By Hillary Miller October 06, 2017
In late September, Northeastern University announced a new collaboration with IBM, one of the world’s leading global technology companies. Through the new collaboration, students with IBM digital badges will be able to apply their badges toward Northeastern academic credit.
The partnership is designed to address the skills gap in the modern workforce. Learners will now have a clear path to academic recognition of their skills as well as increased incentive to study topics such as analytics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other emerging in-demand fields.
Northeastern is the first institution of higher learning to recognize IBM digital badges toward graduate degrees and certificates. The partnership with IBM builds on Northeastern’s collaboration with other major employers, including Major League Baseball and General Electric. These partner programs ensure the knowledge that students are responsible for learning is directly tied to critical workplace skills.
This was the driving force behind the partnership with IBM. “We must eliminate the gap between learning and work,” said Philomena Mantella, who serves as the senior vice president and CEO of the Professional Advancement Network at Northeastern. “This new collaboration with IBM illustrates our commitment to partnering with employers to design innovative pathways for learners to continuously advance their skills and achieve their professional goals.”
The population of IBM learners represents 190 countries around the world. In 2016, “IBMers” — including employees, customers, and members of the public — worked through over 26 million hours of learning content. The pool of IBMers extends far beyond traditional college-age students or entry-level professionals. Among American learners, more than half of the logged learning hours were completed by IBMers over the age of 50.
Each year, IBM invests $500 million in the education and professional development of its employees. This robust education strategy has made IBM an ideal candidate for a partnership with a Tier I university like Northeastern.
IBM has already issued nearly 500,000 digital badges in more than 1,000 areas, such as data analytics and design thinking. More than half of those 1,000 areas have been matched to academic programs at IBM. In the near future, qualified badge holders will have the Northeastern credit program made available to them.
Through the pilot program, IBM badge holders will be able to earn prior learning credit toward numerous Northeastern degrees. Utilizing these badges as evidence of learning achievement means that graduate students can accelerate their degree path. Currently, the digital credentials can be counted towards three master’s degrees: Data Analytics, Project Management, and Professional Management.
Specifically, IBMers who have taken a Cognitive Class through the Analytics Program can receive advanced standing for one three-credit elective through Northeastern. Individuals who hold any one of IBM’s Project Management badges are eligible for advanced standing in a range of graduate-level programs.
These credentials-for-credit opportunities are just the beginning for the Northeastern partnership. Another 51 graduate degrees and 17 certificate programs will be incorporated into the program in the near future.
The program provides a seamless pathway between workplace learning and traditional academic achievement. Robert McDonald, vice president for support transformation and training at IBM, discussed the importance of the program to employees and to the technology industry.
“This program advances the already strong partnership between Northeastern and IBM,” McDonald said in an article from Northeastern University. “To be successful in today’s workforce every one of us must be on a continuous learning path throughout our careers as virtually every profession is changing with the introduction of technologies like artificial intelligence and the cloud. This program will enable IBMers and others to enhance their skills and apply them in the workplace, which benefits clients and employees’ careers.”
Individuals who have earned an IBM badge can visit the Northeastern University website to find out how their credentials can be used toward prior learning credit.