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The Growing Recognition of Microcredentials

Microcredentials are an essential customer service strategy for higher education institutions to remain relevant and support their learners. 

Microcredentials are an important topic of discussion in higher education, becoming more prominent in academic and economic circles. Microcredentials are gaining recognition as they represent credentials that are agile and responsive to industry and economic workforce development trends. They provide high-impact learning experiences over a shorter timeframe than traditional higher education diplomas or degrees. They are not a replacement for diplomas or degrees, which provide important depth and breadth of study to achieve robust learning outcomes and foundational academic and personal growth. Rather, microcredentials provide an opportunity for learners to gain a specific competency or set of skills for upskilling (enhancing existing abilities) in a current career or reskilling (learning new skills) to advance or move into a new employment opportunity. Microcredentials are often open enrollment opportunities. They provide learners with the flexibility of choice and the ability to explore different learning opportunities that don’t require a long-term study schedule or large financial commitment.    

The job market demands in Ontario and across Canada are constantly evolving, responding to technological advancements and evidence-based research, but also to societal changes involving the current pandemic, advancing important social justice principles, and the need for person-centered and transferable skills. Employers respond to this evolution quickly, as they make decisions about their business. Entrepreneurs also need to pay attention to these changes to ensure their niche in the market stays on point and lucrative. Microcredentials are industry-relevant and current to societal needs, as they are built and updated using an iterative process reliant on strong feedback structures and workforce data integration. Microcredentials also facilitate lifelong learning for a variety of different individuals and benefit those not only looking to reskill or upskill but also highly qualified professionals, employees, or entrepreneurs. 

As they are often delivered through Continuing and Professional Education divisions, microcredentials are flexible programming options that can meet the needs of learners with busy schedules and other important responsibilities. They are designed, developed and delivered according to quality assurance processes and content, learning activities and evaluations are fine-tuned, so learners can achieve specific industry competencies and skills. Employer and Industry sector data and feedback are important components to creating and updating the curriculum. Microcredentials provide the opportunity to learn from experts working in the industry through engaging discussions and real-world learning activities. Since microcredentials focus on supporting the achievement of a specific competency or set of skills, there can be a wide variation in timeframes across programming options. Some microcredentials may take a few weeks to complete, while others may take more time. 

Through higher education academic record-keeping processes, microcredentials are secure, trackable and portable. Learner achievement is documented using a valid and formal process that acknowledges the attainment of the microcredential in the learner’s record. This can be shared by the learner with other higher education institutions if desired and offers the learner an opportunity to share with employers or on other platforms (again, if desired) to showcase their skills. Many higher education institutions work with electronic badging platforms to support a modern and technology-savvy display of microcredential achievement that can elevate the impact of a learner’s professional portfolio or job application. 

When you look at Continuing and Professional Education divisions more closely, you’ll see that providing short-term programming that meets both student career goals scheduling needs has always been the focus. The new spotlight on microcredentials and the positive impact it can have on improving the economic and social well-being of learners and our community is exciting. At Sheridan Continuing and Professional Studies (CAPS), we have a strong set of microcredentials that are crafted to provide quick but credible and engaging learning experiences that help people advance in their career or get a new job. The learning is based on industry-relevant data, standards for curriculum quality and is taught by experts working in the field.  We often collaborate with Sheridan stakeholders and have a strong partnership with academic faculties, student success departments and Sheridan executive leadership. This is a major factor required to build successful programming. We have also begun to discuss ways that our CAPS microcredentials can be stackable and create pathways to other academic programs offered by our academic faculties.  

While developing and delivering the right programming with quality and rigour is important, it goes without saying that having a successful customer experience model is crucial, so busy learners who will benefit from microcredentials can have their logistical questions and needs met quickly and efficiently. We have a Sheridan CAPS Opportunity Centre that is ready to answer questions, support registration and guide learners on next steps. We run virtual information sessions to help potential learners determine the programming that is the best choice for them and sessions that explain our CAPS Bursary application process and other Sheridan services. Students can also request to discuss their needs with an education and employment specialist. As we continue to build exceptional microcredentials, we are also advancing our customer service strategies in tandem to provide seamless and integrated student support. With microcredentials and other creative programming rising in popularity, we recognize the need to also build learner-centric processes that help graduates unlock their potential and navigate the changing world with confidence, skill and success.  

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