Important Changes to Our Diploma Pathways

We are in the process of re-tooling our diploma pathways program. Specifically, we are changing terminology to eliminate “diploma” and “major” and “minor”. Until we are ready to unveil the re-vamped information, our page at www.saylor.org/diplomas will redirect visitors to this blog post.

Here is the most important thing to note: this program is not disappearing. You still have the “diploma” certificates you have earned, but we have changed the wording on the issued certificates to eliminate the word “diploma”.. If you are currently working toward a pathway certificate, you should absolutely continue to do so.

In the interest of complete transparency, the issue is the word “diploma”. The Higher Education Licensing Commission (HELC) of the District of Columbia (where we are based) has informed us that our use of the word “diploma” is potentially misleading to students and must be changed.

Our talks with HELC have been entirely positive and we are making these changes quickly to show good faith with the regulations that our city has in place to protect students.

So far, in addition to taking down the Diploma Pathways page and removing other references, we have changed the templates of the diplomas to use the word “certificate” rather than “diploma”. This is a temporary change; in the coming days, we will:

  • Determine a different word or phrase to replace our use of the word “diploma”
  • Come up with different words or phrases to describe “majors” and “minors” in both legacy and current course pathways

Once again, please know that we love and intend to expand upon our course pathways formerly known as “diploma pathways”. The words have changed, but the facts of what students have accomplished or intend to accomplish remain the same. The issue is terminology and we simply have to make these changes in order to keep providing this program to our students.

Top Comments

  1. I think that's a smart change. Word choice is important, especially in the muddy area of education credentials.

  2. no not all are happy because you really don't any idea how this diploma you have remove was and is helping people, its not all who can manage to pay for diplomas out there to other school whilst they found saylor academy help site that can change there future just by completing some couples of course and earn a diploma
    and besides its there backbone to change their life's and now you eliminated it out were do you think they will get help or opportunity from?

  3. sean says:

    Yes, we took them down so that we could make changes, but they will be back up quite soon and we will set the old link to redirect to the new one -- we have a new draft of the page nearly ready.

  4. sean says:

    We just about have our wording down, but we're always open to new suggestions!

    The frustration we face is that the most appropriate, descriptive words are the ones we can't use, while alternatives seem kludgy, awkward, or simply generic.

    Gosh, maybe "meta-certificate" was the right word after all...

  5. sean says:

    On a much broader topic, the pace of change for alternative and informal credentials to develop value is maddeningly slow, across the education "industry".

    A degree from an accredited school or a certification from some long-standing professional association still has tremendous value as a "signifier", an indicator of how knowledgeable and competent a job applicant is likely to be.

    At the same time, we see (certainly in the U.S. news) that formal degree programs are not necessarily producing students ready to step into the available jobs.

    There is a paradox here. To show that alternative credentials have value, employers must be convinced that the credentials adequately signify positive traits a potential employee brings to a job. But to evaluate those traits, an employer must first hire an employee. The trouble is that employers would still prefer to rely on more traditional credentials in the hiring process.

    I do believe that employer attitudes toward non-traditional credentials are changing, and that traditional schools are increasingly finding ways to accommodate non-traditional students. But the latter trend is cold comfort to those seeking a true alternative to a traditional degree program.

    Personally, I do wish we could use the word diploma, but I know that there are flaws in that approach. The word "diploma" may have its greatest value to the student if employers believe that it is a more traditional kind of credential. What happens if the employer discovers that we are not a traditional, accredited educator? Although the regulations exist to protect students from being victimized by fraudulent organizations (and we have always been careful and clear with our students -- that is, the law isn't really trying to protect students from us), the regulations also serve to protect applicants from confused and disappointed employers. Not that I need to make traditional institutions' case for them!

    I am conflicted here. I know any credential is a powerful motivator, even when it is "just" a certificate, more so when it is a "diploma", enormously so when it is a "degree". But I also strongly feel that the student best serves their own best interests when knowledge and skills equal or exceed credentials as motivating factors. Finding additional ways to document and demonstrate knowledge and skills is crucial, as is insisting, whenever feasible, that employers look at more than just the first few lines of a resume in making a decision whether to bring someone in for an interview.

    Any significant educational experience (traditional or otherwise) works best, I believe, when it prepares a student to continue to learn and develop on their own. "All education is self-education", as it has been said. My hope would be that certificates, diplomas, and degrees become equally less relevant, or at any rate less dominant, as badges of learning.

    In short: I wish the difference between "diploma" and "certificate" did not matter at all. I realize that, in many ways, it does.

    But there is a silver lining, perhaps: assume that a potential employer knows or will discover that Saylor Academy is not a formal, accredited education provider. I would encourage anyone to be forthcoming about that and to assert the value of what they have learned as actively and creatively as possible.

Continue the discussion discourse.saylor.org

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