When Lumina talks, people at community colleges listen—or at least we should. The Indianapolis-based foundation, with a reported $1 billion endowment, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, based in Seattle, are behind many purportedly scalable efforts to improve student success rates.
Last June, Lumina announced it was starting a national dialog on credentials among business groups and others concerned about education. In October, the organization held a related one-day conference in Washington, DC, inviting employers, workforce development agencies, industry association representatives, education leaders, philanthropic organizations, think tanks, and students, as reported by Bernadette Tansey, in Xconomy. Please have a look.
The basic idea of the plan is to form an online infrastructure offering certificates in a host of fields that would be accepted by employers. Most of the disciplines discussed are in technical areas, but offerings in the liberal arts are also under consideration. If you have heard of digital "badges" and "stackable" credentials, the new model would provide a way to organize such activity nationwide.
According to the piece, the non-profit Lumina has no intention of competing with or replacing any programs at existing higher education institutions. So far, based on the experience with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), such additions have not proved threatening. The online approach has a steep hill to climb regarding completion rates as well.
Nevertheless the Lumina move is an interesting development.