Miami Dade College Launches Stackable Credentials Partnership with Adobe

The concept of bringing industry credentials into traditional degree programs is quickly spreading throughout higher education.

Tommy Demos, Assistant Professor of Film, TV & Digital Production, and Eric Cornish, Assistant Professor of Graphic Arts Design at Miami Dade College, joined the podcast to talk about their stackable credentials partnership with Adobe.

Stackable Design Credentials Partnership with Adobe

“Eric and I were inducted into a group called the Adobe education leaders,” Tommy explained. “There’s about 440 of these professors and instructors across the entire world, and they teach in K-12 and also the college and university systems.” 

Tommy and Eric also hold other Adobe credentials, including Adobe education trainers and Adobe campus leaders and partners by design. Belonging to these groups enables them to learn from their peers across the world about how they are using Adobe products in the classroom. 

“For instance,” Tommy said, “there’s been a push toward the use of Adobe software across the curriculum in nontraditional disciplines such as history, psychology, science, math, and English.”

Along the way Tommy and Eric discovered a program called Adobe Certified Associate (ACA), an industry standard credential that demonstrates proficiency in various Adobe digital skills..

“We learned about this about three years ago, and we looked into how we might be able to bring this Adobe certification program into our college,” Tommy said. 

With a little bit of research and a little bit of politics at the school, campus, and college level, they finally launch a certification program. At Miami Dade, students can take certificates for free in Premiere Pro Photoshop, After Effects, Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, and Animate.

“With the Adobe Certified Associate badge or credential,” Eric said, “students gained confidence in their skill sets, they’re able to feel more confident in what their competition in terms of getting a job placement and entry level positions. It strengthens their resume.”

Student Responses to the Adobe Partnership

At first there was a little bit of hesitation. Students were asking, “Why do we need to be certified? If we have a portfolio or a degree, what is the certification going to do for us?”

But instructors know that there’s a difference between covering the material and actually having the students learn the material. Tommy and Eric themselves found that by integrating ACA certification into their curriculum they were able to cover some of those gaps.

Overall, though, student response has been positive. They they go through the material, and they say, “Oh, I didn’t even know that the software could do this kind of thing.”

Do Industry Credentials Threaten Traditional Degrees?

“We view these badges as a stackable credential that complements and enhances the traditional degree,” Tommy said. 

The badge alone is usually not enough to secure an entry-level position, anyway. You still need the associate degree or bachelor’s degree to prove your competence in the discipline. 

“Imagine that you are an 18 to 20-year-old freshmen,” Tommy said, “and you’re uncertain about the degree that you’ve chosen. You take a video editing class or graphic design class and in four months you’re able to earn an industry recognized badge that tells an employer that you are proficient in a particular industry standard software. That really makes a student feel good about themselves.” 

It’s an early win in the academic process that keeps students enrolled and sets them on a better path towards completing the degree plan.

How Could State Funding for Stackable Credentials Drive Revenue for Colleges?

The State of Florida is trying to get students industry certified in the sectors that need employees. Community colleges such as Miami Dad are trying to train people for the jobs that are out there. 

It’s a very practical approach and the state is awarding significant financial incentives to both K-12 systems and colleges and universities that participate in certifying their students in these industries. 

For example, Florida statutes provide for a performance award of $1,000 for each industry certification earned by a Florida college system student. So imagine that you’re able to certify 100 students in a single semester in a particular industry certification and earn $100,000 of revenue for the college that they would never have seen without this incentive program. 

Next-Steps Advice for Incorporating Market-Leading Certifications into Degrees

“Build a coalition of the willing at your school,” Tommy said. “You need to first find out who is going to support this initiative at the faculty level. We have learned that if you do not integrate this into coursework, you really aren’t going to have the results that you want.”

You also need to find administrators to help support this initiative because it has to be financed. It’s not free to do Adobe certified associate testing at your testing center. There’s an annual contract, and the price for that contract varies based on the size of your institution and the number of testing centers. 

One of the ways to finance the program is to use an industry certification funding list program. Another way is to partner with district or with some department on campus that might be able to fund it through a grant.

“We had a really great relationship with our dean at the time who helped connect us to several areas at the college,” Tommy said. “We were able to partner with workforce education in order to get the initial funds that were required to launch our very first contract.”


This post is based on a podcast interview with Tommy Demos and Eric Cornish from Miami Dade College. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

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