to the concept of Open Pathways. The drive to validate and demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge and skill​s​ ​has spurred substantial growth within educational institutions, professional development organizations, and beyond.  Digital credentials, bursting with rich information, beacon achievements in a verifiable and meaningful manner.  

 WGU, in partnership with Credential Engine, stands committed to the ethos of openness, fostering a thriving digital​ and transparent​ credential community. The existing ecosystem, while robust, reveals gaps—a notable one being the inability to interconnect credentials across platforms, depriving learners of the chance to present a holistic view of their proficiency and learning achievements across a lifetime of education and work. Moreover, there is a disconnect between earning a digital credential and leveraging it effectively in the professional realm. A credential shared on social media platforms, without the underpinning of digital verification, loses much of its utility and credibility.  

 Open Pathways are a learning ecosystem where credentials are not just stackable but interwoven, crafting a comprehensive narrative that extends beyond the confines of a single institution or platform. These pathways, portable and interconnected, offer not just a glimpse into earned achievements but also a vision of future conquests. They serve as a powerful tool for learners, educators, and employers alike, providing a common language to describe educational triumphs in a way that resonates across both academic and workforce landscapes.  

 This forward-looking vision holds the key to unlocking true cross-institutional learning pathways, unshackled from proprietary barriers. Through the synergistic blend of WGU’s Achievement Wallet and Open Pathways, learners can anticipate a future where their educational achievements are not just a reflection of past endeavors but a guiding star leading them towards their aspirations.  

 As we continue to develop and refine these innovations, the ultimate goal remains steadfast: to empower learners with a holistic, transparent view of their educational journey, equipping them with the insights and tools to navigate the complex waters of today’s learning and professional environments. With WGU’s Achievement Wallet and Open Pathways, the charting of one’s academic and professional course is set to become a journey of discovery, growth, and infinite possibility.

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