Wichita State University Alternative Credentials Discussion Document

Draft v.7
October 30, 2014

Introduction 2
Motivation 2
Needs 3
Policy and Procedural Guidelines for use in Developing Alternative Credentials 4
Terms 5
Ways to Earn Credit that Counts Toward a Degree 7
Existing WSU Certificates 8
Undergraduate: 8
Graduate: 8
Minimum Requirements for Certificates Programs and Degrees 9
Undergraduate 9
Graduate 9
Examples of New Stackable Credentials Leading to Degrees 9
Undergraduate 9
Graduate 11
What We Need to Create/Document 12
Proposed Steps 12
Appendix 13


This document serves as a starting place for a conversation at Wichita State University about Alternative Credentials such as Competency-Based Education, Badges, and Stackable Credentials. The ideas put forward here do not propose specific solutions for WSU, but merely serve as examples of possibilities of how we could employ innovative methods of teaching to increase the number of students earning credentials.


President Bardo tasked the office of Academic Affairs to begin exploring alternative credentials with the eye toward meeting two of the Kansas Board of Regents Foresight 2020 goals of “increasing the number of Kansas citizens with postsecondary degrees and credentials and aligning the system to better meet the needs of the Kansas economy.” (http://www.kansasregents.org/foresight_2020).

By engaging in alternate paths towards credentials at WSU, we feel we will also be able to meet the American Graduation Initiative’s goal of increasing the number of degree-holders to 60 percent by 2020. This effort will specifically focus on the following strategies: No. 6, Accelerate Learning, Reduce Costs, and Stabilize Tuition Growth, and No. 7, Target Adults, Especially Those with “Some College, but No Degree.” (http://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/cc-toolkit.pdf)


For any type of new endeavor to work with alternate paths toward credentials, a solution needs to meet the criteria below:

For all credentials
1. Stop and start with student needs – can return easily
2. Be open for just-in-time enrollment – begin class without relying on staff to push enrollments – or restriction to enrollment only in regular enrollment periods
3. Appeal to workforce demands and employers
4. Affordable without financial aid for those who do not qualify
5. Follow KBOR/WSU guidelines and curriculum change processes for creation of new degrees, certificates, and other types of credentials
6. Be able to record on transcript (portability)
7. Aware of direct assessment limitations – if this path is chosen*
For degrees
8. Meet HLC minimum credit hour requirements for residency
9. Meet residency requirements for WSU
• 24 of last 30 or 50 of last 60 at WSU
• 45 upper division
• 60 hrs from 4 year for bachelors
To qualify for student aid
• Satisfactory Academic Progress rules
• Lead to a credential
• For Certificates
i. Must be at least 1 year in duration** to meet gainful employment rules, or
ii. Part of a degree program

*From Dept. of Ed. – Financial Aid Handbook:
The entire program must be provided by direct assessment; those offered partially with credit or clock hours are not eligible programs…FSA funds may be awarded only for learning that results from instruction provided or overseen by the school. FSA funds cannot be awarded for any portion of the program based on study or life experience prior to enrollment in the program or based on tests of learning that are not associated with educational activities overseen by the school. (p. 2-21)

**From Dept. of Ed – Financial Aid Handbook:
A program of at least one academic year in duration that leads to a certificate or other nondegree recognized credential and prepares students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation (p. 2-16)

Policy and Procedural Guidelines for use in Developing Alternative Credentials

Please see the following links for policies and guidelines related to issuing alternative credentials.

WSU Academic Affairs Curriculum and New Program Forms
See bottom of page for Certificate Guidelines

Department of Education Federal Student Aid
Department of Education. “Program Eligibility, Written Arrangements, & Distance Education,” Federal Student Aid Handbook. Vol. 2, Chp 2. June 2013.
Has information about rules for gainful employment non-degree options and direct assessment

HLC Requirements for Credit Hour Minimums
North Central Higher Learning Commission, “Assumed Practices” (CRRT.B.10.020)
See section B.1.a. and B.1.b. for credit hour minimums for degrees and transfer minimums.

HLC Information on Direct Assessment Competency-Based Programs
Note: Direct Assessment would be a substantive change and would require HLC approval per INST.F.20.040 (see also: https://www.ncahlc.org/Monitoring/institutional-change.html for procedure overview)

KBOR Credit for Prior Learning
Information on KBOR initiatives regarding CPL

KBOR New Program Approval
New concentrations or minors need to be approved by KBOR, but certificates do not.  

Many terms related to Alternative Credentials may have other meanings in different contexts. Please review the following set of terms with the common definition that we will be using at Wichita State University around each of these concepts. In some instances a link to article(s) that go more in-depth on the topic.

Atomized Learning – Also called “Chunking” in some contexts. Learning that can be broken up into discrete units like a concept, competency, or a single topic. It also indicates learning in which the student can stop and start learning without having to commit to a larger degree or program.

Hanover Research. “Trends in Adult Education.” September 2014.
Login to Hanover Portal to read article. To request account contact Mark Porcaro: mark.porcaro@wichita.edu. Discusses “Chunking”

Badges – An electronic representation of skills or knowledge gained. Contains metadata that describes what was done to earn the badge, who issued the badge, effective dates (does the badge expire, for instance), and who earned the badge. Student cannot make badges for themselves; institutions securely confer. As a micro-credential badges may be awarded for combinations of competencies or for just one competency.

Nelson, John and Allison Thomas. “The Present and Future Role of Badges in Higher Education.” Education Advisory Board Custom Research Brief. February 2013.
You must create an EAB account to access this brief:
• On the top left of the homepage, hover over the "Member Login" bar. Select "New User."
• On the registration page, indicate that you are in Wichita, Kansas, and then you will be able to select Wichita State University, and then provide your personal information with a unique password.
• Once you click "submit" you will receive an email in your inbox with a confirmation code. If you do not receive this within a few minutes, check you spam folder.

Everhart, Deborah, Frederick M. Hurst, and Ellen Wagner. “From Badges to Breakthroughs: Unleashing Learner Potential through Competency-Based Achievements,” Educause. June 2, 2014.

CBE – Competency-Based Education. A flexible form of education in which students are evaluated on ability to demonstrate competencies rather than just fulfilling seat time in a course. Based on mastery learning concepts, students move forward at his/her own pace and complete a competency only when demonstrating mastery of that competency. CBE is usually taught in an online or a blended setting and use unbundled faculty roles instead of traditional faculty roles. Most CBE programs are set up so that individual competencies or combinations of competencies can translate back to courses on a transcript (such as Western Governors University and Northern Arizona University). At this time, only a few schools have been approved to use Direct Assessment; Southern New Hampshire University is one of them.

Bergeron, David A. “A Path Forward: Game-Changing Reforms in Higher Education and the Implications for Business and Financing Models.” December 2013.
See especially pp. 9-13 for Stackable Credentials and CBE

Ray, Michael and Lauren Edmonds. “Implementing Competency-Based Education Models: Reducing Classroom Time and Increasing Graduation and Retention Rates.” Education Advisory Board Custom Research Brief. 2013.
Login with EAB account to access this brief.

Certificate Programs – Non-degree groupings of programmatically-related courses. Can be used to show an employer that a student has gained a new set of skills or knowledge on a topic related to their employment. This is not the same as an industry-issued certificate like Program Management Professional (PMP), or Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). WSU has several, but none are considered gainful employment programs.

CEUs to Credits – Crosswalks for courses where credit can be obtained from Continuing Education Units awarded for short courses or other continuing education offerings.

CPL – Credit for Prior Learning. Usually portfolio reviews or credit by examination (CLEP, DANTES, IB, AP, departmental exam). Can also include a department issuing credit for industry-issued certificates. Credit may be awarded by a third-party (CLEP, DANTES, etc.) and issued on transcript as such, or by faculty as part of a credit-bearing course.

Hanover Research, “Prior Learning Assessment and Competency-Based Learning” January 2014.
Login to Hanover portal for access. Also discusses CBE.

Direct Assessment Program – “An instructional program that, in lieu of credit hours or clock hours as a measure of student learning, utilizes direct assessment of student learning, or recognizes the direct assessment of student learning by others. The assessment must be consistent with the accreditation of the institution or program utilizing the results of the assessment.” (Dept. of Ed. guidelines for Federal Aid)
Fain, Paul. “Taking the Direct Path,” Inside Higher Ed. Feb 21, 2014.

Just-in-Time Learning – Learning happens when the student needs it, on demand and usually at that moment. Courses taught on a Fall/Spring semester sequence, or a set time frame like many MOOCs currently use, do not fit this model.

MOOC – Massive Open Online Course. Online courses which are free to enroll and participate in. Many do not lead to a credential of any kind. Some that have a “certificate” are a certificate of completion, not a certificate program (see Certificate above)
Educause Learning Inititative, “7 Things You Need to Know about… MOOCs.” November 2011.

Short Courses – Continuing Education courses designed for professionals who are not seeking a degree, but want specific information in a time shorter than a traditional semester. Many taught on worksites, some at various campus locations. WSU offers several, mostly through NIAR.

Stackable Credentials – Badges, certificates, or minors that can be combined together to make a more significant credential like a degree.

Ganzglass, Evelyn, “Scaling ‘Stackable Credentials’: Implications for Implementation and Policy.” March 2014.

Unbundling of Faculty Teaching Roles – In CBE programs, faculty roles are often “unbundled” so that one person, for instance, has the role of designing the course, one mentors students, another grades.

American Council on Education, “Unbundling Versus Designing Faculty Roles.” N.D.
P. 4 has specific examples of what Western Governors University and Rio Salado College are doing with “unbundling.”

Ways to Earn Credit that Counts Toward a Degree


Traditional Instruction (face-to-face or online)
Transfer Credits
CEU to Credit
Stackable Badges, Minors, or Certificate Programs

Existing WSU Certificates

The following certificate programs are not eligible for Title IV (federal financial aid) funding unless a certificate is awarded as part of a degree program. Certificate programs which are not eligible for Title IV aid are not gainful employment programs.
Fine Arts Health Professions Liberal Arts & Sciences
Stage Management Signing Exact English Asian Studies
Community Psychology
Film Studies
Great Plains Studies
Human Factors Psychology
Medieval & Renaissance Studies
Spanish for the Professions
Strategic Communications
Tilford Diversity Studies


Barton School
Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Child Play Therapy
Educational Technology
Engineering Education
Functional Aging
Higher Education Leadership
National Board for Professional Teaching

Advanced Composite Materials
Engineering Education
Enterprise Sys. & Supply Chain Mgmt.
Foundations of Six Sigma and Quality
Lean Systems
System Engineering and Management

Health Professions
Public Health

Liberal Arts & Sciences
Applied Communication
City and County Management
Economic Development
Great Plains Studies
Nonprofit Management
Public Finance

Minimum Requirements for Certificates Programs and Degrees
12 hrs min for certificate

Bachelors Degree: Minimum 120 hours
(HLC requirements state that 90 of 120 can transfer, 30 of the last 60 credits earned have to be from WSU):
42 GE (Associates, PLA, CBE or Transfer)
12 Foundation (Math, English, Public Speaking)
30 Intro/AFS/I&P
4 18-hour Certificates or 6 12-hour Certificates (72 hrs) or combination of Certificates, PLA, CEU to Credits
6+ hrs of Elective courses depending on certificate path.
12 hrs min for certificate

Masters Degree: Minimum 30 hours
(HLC requires that 15 of 30 have to be earned at WSU)
3 12-hour Certificates

Examples of New Stackable Credentials Leading to Degrees

The following are hypothetical examples based certificates that could have either a minimum of 12 or 18 credit hours. Stackable credentials could be based on badges, minors, or certificates.

NOTE: WSU’s existing certificates (above) are not eligible for Financial Aid (unless offered as part of degree program).

The following examples are for students completing a degree. The first set of examples are for students who have 62 hours completed at a KBOR school. The second set are for students who have completed only the General Education requirements (either at WSU or elsewhere).

KBOR AA or AS complete already (transferring in minimum of 62 hrs)
60 hours needed:
5 12-hour certificates (60 hrs) –
One certificate must include 2 GE 300+
3 18-hour certificates (54 hrs)
2 GE 300+ electives (6 hrs)
122 hrs.

Degree: Bachelors (if certificates are 12-hours each)

1) Certificate 1 = 12 hrs
2) Certificate 2 = 12 hrs
3) Certificate 3 = 12 hrs
4) Certificate 4 = 12 hrs
5) Certificate 5 = 12 hrs

Degree: Bachelors (if certificates are 18-hours each)

1) Certificate 1 = 18 hrs
2) Certificate 2 = 18 hrs
3) Certificate 3 = 18 hrs
6 elective hours from Gen Ed 300+

If Gen Ed is already complete (completed 42 hrs)
78 hours needed:
6 12-hour certificates (72 hrs)
4 18-hour certificates (72 hrs)
6 credit hour electives
120 hrs

Degree: Bachelors (12-hour certificates)

1) Certificate 1 = 12 hrs
2) Certificate 2 = 12 hrs
3) Certificate 3 = 12 hrs
4) Certificate 4 = 12 hrs
5) Certificate 5 = 12 hrs
6) Certificate 6 = 12 hrs
6 credit hour electives

Degree: Bachelors (18-hour certificates)

1) Certificate 1 = 18 hrs
2) Certificate 2 = 18 hrs
3) Certificate 3 = 18 hrs
4) Certificate 4 = 18 hrs
6 credit hour electives

The following two examples are for students who have no graduate level work completed. The second example is built on the existing framework of the MA in Liberal Studies (LAS).

New Student (0 hrs complete)
30-36 hrs needed

Degree: Masters
36 hrs

1) Certificate 1 = 12 hrs
2) Certificate 2 = 12 hrs
3) Certificate 3 = 12 hrs

Degree: Masters with a thesis (e.g., MA in Liberal Studies offered in LAS)
36 hrs

NOTE: Must take LAS 800, Research Goals and Strategies, for 3 hours credit. LAS 875, Thesis, for 6 hours of credit; or LAS 885, Terminal Project, for 3 to 6 hours of credit. No more than 12 hrs in one area, no more than 12 outside of LAS.

1) LAS 800 = 3 hrs
2) 3-6 hrs elective (depending thesis/terminal project option)
3) Certificate 1 = 12 hrs
4) Certificate 2 = 12 hrs
5) Thesis or Terminal Project = 3-6 hrs

What We Need to Create/Document

1. Defined parameters that make up a badge or stackable credential
2. Guidelines for badges or stackable credentials
3. List of occupational fields that relate to WSU’s mission and goals that would be good candidates for expansion or creation
US Department of Labor O*Net Online. “Bright Outlook Occupations.”

Proposed Steps
1. Initial meeting to discuss concepts and options for moving forward (September 22)
2. Bring in interested faculty members as part of a larger discussion (October)
3. Create documentation including proposal
4. Submit proposal to Faculty Senate for UG programs and Graduate Council for graduate programs 
Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Projection

(See separate attachment: BureauofLaborStats_EmploymentProjections

Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Projection

(See separate attachment: BureauofLaborStats_EmploymentProjections.xls)