Skip to content

Microcredentials: Are They a Gamechanger?

May 11, 2021
“Figure 5. The learner-and-earner micro-credential journey.” Designing and Implementing Micro-Credentials: A Guide for Practitioners, p. 8.

Micro-credentials are nothing new. Study of them typically paralleled our watching the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as documented in Benefits and Costs of MOOC-Based Alternative Credentials: 2017 – 2018 Baseline Survey Results. Richard A. DeMillo cited 2012 as the seminal year for MOOCs in “Gatekeepers No More: Colleges Must Learn a New Role,” The Chronicle of Higher Education 62, no. 3 (Sept 18, 2015): B28.

A 2018 study by Northeastern University, Educational Credentials Come of Age: A Survey on the Use and Value of Educational Credentials in Hiring stated in its list of key findings:

“Skills-based or competency-based hiring appears to be gaining significant interest and momentum, with a majority of HR leaders reporting either having a formal effort to deemphasize degrees and prioritize skills underway (23%) or actively exploring and considering this direction (39%).

“Online credentials are now mainstream, with a solid majority (61%) of HR leaders believing that credentials earned online are of generally equal quality to those completed in-person, up from lower percentages in years past.”

However, it goes on to say, “Microcredentials are typically serving as supplements rather than substitutes for traditional degrees” (3).

The real question, will the last statement remain true post-COVID?

Already on June 19, 2019 David Bowser wrote in the Higher Education section of The Australian “Multi-year degree alternatives such as micro-credentials have gained traction because of their connection to in-demand skills and employment outcomes.” Bowser identifies the biggest threat is the lack of standardization, and says, “Institutions, industry and regulators each have a role in making the imprecise market of online education more precise” (“Take measure of micro-credentials” 31).

Is this happening?

Starting with the 2020-2021 cohort, The Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy, a leadership development program for undergraduate and graduate students at Grand Valley State University, added micro-badging for competencies into its curriculum that focuses on skills employers look for in their new hires. The blog post “Cook Leadership Academy adds micro-credentials to its curriculum” go on to say, “The badges can be used to summarize and articulate the skills students in the cohort have acquired in the academy. These can be used in interviews or to display on resumes” (https://lanthorn.com/80889/news/cook-leadership-academy-adds-micro-credentials-to-its-curriculum/).

In January 2021, The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) announced it “has updated its micro-credential approval process to make explicit how micro-credentials may contribute directly toward qualifications. This is sometimes referred to as ‘stacking’” (https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/news/stacking-micro-credentials/).

February 2021, “Purdue University Global reaches micro-credential milestone.” Exclaiming, “Purdue University Global launched a new landscape of micro-credentials in 2020 in order to meet students’ needs with creative and innovative academic solutions. Purdue Global students earned over 6,000 micro-credentials in the past year” (https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2021/Q1/purdue-university-global-reaches-micro-credential-milestone.html).

In Canada, the provincial governments of British Columbia and Ontario are giving legitimacy to micro-credentials, including financial assistance. Ontario’s Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano proclaimed, ‘The pandemic has had a devastating impact on our economy… By supporting these micro-credential programs our government is transforming Ontario’s postsecondary education sector and opening the window of opportunity to those who are looking to develop a new set of skills quickly’ (https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/60792/ontario-expands-financial-assistance-to-include-micro-credentials).

“School of Education Offers Free Distance Learning Micro Credential” (April 20, 2021) quotes Marthann Schulte of The New Mexico Highlands University School of Education as saying, “COVID-19 changed education, households and how families operate …The Governor’s Relief Fund makes it possible for Highlands to take an emergency education need during COVID-19 as a way to change New Mexican’s education opportunities now and in the future, post COVID-19” (https://www.nmhu.edu/school-of-education-offers-free-distance-learning-micro-credential/).

This month American College of Education, a private, online for-profit college, is rolling out a new three-course Micro-Credential in Simulation in Healthcare which can be applied to the full Certificate in Nursing Education & Simulation they offer (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/american-college-of-education-expanding-program-offerings-with-may-24-term-301235448.html).

There are still doubters:

Merlin Crossley, “Micro credentials not the education revolution they were first touted to be.” The Sydney Morning Herald (February 26, 2021).

Graeme Owens, “Micro-credentials are trendy, but do they get people well paying jobs?” Toronto Star (March 25, 2021).

But nearly a decade out and after the general disruption of the ongoing global pandemic many see micro-credentials as an inevitable part in the future landscape of Higher Ed. If it is, librarians need to start asking, “How does the library feature in this new landscape?”

Further reading:

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: