From the CEO

Musings on trends and updates from UPCEA CEO Bob Hansen. 

The UPCEA Community: Focus on Credentials

Twenty years ago nearly every online leader was familiar with faculty concerns about quality and cannibalization. Those concerns proved ill-founded, of course. Indeed, the online learning revolution continues unabated, driven by a virtuous circle of learning innovation and entrepreneurial approaches to expanding access. This transformative potential is why online learning continues to be a major focus for the UPCEA community, as discussed on this recent blog: The UPCEA Community: Advancing Online and Professional Education.

We now hear similar concerns about quality and cannibalization in the area of credential innovation (alternative, micro, or skill credentials). It’s not surprising. Alternative credentials are a new frontier that, like online learning a generation ago, has the potential to bring profound changes to the academy. UPCEA is well positioned to explore, catalyze, and lead on this new frontier. While alternative credentials are not new for UPCEA or for our members, there is now a heightened awareness of them among policymakers, foundations and employers, and increasingly, among institutions themselves, according to two recent benchmarking studies by UPCEA.   

It’s worth recalling that many colleges and universities chose not to engage in online learning over the last decade or two. We know now that this was a strategic mistake. Once you are behind the curve, it’s hard to catch up. With alternative credentials, we believe it’s important to take a proactive approach. Wherever your institution finds itself in the developmental process, I strongly encourage you to be both intentional and strategic, with business models that are flexible, employer connections that drive learner success, and content that is both stackable and portable. For a quality framework at the enterprise level, I invite you to review UPCEA’s Hallmarks of Excellence in Credential Innovation for guidance.

If you have a stake in advancing the field of credentials or in developing your institution’s credentials strategy, I ask you to consider attending our new conference, Convergence: Credential Innovation in Higher Education.

Convergence: Credential Innovation in Higher Education – Washington, DC,  November 1-3, 2023

To support our focus on credentials, UPCEA has partnered with AACRAO, the association for registrars, to present a new conference for the alternative credentials community: Convergence, in the first week of November. These two great associations and their members are vital to the future development and implementation of innovative credentials. Convergence reflects the confluence of factors leading to the evolution of this fast-moving, but still largely amorphous movement. This event will bring together key campus stakeholders in credential innovation—deans of professional education, chief online learning officers, registrars, enrollment management leaders and other stakeholders—to define and develop their institutional strategy with respect to alternative credentials. I hope to see you there. 

Explore UPCEA’s Alternative & Non-Degree Credentials page, the new UPCEA Resources Guide (credentials section), the Council for Credential Innovation (CCI), the Alternative Credentials Network for UPCEA members, and the UPCEA online course, Credentials Beyond Degrees – the Role of Professional, Continuing, Online Educators in Credential Innovation, starting August 14, 2023. 

Coming next monthThe UPCEA Community: Building the Future 

A man (Bob Hansen) is dressed in a blue suit smiling for a headshot.

Bob Hansen is the CEO of the University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA). Since 2010, Hansen has reinvented the century-old organization – creating the Center for Research and Strategy in 2011, establishing a number of initiatives focused on the association’s unique role in online leadership and management, and positioning the association as an important advocate for policy issues related to non-traditional and online learners. The association has more than doubled in size during Hansen’s tenure by successfully diversifying revenue. Hansen previously served as Associate Provost for University Outreach at the University of Southern Maine, and as Assistant the Governor for Education in Illinois. He holds a Ph.D in English from the University of Notre Dame.