Higher Education Innovation In Action

  • The Future of the Academic Transcript – Do Employers Ask for Your Transcript?

    by J. James Wager, Consultant & Education Strategist | Jun 11, 2018

    Do employers ask students for their academic transcript?  The answer is, it depends.  The traditional academic transcript contains information employers may be interested in knowing about a potential employee: graduation/degree verification, grade point average, specific course grades, honors status, and enrollment history to name a few.  But some employers obtain this information in different ways.

    Employers constantly seek the best candidates they can find, and students are always seeking internship and employment opportunities that match their career goals.  But practices such as social media and ePortfolios seem to be constantly changing.  Technology has a profound impact on recruiting strategies with the increasing use of social network sites such as LinkedIn©, Indeed©, Monster©, CareerBuilder©, and many others to contact and screen candidates.

    It is interesting to listen to students as they engage in the job application cycle.  Perceptions are quite varied, ranging from wishful thinking to completely accurate.   Here are some representative statements that staff in your career center have likely heard from students:

    • Almost everyone has wanted to at least see my unofficial transcript.  I've never had anyone bug me about an official transcript before I started work, although I’m not sure what to expect if hired.
    • In a large company, the hiring manager doesn't verify GPA.  That is what HR departments are for.
    • How can an employer look at just my GPA and make an informed decision?  My University is one of the most selective schools in the country.  If my GPA is lower than another candidate’s GPA from a less-selective school, that doesn’t make the other person a better candidate.
    • My employer sent me a letter-of-offer that included three requirements: complete a drug test; authorize them to conduct a background check; and send my official transcripts.  I guess they wanted to make sure I wasn’t lying on my resume.
    • My personal experience is employers don't generally care about your transcripts.  Out of a dozen positions, only one employer has ever asked me for my transcripts.
    • The more competitive the position, the more likely it is they will ask you for your transcripts.  But they will probably never ask you after your first job - so live through it now, and you will be fine.
    • My adviser recommended that I have a transcript available for each of my interviews.  Official transcripts cost $8.00.I hope they will accept an unofficial transcript which is free.  After all, there is no difference.
    • The employer can call the school and ask for your GPA, but they won't get an answer.  Due to privacy laws, schools can only confirm your dates of attendance and if you received a degree.  So, you can let your school know that when the employer calls they can release your grades.  (Isn’t this one the Registrars’ nightmare!)
    • One of my potential employers requested official transcripts from all schools I attended.  I found this peculiar because I didn't think that most employers asked for transcripts; only federal agencies, school districts, and law firms need this information.
    • Many employers request transcripts to prevent the hiring of people with fraudulent degrees and college graduates who have inflated their GPA on their resume.  If the job requires a degree and you were hired because of your course of study, it is a legitimate request.  If you try and cite invasion of privacy, your application will end up in the deleted file.  If you are hired and do not submit the requested documents, you will be fired.

    This last comment is representative of today’s environment.  The down-side of self-reported resumes and portfolios is that not all applicants are honest, and some information may be embellished.  We have all read the headline making news stories where an individual in a high-level position was exposed as not having the credentials or experience they claimed.  For every one of these headlines, there are hundreds of other cases where employment decisions have been reversed because of unverified credentials. 

    Further compounding this is the continuing presence of Diploma Mills; those illegitimate “colleges or universities” that provide degrees for a fee with no required course work.  Diploma Mills are often difficult for employers to detect since, for a fee, the Diploma Mill will provide transcript and diploma credentials, letters of recommendation, and verification service by Web or phone. 

    And, accredited/legitimate colleges and universities unintentionally contribute to this problem; how would an employer hiring few college graduates really know what the actual transcript from XYZ University looks like?  

    So, what’s an employer to do?

    Ultimately the employer seeks to hire candidates capable of performing the job.  Not all jobs require a college degree in a designated field of study; the “college experience” may be sufficient.  Self-reported metrics such as GPA, major/minor, enrollment in selected courses, the number of enrolled-semesters, and even graduation may be perfectly acceptable.  However, if it is important enough for the job description to read “degree in XYZ is required” then it follows that a non-repudiated verification of the degree is necessary.

    The long-standing recommendation is that employers should accept official transcripts directly from the school, or from trusted service providers, like Credential Solutions, working on the school’s behalf.  This direct approach provides proof of both the transcript’s origin and integrity.

    Accepting transcripts directly from the student should be avoided.  This approach opens the possibility of fraudulent representation of the record.  A common approach is for the originating school to place the original record in a sealed envelope, enabling the student to deliver to document to the employer.   Sometimes the document is marked “issued to student”.  Regardless, this approach is at best marginally more secure and the fundamental possibility of fraud remains.

    There is a growing technology trend enabling students to present validated eDocuments on their social media pages.  Using PESC approved standards, some schools are providing their students with eDocuments (transcripts, diplomas, certificates, verifications, etc.) that have a dual benefit.  The student can include these verifiable documents on their social media pages presenting themselves as a capable, well-rounded, and qualified candidate.  And the potential employer is provided the capability to validate the credential as original and unaltered.

    The need to maintain truth, honesty, and integrity is an undiminished constant.  In an ever-changing technology world, new opportunities emerge that enable improvement to both the academic credential itself as well as the delivery and presentation of the credential.

  • 4 Benefits of Automation in the Workplace

    by Kate Heider, Technical Writer | Apr 26, 2018

    Workplace automation is in the media a lot these days, from burger-flipping robots to self-driving cars. The news is not always good. In fact, sometimes it’s downright dystopian, as it’s often framed in terms of job displacement and mass unemployment.

    At Credentials, we automate back-office processes for university registrars. Our core mission is not to replace jobs, but to help registrars do their jobs better with software that handles repetitive, time-consuming tasks. In short, we’re optimists: We prefer to focus on positive outcomes. With that in mind, here are four encouraging reports on automation along with benefits we’ve seen firsthand or heard about from our customers.

    Job creation

    This special report in The Economist, Automation and Anxiety, looks at how automation ultimately creates more jobs than it destroys. “‘That is because of the way automation works in practice,’ explains David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ‘Automating a particular task, so that it can be done more quickly or cheaply, increases the demand for human workers to do the other tasks around it that have not been automated.’” One example of this is the growing need for information system specialists in the registrar’s office – staff who can develop bolt-on solutions for existing software and bridge communication between your team and the IT department.

    Job support

    Not only does automation create the potential for new jobs, it supports existing jobs by freeing up time for more important, creative, or fulfilling work. The optimist’s guide to the robot apocalypse cites a recent McKinsey study that found only 5% of U.S. occupations can be fully automated. “McKinsey’s conclusion was not that machines will take all of these jobs, but rather, ‘more occupations will change than will be automated away,’” says author Sarah Kessler. “Our CEO, for example, won’t spend time analyzing reports if artificial intelligence can draw conclusions more efficiently, so he can spend more time coaching his team.”

    A more ‘human’ workplace

    This piece in Business Insider, Automation could make the modern workforce more ‘human’, reinforces the idea that automation is best suited for repetitive tasks. “For example, if you're an HR manager, you probably spend a large portion of your workday doing things that could be automated,” according to the article. “HR also includes activities that no computer program can do — like building personal relationships and managing employee concerns… These are the exciting, important parts of HR that you never have enough time for because of the repetitive activities that take up too much of your day.”

    This might sound all too familiar to registrars. As Mindy Starcher and Natalie Spooner have mentioned in their blog posts, a large part of a registrar’s job involves mentoring staff, assisting students, and developing collegial relationships throughout the institution. Automated systems free up time and resources for these high-touch activities.

    Lifelong learning

    Finally, the BBC reports that even though automation can cause uncertainty and upheaval, it can also foster lifelong learning. “The distinction between work and learning might need to become more amorphous,” says Bhagwan Chowdhry, professor of finance at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We currently have a dichotomy where those who work need not learn, and those who learn do not work. We need to think about getting away from the traditional five day working week to one where I spend 60% of my time doing my job and 40% learning on a regular basis... For the majority of us, this could be a crucial switch in our thinking.”
  • Innovation in the Registrar’s Office

    by Kate Heider, Technical Writer | Apr 10, 2018

    Registrars know all about small, incremental innovations, as they’re often pressured to perform with ever-shrinking budgets and workarounds. This kind of innovation is really more of a mindset. It’s also known as “design thinking,” and it’s an unwritten part of the job.

    Take, for example, this article in iJournal – it’s from 2009 but still relevant, perfectly illustrating how registrars rise to the various challenges they face. The Admissions and Records Office at College of the Canyons, led by Jasmine Ruys, put together a team of volunteers to find quicker and more efficient ways to serve its growing student population. The team met once a week to brainstorm ideas and develop a plan to streamline registrations for the fall term. The result, Ms. Ruys said, was more satisfied students, and that afterward “the staff was motivated, even during hard times. They were excited about their jobs again… innovation can be put into place in any office.”

    In her project management post last April, Natalie Spooner wrote, “effective teamwork is just as critical to project management as day-to-day implementation.” It is also an important ingredient in innovation and design thinking. With that in mind, here are three articles on how to inspire innovation among your staff and breathe some new life into your team projects.

    How to Inspire a Culture of Innovation

    “True innovation isn’t about creating the ‘next big thing’ to capture fleeting attention.” So says Mauro Porcini, the chief design officer of PepsiCo, in this article in Entrepreneur magazine. Instead, he says, collaboration and connections are key. “The fast-paced business world is focused on results and returns, but truly innovative companies have a culture focused on long-term gains where innovation can thrive.”

    The Greatest Innovations are the Ones You Don’t See

    In this post, Jeff DeGraff talks about finding inspiration in “the hidden gems” – the places where others don’t think to look. Using travel and camping as a metaphor, his advice includes “swimming upstream,” or turning a problem on its head to consider it from another angle, and “talking to the locals” to ask them what they need. For registrars, “the locals” might mean students, colleagues, or staff in other departments. They usually have lots to share about their pain points. Engage with them and look for opportunities for improvement. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and really get into the thick of it – perhaps those in the trenches are too busy hustling to innovate – but that’s where you step in.

    Five Stages in the Design Thinking Process

    Finally, this article teaches you about the five stages of innovating a project.  They are:

    1. Empathizing with your end user
    2. Identifying the problem
    3. Ideating (brainstorming)
    4. Prototyping the solution, and
    5. Testing the solution

    Recall that the Admissions and Records team at College of the Canyons (above) followed all of these stages:

    1. They empathized with students by…
    2. Identifying a need for faster and more efficient service.
    3. They met once a week for a brainstorming session.
    4. They prototyped a plan.
    5. They successfully implemented the plan, which benefited staff as well as students.

    This article also emphasizes that innovation doesn’t happen in a straight line. “In essence, design thinking is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and users,” the authors say, “with an emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave.”

  • Beyond Management: What Type of Leader Are You? Take the Quiz!

    by Rose Addison, Manager, Documentation & Training | Mar 30, 2018

    In my last leadership post, I wrote about the difference between leaders and managers, how Theory X and Theory Y thinking affect your leadership style, and how readiness and the situation at hand may dictate leadership steps.

    Besides these fundamental factors, many leadership styles exist. While no one person operates solely within one style (that’s a good thing), understanding your own leadership tendencies can help you change your approach when the situation calls for it. 

    Are you curious about what kind of leader you are? In the following post, we’ll focus on the four most common styles. Read on! 


    Pragmatist leaders are practical, driven, and competitive. They tend to focus on the steps it takes to complete a project as well as the processes behind reaching goals. Pragmatic leaders often have high standards – for themselves and for their team – and value hitting their goals above anything else. They are usually seen as bold in their thinking and don’t want to hear excuses.

    Pragmatist Pros

    • Get tasks done effectively
    • Practical in their approach    

    Pragmatist Cons

    • May be considered harsh or negative
    • May drive people too hard    

    When It Works

    • When the team is already skilled and motivated    

    When to Try a Different Approach…

    • When you’re looking for innovation or creativity    


    Idealist leaders are charismatic, open-minded, and full of energy. They strive to constantly learn and grow from their experiences and believe others should do the same. Idealists see the potential in those around them – especially their employees – and push them to tackle goals creatively. They are usually thought of as hard-working and don’t tend to shy away from a challenge.

     Idealist Pros

    • Devoted to the greater good
    • Wonderful motivators  

    Idealist Cons

    • May be viewed as Pollyannaish
    • May not be great leaders for process-driven folks   

    When It Works

    •  When team members are open to building new skills and strengths    

    When to Try a Different Approach…

    • When folks are defiant or don’t respect a leader’s skills or competence   


    Steward leaders are supportive, committed, and dependable. They take pride in their work, value the greater good, and strive to provide a stable and inclusive work environment – especially for their team. They are usually seen as having a “glass is half-full approach” and are quick to offer praise and recognition.

    Steward Pros

    • Focused on the individual well-being of others
    • Empowering    

    Steward Cons

    •  Consensus-driven approach may frustrate others
    • A people-first mentality may diminish their authority   

    When It Works

    • When the team is stressed out or apprehensive about a new situation, change, or role    

    When to Try a Different Approach…

    • When your team is insubordinate or reluctant to leadership    


    Diplomatic leaders are typically seen as kind, loyal, and inclusive. They tend to focus on building harmonious relationships and are often thought of as the social glue of an organization. Diplomats foster the strengths of those around them and often consider other perspectives before making decisions. They are usually thought of as fair and trustworthy because their actions are consistent with their words.

    Diplomat Pros

    • Willing to compromise
    • Respectful of others’ values    

    Diplomat Cons

    • May struggle to challenge employees
    • May avoid conflict to the detriment of themselves or their team    

    When It Works

    •  When a team needs to take ownership of a decision, approach, or goal  

    When to Try a Different Approach…

    • When team members aren’t savvy enough to make decisions without guidance

    It’s important to remember that no one leadership style fits every circumstance or relationship; we all need to adapt in an ever-changing environment. Finding and maintaining the correct balance is key!

    After reading this, what do you think your leadership style is? Take this quiz to determine if the results match your original self-evaluation.


  • Data and Decision-making in Higher Ed

    by Kate Heider, Technical Writer | Mar 05, 2018

    "Data-driven" is not just a buzzword anymore, it's a mission. In recent years the tracking and analysis of data has become increasingly sophisticated, especially in higher ed where it’s gone beyond the registrar’s office and enrollment. The following five articles examine how schools are currently using and managing data -- for everything from tracking student life cycles to making the most of campus resources -- along with projected trends for 2018.

    Data and the student life cycle

    The mission of CEO David L. Felsenthal is to assist both students and institutions via predictive analytics. He tells the Chronicle of Higher Education that much of his work around student success is based on data analysis in the health care industry. "So we took a lot of concepts around population health,” he says, “making sure consumers, and not just patients, stay as healthy as possible throughout their life cycle --and brought that same kind of theory over to education, to think about the student life cycle, everything from kindergarten through college and employment outcomes."

    Self-service analytics empower campus staff

    This article in EdTech Magazine spotlights Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, which developed "a self-service analytics platform to deliver data on demand to administrators, staff, faculty, and other users." One of the team's takeaways from their work in creating this platform is that data analytics is not a one-and-done project, it's an ongoing process. "Data and the technologies built to leverage it are always evolving," according to the article. "So teams managing analytics systems should embrace a continuing-education philosophy."

    Ed Tech Trends in 2018

    The first article on this list, from Campus Technology Magazine, looks at how higher ed institutions are using data-driven analytics for more than just successful student outcomes. They're analyzing how classroom usage affects new construction projects, as well as options for converting aging computer labs. "Efforts like these can not only streamline campus operations, but also ensure that we are making the most of the resources we have in the service of teaching and learning," says Thomas Hoover.

    New horizons for blockchain

    In this piece from Ed Tech Magazine, Erin Brereton examines the many benefits of blockchain technology on campus, including streamlined recordkeeping and financial aid tracking. Still in its early stages, MIT has been developing an open-source blockchain project that could eventually lay the groundwork for new types of student credentials.

    Data as a core business disruptor

    CIO Magazine reports that this year will see new uses for large, unstructured data hubs, also known as “data lakes.” "The new dumping ground of data has gone through experimental deployments over the last few years, and will start to be shut down unless they prove that they can deliver value," according to Alation executive Ken Hoang. One of his predictions for data lakes is that they will become rich sources for machine learning and "context-as-a-service."