Visit Modern Campus

Optimizing Learning Journeys: Streamlining Launch and Scalability

Digital badges and microcredentials can act as a unique tool to bring together higher ed, industry and modern learners and meet everyone’s needs.

A learner’s journey is never done. There’s a constant need to acquire new skills to keep up with the workforce—and these skills are always evolving. Therefore, learners today need an education model that is agile enough to meet their needs throughout all stages of their educational journey. In this interview, Alejandra Bueno discusses the need for learner pathways, the role digital credentials play within these pathways and how Alamo Colleges District launches and scales this type of programming to their learners.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why is it important for higher ed leaders to prioritize launching and scaling pathways for learners?

Alejandra Bueno (AB): We need to prioritize the launching of pathways because there’ sstrong demand from both learners and employers. It’s interesting because digital badges are very moldable, flexible, portable and transferable for students. Higher ed institutions, especially community colleges, play a pivotal role in responding efficiently to meet learner and workforce needs by supplying them with the right tools to showcase their competencies.

Evo: In what ways has the Alamo Colleges District been able to create learner pathways?

AB: As the director of international programs, I’m not an expert in digital badges. However, I’ve seen digital badges as a tremendous tool and asset in international education. We’ve been able to develop a series of skills where students demonstrate their global competencies in a flexible format. The Alamo Global Learner Pathway is a system of 9 digital badges, and that was our first pathway that we put on the academic side of the house.

On the workforce side of the house and internationally, we’ve assembled a pathway for nurses at Alamo Colleges District and at Tecmilenio in Mexico. We’ve put together curricula in the form of microcredentials and credentials, so nurses can get the skills needed to practice in the U.S.

Evo: How did this program come to be?

AB: The creation of the International Nursing Pathway was very organic. When initiating our collaboration with Tecmilenio, we found the commonality of prioritizing the use of digital badges. The conversation flowed very naturally to goals and mission. It was important to us that badges played a key role in our collaborations in international education. A private healthcare institution told us they =needed to educate and recruit international nurses, so our collaboration with Tecmilenio came into play. We had in place a project where we would jointly develop curricula to train foreign nurses to work in the U.S.

Our goal is to educate nurses with the technical and soft skills they need to get into the workforce. We worked together to map out all the skills throughout the learner journey that would keep them relevant. It’s exciting because this type of pathway can be replicated across other institutions and different sectors around the country.

Evo: What role do digital credentials and badges play within these pathways?

AB: I have been very impressed by the use of digital badges in international education because we can develop jointly curriculum in alliance with reputable educational institutions from across the world to build strong pathways. Alamo Colleges is very strong in healthcare, and the community college is a reflection of the local community. In this particular case, we had already produced some valuable digital credentials for our healthcare industry through our alliance with TecMilenio, and we were able to put together the most focused credentials for international nurses relocating in the U.S. In the Nurses Pathway, the microcredentials we have put together as a pathway have enough value each to be used as a standalone credential or as part of the pathway.

Digital credentials and badges are also great because, as we speak with different industries, we’re able to select specific badges that demonstrate the specific skills they need. The more badges and competencies we develop, the quicker we can respond to industry needs by creating the right pathways. When you add to your internal catalog of credentials the possibility of creating international alliances, the applicability of those credentials grows exponentially. Combining the best of both institutions to create a pathway in a very focalized field with talent and instructors from different countries is the best way to bridge talent gaps internationally.

Evo: What impact do pathways and digital credentials have on the institution and its learners?

AB: For Alamo Colleges, it’s important to provide a solution that is positive for everyone. The more credentials we provide, the larger catalog we have for our students and private sector. At the same time, we’re providing an agile and quick response to employer needs. There’s a dual importance here. One, it’s important to get the learner where they want to be no matter what learning stage they’re at. Second, it’s important to provide employers with the talent and skills they need quickly.

As a director of international programs, we’re able to leverage digital badges to build other competency institutions from around the world. The possibilities are tremendous.

Evo: Is there anything you’d like to add about digital badges?

AB: As an international educator, our experience with the international nursing pathway has been enlightening. It revealed that digital badges and microcredentials, while initially pivotal in nursing, are equally available across diverse sectors. This discovery transcends nursing, highlighting the universal utility of these credentials in fostering global mobility and interdisciplinary collaborations. Digital badges, akin to dual degrees, are now seen as versatile tools, crucial for validating skills in varied professional contexts. This insight is shaping our approach to international education, broadening the scope of academic global partnerships and enhancing workforce adaptability across borders.

Alejandra will be presenting on this topic at the 1EdTech Digital Credential Summit in March.