Stackability Guide: Building Credential Connections Within Institutions

A resource for higher education leaders

Education Strategy Group is pleased to release a new resource to help higher education institutions increase the likelihood that learners earn credentials that “stack” upon each other, enabling them to build skills, advance their careers, and attain economic mobility. 

While the concept of credential “stackability” has long been touted as a strategy to promote economic mobility, the reality has not yet matched the promise. Much has been written about stackability, but studies of its effectiveness suggest that it is underutilized and gaps in uptake across race and ethnicity remain. 

Too often the focus has been put on the ability for a credential to be stacked, rather than the ability for a learner to stack a credential. Credential stacking is done on paper; it ends when the learning recognition policy is codified at an institution. Learner-centered stackability is achieved when an individual, through guidance and navigational support, leverages that policy to continue their education and training. Given the growing interest in short-term credentials as a way for individuals to quickly shift jobs and increase their income, a focus on building learner-centered stackability has the potential to provide equitable access for students, offer more flexible training options for employers, and generate a pipeline of individuals who will re-enroll in institutions for upskilling.

ESG’s new Stackability Guide helps institutional leaders examine their internal processes related to stackability and provides guidance for developing stackable credentials to ensure that current and future students have the on- and off-ramps needed for equitable access to learning while working. The guide is structured around four evidence-informed pillars to support learner-centered stackability and equitable uptake of credentialing opportunities: 

  • Data Infrastructure and Systems, 
  • Mapping and Alignment of Curriculum, 
  • Credential Pathway Communication, and 
  • Student Centered Supports

Resource downloads

Stackability Guide: Building Credential Connections Within Institutions