Microcredentials of all forms are gaining popularity across the higher education space. After all, these loosely-defined, typically non-credit offerings are quick to stand up, can go to market quickly, and are faster and more affordable than more traditional higher education options (like degrees).
However, without seriously considering the rigour and purpose of microcredentials–and their place within the credential structure of an institution–non-credit credentials in general can be devalued.
Traditionally offered by continuing education divisions, increasing numbers of main campus faculties and departments are beginning to explore microcredential programs as a way to make up budget shortfalls and stay relevant to their audiences. Rather than going it alone, though, these divisions should be working closely with their colleagues in CE to ensure these programs are customer-centric, outcomes-oriented, responsive to demand and rigourous.
The number of credentials used to document education and training has grown—but so has the confusion about what they mean. Beyond that, many of us don’t like these terms because they imply the credentials are second-class, even as we sometimes struggle to understand their precise value.
The Growing Profile of Non-Degree Credentials: Diving Deeper into ‘Education Credentials Come of Age’
Online education—which in all its forms continues to slowly and steadily grow its market share in terms of all higher ed instruction—is certainly an enabler of this vision, given what we know about pedagogy and the ability to digitally document outcomes.
There’s an opportunity for higher education. With microcredentials, the 75 percent of Americans who do not have a college degree can obtain the skills they need to reach the next level in their career without having to take on the burden of student loans.
Whatever your personal and professional scenario, there is a high likelihood that you’ve had some experience with digital badging. And while the idea of digital badging is compelling for higher education, it has yet to achieve the levels of commitment demonstrated for MOOCs and other digital pedagogical practices.
The Value of Microcredentials
As we face this quiet crisis, I think it is incumbent on us as CE leaders not to be quiet! We need to evolve to become “shift disturbers” – to drive change within our own institutions, our governments and our economy.
The three-step career cycle (education, work, retirement) doesn’t exist anymore. It’s lifelong learning, and the best way to convey that is through these electronic comprehensive learning records. Students can build a resume of everything they’ve learned and share it more easily.
The value of a degree or credential lies as much in how you talk about it, as it does in anything intrinsic. It depends on how the holder presents the achievement on their resume, their LinkedIn profile, and in professional contexts.
Credentialing and the Future of Work
When active labor linking is incorporated within the design of a stackable program, stackability can be a powerful tool in addressing a region’s workforce development goal of creating more skilled workers for select sectors in support of their economy.
Credentialing and the 60-Year Curriculum
As we enter a new decade, U.S. higher education can directly answer the call to reskill and upskill American workers through open-loop learning. This form of learning differs from conventional postsecondary delivery because it is less transactional, less time-bound, and it can be instantly implemented in the workforce.