Educational and occupational credentials in schema.org

Since the summer I have been working with the Credential Engine, which is based at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, on a project to facilitate the description of educational and occupational credentials in schema.org. We have just reached the milestone of setting up a W3C Community Group to carry out that work.  If you would like to contribute to the work of the group (or even just lurk and follow what we do) please join it.

Educational and occupational credentials

By educational and occupational credentials I mean diplomas, academic degrees, certifications, qualifications, badges, etc., that a person can obtain by passing some test or examination of their abilities. (See also the Connecting Credentials project’s glossary of credentialing terms.)  These are already alluded to in some schema.org properties that are pending, for example an Occupation or JobPosting’s qualification or a Course’s educationalCredentialAwarded. These illustrate how educational and occupational credentials are useful for linking career aspirations with discovery of educational opportunities. The other entity type to which educational and occupational credentials link is Competence, i.e. the skills, knowledge and abilities that the credential attests. We have been discussing some work on how to describe competences with schema.org in recent LRMI meetings, more on that later.

Not surprisingly there is already a large amount of relevant work done in the area of educational and occupational credentials. The Credential Engine has developed the Credential Transparency Description Language (CTDL) which has a lot of detail, albeit with a US focus and far more detail that would be appropriate for schema.org. The Badge Alliance has a model for open badges metadata that is applicable more generally. There is a W3C Verifiable Claims working group which is looking at credentials more widely, and the claim to hold one. Also, there are many frameworks which describe credentials in terms of the level and extent of the knowledge and competencies they attest, in the US Connecting Credentials cover this domain, while in the EU there are many national qualification frameworks and a Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area.

Potential issues

One potential issue is collision with existing work. We’ll have to make sure that we know where the work of the educational and occupational credential working group ends, i.e what work would best be left to those other initiatives, and how we can link to the products of their work. Related to that is scope creep. I don’t want to get involved in describing credentials more widely, e.g. issues of identification, authentication, authorization; hence the rather verbose formula of ‘educational and occupational credential. That formula also encapsulates another issue, a tension I sense between the educational world and the work place: does a degree certificate qualify someone to do anything, or does it just relate to knowledge?  Is an exam certificate a qualification?

The planned approach

I plan to approach this work in the same way that the schema course extension community group worked. We’ll use brief outline use cases to define the scope, and from these define a set of requirements, i.e. what we need to describe in order to facilitate the discovery of educational and occupational credentials. We’ll work through these to define how to encode the information with existing schema.org terms, or if necessary, propose new terms. While doing this we’ll use a set of examples to provide evidence that the information required is actually available from existing credentialling organizations.

Get involved

If you want to help with this, please join the community group. You’ll need a W3C account, and you’ll need to sign an assurance that you are not contributing any intellectual property that cannot be openly and freely licensed.

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