6 Insights on the Rise of Credentials in Higher Education with Dr. Joe Sallustio, Co-Founder of Ed-Up Experience 

In this episode, we speak with Dr. Sallustio about how credentials and AI is going to impact the higher education landscape. Dr. Joe Sallustio has brought his leadership to a broad range of educational institutions including a regionally accredited non-profit university, a regionally accredited for-profit university, and a nationally accredited for-profit college, giving him a unique & effective breadth of knowledge in online & on-ground higher education administration. 

What role do credentials play in the university systems?  

There’s a company called Credential Engine, that catalogs credentials throughout the universe of higher education and beyond. I think the last time I looked, there were 1.3 million credentials that they catalog for companies and their wide range of offerings. Let’s look at it from the student’s perspective and the employer’s perspective. From the student’s perspective, they become interested in micro-credentials because it provides flexibility without long term commitments. Whereas the hard part for employers is to take what’s out there and translate it into something they can understand. However, both students and employers face the challenge of validating these credentials, unlike traditional degree structures.  

The Values of Certificates 

I had the opportunity to interview the founder of Google Certificates at Grow with Google twice. In the interview, she mentioned that one of the fastest-growing segments among Grow with Google Certificate students is four-year degree holders who have completed their degree and returned to Google to obtain a Google Certificate. 

So, when you think about what that means and the implications of something like that, it’s the consumer saying, ‘I didn’t acquire enough tactical and applicable skills during my four-year degree.’ Thus, despite investing who knows how much in a four-year degree, they find themselves needing to go back and pay a certain amount of money to acquire this Google training certificate. 

Are College Grads Going Back to Get a Certification? 

So, what does that say about the degree itself, regardless of its quality? It says a lot about what colleges and universities are producing and what skills students are leaving with if they have to return for additional training. I believe this is becoming more and more common. 

What do you need to secure employment? You need as many skills as possible. And something like a Google certification certainly helps. One thing Google undeniably possesses is brand power. Let’s be honest, when you mention Google, none of us responds with ‘I’ve never heard of them.’ This is a clear demonstration of their brand power. 

How do Universities Navigate Credentials? 

It brings order to those credentials. However, universities face challenges because, as I believe, they have a 200-year history. Everyone expects us to be the great validators of these certificates, but we move agonizingly slowly. It’s not our primary business model. Offering credentials is something universities would love to do, but they can’t do it as quickly or effectively as Google, because it’s not our typical focus. Our model is centered around degrees, right? So, it’s quite rare to find an institution that excels at validating or offering those credentials. 

What’s AI going to do to the university system in the next year?  

With anything, there is an adoption curve, right? There’s the member who coined the phrase, but there’s the explosion and then the adoption. So, if you look at this curve right now, you’ve got people at the forefront. I tell people all the time, whether I’m working with colleagues at the university or giving talks elsewhere, I say, ‘Take 15 minutes out of your day. Pick one or two of these AI tools you see on social media, or someone mentions, and just go check them out.’ Because if you don’t explore them, you won’t really know what they do. They’ll remain this mythical creature that exists out there. So, find out what they do, and then ask yourself, ‘Could this help me in my job? 

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