CampusTalks Insights: WGU's Journey to Job-Ready Graduates and Micro-Credentials

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Learn how Western Governors University is using certificates to meet employer demands.

Amid global transformation, the skills landscape and workforce needs are evolving fast. Universities are seeking ways to ensure their degree programs are relevant so they can retain students and connect them to new opportunities. Western Governors University (WGU) recently shared how they have successfully bridged the curriculum-to-career gap in the CampusTalks webinar “Meeting Employer Expectations: WGU's Journey to Job-Ready Graduates and Micro-Credentials.”

With the motto “a tradition of breaking traditions,” WGU takes an innovative, student-centric approach to higher education. “Our mission is to change lives for the better by creating pathways of opportunity […] knowing that education has a transformative effect on individuals, on families and communities to improve social mobility,” said Sandra Sjoberg (Associate Dean and Director, Marketing & Innovation, College of Business) in conversation with Scott Shireman (Global Head of Coursera for Campus).

Sjoberg discussed how WGU is creating “pathways of opportunity” through industry partnerships, as they’re doing with Coursera. WGU offers micro-credentials within degree programs as well as in standalone programs. Sjoberg shared the value and relevance of Google Professional Certificates that are embedded into a new digital marketing master’s degree program: students build in-demand skills, doing activities that empower them to create a professional portfolio that highlights their skills and enhances their marketability. 

Institutions seeking to connect their students and curricula to in-demand skills through micro-credentials should explore these vital takeaways from the webinar:

Q: What approach should universities take to maximize student success in the workplace? 

A: Universities need to design programs that take a skills-first approach to maximize student success on the job by integrating industry-relevant pathways of opportunity, such as micro-credentials and appropriate credentialing strategies.

Ready to learn how Western Governors University is using certificates to meet employer demands?

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Q: How can schools ensure that education programs are teaching job-relevant skills?

 A: To equip students with in-demand skills for the job market, education programs can offer certifications like the Google Professional Certificate in digital marketing and e-commerce, which teach in-demand skills and provide opportunities for students to practice those skills.

Q: How can universities align their curriculum with market changes? 

A: They should first do a skills analysis of the job market and then align their curriculum with market changes. Instead of simply adding a micro-credential to the curriculum, they should design it within the curriculum so that students can earn course credit as they engage with the certificate.

Q: Why should faculty be encouraged to be involved in certifications? 

A: Faculty involvement in certifications keeps them current in the field and helps them better teach students, particularly in rapidly changing fields.

Q: What are the benefits of offering Professional Certificates as part of tuition? 

A: This provides immediate value to students and offers them an on-ramp and off-ramp path in their education. Even if a student needs to pause their education, they walk away with a meaningful credential that's resume-worthy. This supports student retention and enhances their motivation to complete their degree.

Q: How can institutions strengthen collaboration with industry leaders? 

A: By developing partnerships with industry leaders, institutions can authenticate learning, offer faculty development opportunities, and explore co-branding opportunities.

Q: How can universities accommodate students who have already earned certificates? 

A: Depending on ‌ accreditation guidelines and institutional setup, universities can consider credit for prior learning or a substitution approach for students who have already earned certain certificates. This accommodates the student's existing knowledge base and maximizes their time and effort in pursuing further learning.

Watch the webinar to gain more practical insights from WGU on providing your students pathways of opportunity by offering Professional Certificates at your institution.

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In this clip, listen to Sandra Sjoberg, Associate Dean & Director, discuss WWU's integration of Google's Digital Marketing Professional Certificates through Coursera.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.