Could Non-Credit Be the Key to Driving Growth in Higher Ed? | D2L
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Could Non-Credit Programs Be Key to Driving Growth in Higher Education?

  • 3 Min Read

Colleges and universities are looking for ways to evolve their offerings to better meet the dynamic needs of both learners and the workforce they’ll join or are part of. One of the most popular approaches is non-credit courses—small, modular courses that are focused towards working professionals and aren’t part of a traditional degree program.

Here, we look at why institutions are turning their attention to non-credit courses and how they’re bringing them to life.

What Offering Non-Credit Programs Can Help Higher Education Institutions Accomplish

1. Provide Programs That Meet the Needs of Employers

Today’s employers want programs that can help fill skill and knowledge gaps within their organizations, grow existing talent, and nurture a culture of learning that incorporates professional development into the flow of work.

When higher education institutions are designing non-credit programs, current job market needs are typically front and center. Colleges and universities may also work directly with workforce partners, including employers and trade associations, when they’re creating courses. This can help make sure that the knowledge, skills, and competencies learners pick up are up to date and in demand, and it can give employers confidence in the value of non-credit programs. In one survey, 60% of employers said micro-credentials would increase their confidence in an employee’s skills.

2. Offer Learning Experiences Geared Toward Adult Learners

Now more than ever, adult learners are looking for continuing education opportunities that not only provide them with real, tangible skills they can put to work immediately, but also give them flexibility and control over what their professional development journeys look like. Non-credit courses tick both of those boxes, which is one of the reasons why they’re becoming increasingly popular among wide audiences of working professionals. In a 2020 survey, 62% of respondents in the U.S. said they prefer non-degree and skills training programs over traditional options.

Non-credit programs are—by design—built to be flexible. They require less time than traditional degrees and can often be completed wholly or partially online. This helps learners fit course content, activities, and assignments around their own schedules.

3. Create Adult Learning Courses Designed to Be Resilient and Grow

Offering non-credit courses can help higher education institutions diversify their offerings with programs that are highly adaptable and responsive to challenges, including sudden ones like public health crises and gradual onset ones like shifts to average student populations. The reality is that the demographic landscape of colleges and universities is changing. McKinsey predicts that the annual number of high school graduates will peak at 3.6 million in 2026 before declining to 3.3 million in 2030.

Higher education institutions need to find ways to reach beyond the traditional learner and appeal to new audiences, especially adult learners. Many see non-credit courses as a key to doing this. For example, 90% of higher education institutions in Canada said they were using micro-credential programs to attract learners looking to change careers or grow professionally with a specific employer.

Why Non-Credit Programs Could Help Shape the Future of Higher Education

Non-credit courses can open valuable doors for colleges and universities. They provide pathways to work collaboratively with private and public sector partners to make sure that educational offerings continue to meet evolving needs. Non-credit programs also help institutions reach people at various stages throughout their careers—not just once at the beginning.

Though providing non-credit courses likely won’t be the only key to fostering institutional resiliency and driving growth, for many colleges and universities, they can be an important piece of the puzzle.

How Athabasca University Is Reimagining Non-Credit Learning

We know there’s a growing need to enable lifelong and continuous learning, but that’s something that can be easier said than done. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to talk to Jessica Scott, director of PowerEd at Athabasca University, about how the institution has implemented a robust non-credit learning system that:

  • Creates a modern, learner-centric experience with insights directly from students
  • Delivers micro-credentials to adult learners
  • Supports partnerships with employers and other workforce stakeholders
Non-Credit Learning: Reimagined Thumbnail

Non-Credit Learning: Reimagined

Learn how your institution can tap into the world of continuing education and workforce development.

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