Alternative Credentials

Developing and offering alternative and non-degree credentials (certificates, micro-credentials, digital badges and noncredit programs) has become a new priority in online and professional continuing education. Leaders charged with with entrepreneurial initiatives, stakeholder engagement, faculty and learner experiences, digital technology and more have a professional home in UPCEA.

UPCEA is leading the way with focused initiatives centered around new credential innovation with research, peer-led sessions and resources for today’s leaders.

Accent Dots Blue Orange

News & Events

Conferences, Seminars, Webinars

From our major annual conference, leadership, marketing and regional events to topical webinars and coffee chats, UPCEA offers unparalleled networking, presentation and learning opportunities for all areas of online and professional continuing education.

Major UPCEA Events include:

  • Convergence: Credential Innovation in Higher Education
  • UPCEA Annual Conference
  • Distance Teaching & Learning (DT&L) and the Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable (SOLA+R)
  • MEMS Conference: Marketing, Enrollment Management, Student Success
  • Regional Salons

Convergence: Credential Innovation in Higher Education

September 30 - October 2, 2024 | New Orleans, LA
Convergence: Credential Innovation in Higher Education examines new and emerging trends and models, especially at the institutional level, in the emergent field of alternative credentials.

Presented jointly by UPCEA and AACRAO, two of the organizations most critical to the future development and implementation of innovative credentials, this event brings together key campus stakeholders in credential innovation—deans of professional education, chief online learning officers, registrars, and their staff—to define and develop their institutional strategy with respect to alternative credentials.

Accent Dots Blue Orange

UPCEA Members - Get Involved!

NEW! The Council for Credential Innovation

The Council for Credential Innovation (CCI) is the body for senior leaders charged with driving non-degree credential strategy at the unit or campus level, and key thought leaders from other nonprofit organizations and select companies that are active in the alternative credential space. The Council and its leadership are focused on leveraging the strategic potential of non-degree credentials and noncredit education and training to transform institutions of higher education as well as the talent marketplace.

Each UPCEA member institution has the opportunity to identify a representative to the Council for Credential Innovation — a campus leader when it comes to thinking beyond degree programs and credit hours, whether at the unit, college, or institutional level. Institutional representatives are able to attend the invite-only events and participate in other exclusive content hosted by Council for Credential Innovation. In addition, select nonprofit partners and corporate partners engaged in alternative credentials are invited to identify one individual to participate in the Council. If you would like to update or add your institution's representative to the Council, email [email protected].

Join the Alternative Credentials Network

The mission of the Alternative Credentials Network is to share best practices and emerging trends related to non-degree or noncredit credentials, sometimes considered alternative credentials by postsecondary leaders. This is done through the exchange of ideas, programs, services, and initiatives that expand member knowledge regarding new, innovative, and entrepreneurial programs to serve the needs of diverse learners.

The Network represents postsecondary professionals that work within externally focused online and professional continuing divisions and units at post-secondary institutions. Network members are increasingly valued at their institutions as they are at the forefront of an emerging field identified for investment and expansion by many C-suite leaders.

Accent Dots Blue Orange

Resources and Publications

UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence in Credential Innovation

A practical toolkit to assist those in online and professional continuing education think systematically about the nature of credentials at their institution as well as the strategy and logistical components of supporting learners throughout their lifetimes. These Hallmarks focus on alternative credentials, which includes certificates, micro-credentials, digital badges, and noncredit programs, signaling specific competencies, certification, and sometimes licensure.

Shifting Paradigms: Understanding Institutional Perspectives on Microcredentialing Study

92% of Higher Education Leaders Say Microcredentials Support Institutional Competitiveness

The report showcases the perspectives of a wide range of college and university leaders on the opportunities and challenges associated with scaling and launching alternative credentialing initiatives.

“The new economy demands highly-skilled individuals who do not necessarily need degrees to enter or advance in their field. Microcredentials and other alternative credential options provide them the opportunity to achieve their goals, and as an industry we need to find ways to meet the needs of employers and adults—and especially of Millennial and Generation Z students.” - Jim Fong, Chief Research Officer and Director of UPCEA Research and Consulting

Non-Credit to Credit Pathways to Higher Education: UPCEA Member Survey Results

North American colleges and universities are beginning to recognize the value of non-credit to credit pathways, according to new research by UPCEA in partnership with MindEdge Learning. But most of these institutions have yet to implement these nontraditional avenues to a college degree.

Non-credit to credit pathways translate non-credit achievements – such as professional certifications or licenses, prior learning assessments, faculty reviews, and military service – into credit toward a degree or credential.

With college enrollments dropping, along with public confidence in the value of a college education, non-credit to credit pathways allow students the flexibility to keep their education options open to match their lifestyle.

Blog | Alternative Credentials in Higher Ed by UPCEA

Curated by our Senior Fellow, Ray Schroeder, this daily update provides the latest trends and news in the innovative and alternative credentials space. Read more and subscribe today.


UNBOUND is UPCEA’s e-publication in magazine format, designed to showcase thought leadership, case studies, research and other valuable contributions to the field. UNBOUND welcomes articles from all those who are involved in higher education, especially those who work with adult students.

Accent Dots Blue Orange

Become an UPCEA Member

UPCEA members get more...

  • Access to useful research
  • Networking opportunities
  • Real time advice, answers and ideas
  • Exclusive member content

UPCEA has the knowledge and resources colleges and universities need to serve adult learners, online learners and contemporary students.

Accent Dots Blue Orange

Learn more about UPCEA's other focus areas:

Leadership in Online Learning

Professional & Continuing Education

Marketing, Enrollment & Student Success

Research & Consulting

Contact Us!

To learn more about how UPCEA can help you and your organization navigate the vastly changing landscape of online and professional continuing education please complete this form or email us at [email protected]

Fill out my online form.