In theory, transcripts are a way to communicate a student or graduate’s academic achievement in higher education. The problem is, they only really communicate achievements to other people in academia. Outside academia, they’re fairly useless.
They say nothing about the skills a student may or may not have acquired at school. They say nothing about what extra-curricular activities a student has engaged in. At best, they communicate the lists of classes that a student took (though without curricula, it’s difficult to see what that means). And if the credential is from another country, it might not even convey that much, since employers will be unlikely to interpret it properly (hence the multi-million dollar credential evaluation industry).
People have come up with all sorts of ways to overcome these problems – diploma supplements, badges, and whatnot. But these sorts of initiatives suffer from a really basic collective action problem: employers only value what they understand, and new transcripts and credentials are, by definition, unfamiliar. They only become familiar if a lot of institutions adopt the same standards on diploma supplements/badges/whatever, and start pumping out transcripts based on them. And of course, that’s not easy to arrange. Institutions won’t put in the collective effort unless they know businesses will use the new system, and businesses can’t commit to using the new system until they see it and understand it.
That sounds like a recipe for paralysis, and so it has been for many years. But now there is new player on the scene who might be able to genuinely revolutionize the system. And that player is LinkedIn.
Think about it: a LinkedIn profile is about the closest thing the world has to a common CV. Employers all over the world know how to read it. So whatever LinkedIn puts into its template becomes the de facto global standard. So if LinkedIn starts to allow various forms of Open Badges onto the site (you can do it now, but it’s through a patch), vastly more employers will be exposed to this type of credential, badges will start to gain currency, and hence employer demand for badges will rise.
Now think a little bit ahead to when paper degrees die out entirely. Already, schools in North America can link directly with the Ministry of Education in China to verify academic records.
All of which is to say, change is coming to this little corner of student business processes. It’s time for institutions to start thinking how they’ll react.