COLLABORATION

Partnership puts learners at the centre of the modern learning experience

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Digital badges and microcredentials can help learners stand out in a crowd.

The shake-up to campus education is in part caused by the growing popularity of online learning models where geographical boundaries no longer becomes a deterrent to educational attainment.

As an answer to the growing skills gap crisis, this is a good thing. And there can be no denying the value of online learning to the future world of work.

Digital badges and microcredentials earned via online learning platforms allow learners to upskill and pick up snippets of education throughout their learning journey, which has now shifted from the traditional front-loaded degree to one that’s lifelong and continuous. With there being no way of knowing what the future holds for tomorrow’ workforces, there’s no smarter way than this for today’s generation of workers to secure their futures.

But there’s a cost to this. And bearing the brunt of it are the world’s universities. With campus education losing some of its shine, higher education institutions have had to adapt to changing times.

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Most now offer some form of online learning; some have gone the whole hog with degrees offered entirely online, while others are partnering with badging firms to offer credentials that supplement their traditional university certification. 

With more institutions jumping the digital bandwagon, another type of corporate tie-up has also become extremely popular of late–college credit-bearing learning badges. 

This extended learning strategy forms the basis of a new partnership announced this week between cloud-based software giant Salesforce and Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

The partnership will see learning pathways created for Salesforce Trailblazers to earn a degree from the university, all while gaining critical skills needed to excel in today’s workforce and prepare for the future.

Salesforce Trailblazers are registered learners on Trailhead, a widely popular free online learning experience platform that the company launched in 2014. There are now 1.5 million trailblazers on the platform, each one at different stages of their learning journey. 

Engaging, bite-sized content and gamification methods allow Salesforce Trailblazers to pick up new skills in topics they choose and according to their own pace and work schedules. The learning platform is essentially designed to teach learners how to use Salesforce products alongside learning subjects such as UX design, among other areas of relevance. 

Salesforce Trailblazers
Salesforce Trailblazers are registered learners on Trailhead, the firm’s free online learning platform. Source: Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

Through the SNHU partnership, Salesforce Trailblazers earn college credits by completing admin and developer badges, which stacks towards a relevant degree programme.

“This partnership is about empowerment at scale,” said Sarah Franklin, EVP and GM of Platform, Trailhead and Developers at Salesforce in a conversation with SNHU President Dr. Paul LeBlanc.

“We’re joining forces to pioneer new ways of engaging students with online, experiential learning.”

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LeBlanc said the partnership falls well in line with SNHU’s goals and learning ethos, which places the individual learner’s needs at the centre of the education journey.

“SNHU is focused on treating learners how the best companies treat their customers – always connected so we can anticipate, meet and support their needs. 

“While that ‘customer-centric’ approach can be a foreign concept in higher education, SNHU has always worked hard to do that well,” he said.

Explaining the agreement, LeBlanc said a Trailhead learner can apply to enroll in SNHU and have their badges evaluated towards over 100 undergraduate degree programmes offered by the university.

“Any collection of 100+ Trailhead modules completed for either the admin or developer role, along with a Superbadge, will count as a three-credit experiential learning course at SNHU,” he said.

The credit can be applied as a major elective for applicable IT-related programs or a free elective for any undergraduate degree program.

The partnership is a mutually beneficial arrangement for both parties, with SNHU students also receiving the option of building workplace skills that contribute towards their overall education experience.

“Not only can SNHU’s students study and work hard knowing the skills they learn will lead to tangible outcomes, but also they’re now part of a community – the Trailblazer Community – that will keep them engaged on a lifelong journey of learning and growth,” Franklin said. 

Agreeing, LeBlanc added that another key benefit to SNHU learners is the cost factor.

“It’s a great way for existing SNHU students to learn through hands-on work and save some tuition money along the way,” he pointed out.