As the use of digital credentials increases, and as micro-credentials grow in popularity, we look at what they are, and what they can do for students and professionals who are considering upskilling in their chosen industry
Micro-credentials are certifications that certify the outcomes of a short course or module, which is assessed in a transparent manner. They allow for flexible, modular learning and can be used throughout the learner’s professional career. Sometimes they take the form of badges as well and sometimes are mistaken for them too.
In fact, since the start of last year, more individuals than ever before have shown interest in non-traditional educational and skills training options, signaling a global trend from learners towards shorter, inexpensive alternatives to standard degree education. Training Programs can use micro-credentials to verify the knowledge and ability of an individual who has completed a particular course or attended a webinar and attests to their mastery of that particular
Micro-credentials allow learners to claim their professional skills throughout their careers. They can present micro-certification during job interviews or use them for professional development within the company. Micro-credentials are designed to promote mobility and flexibility in the authentication of learning.
How do micro-credentials work?
Being familiar with the constantly changing technical know-how in an industry requires continuous effort, yet the demand for it is rapidly growing. Employees and even managers simply don’t have the time to sit through an entire program.
Here’s where micro-credentials come into play.
Microcredentials are mainly offered by educational institutions such as universities, business schools, colleges, and further education centers for individuals that have completed small courses. These shorter courses are often listed along with the more traditional degrees for anyone to access.
Professional bodies and third parties may also work with institutes or licensed organizations to offer micro-credentials directly to learners and employees. Equally, there are platforms where professionals who are well-known in their industry can offer courses directly to the public for a small price and provide materials and lessons based on their own experience. Micro-credentials are digital credentials but in a smaller form factor.
Depending on the course there are a few different ways to study a micro-credential. Most courses are taught online and will be broken down into a series of modules. Students can then complete tasks at their own pace. Some courses are taught through in-person classes or via a hybrid approach of in-person and online material. The subject matter and assessment style will influence the type of approach offered to students.
However, both institutions and learners must know that micro-credentials cannot be taken in the place of a university degree and instead used to add value to already present accomplishments. For example, micro-credentials can be offered to a student who was the first in his AP class or completed a course outside of their curriculum, to show that they are a passionate and hard-working individual. Micro-credentials supplement and develop abilities and knowledge already gained.
Why should institutes offer a micro-credential?
As the working world becomes more competitive, the demand for specific skills is increasing. However, professionals who are working full-time don’t always have the capacity to study for a full degree. Microcredentials can provide a more efficient approach for employees to expand their skill set and increase their employability.
Microcredentials are more manageable because they can be completed in your own time and are shorter than a traditional degree. If a student then wants to cover additional skills, they can study stackable micro-credentials, designed to be combined to create a comprehensive portfolio of qualifications in a subject area.
Educational institutions must be able to see this niche, and allow learners to obtain micro-credentials, as not only do they increase the reputation of the institution, it allows for more admissions and hence, more revenue.
Are micro-credentials worth it?
Over the past few years, non-traditional education has become very popular, with more people studying shorter, less expensive topics that provide them with detailed skills, rather than longer courses. Companies will often offer a learning budget that can go towards a micro-credential.
The benefit of these smaller courses is that students can learn a specific skill straight away.
Individuals can then engage with further topics at any time due to the flexibility of micro-credentials and can continue to advance their skills. Not only is this a great way for learners to remain relevant in their field, but it also looks impressive on their CV, showing commitment to the job and a passion to continue learning. Should an individual ever wish to make a career change, they can access micro-credentials to gain new skills in a different field and approach job applications more prepared for a new industry.
Will my micro-credential be recognized by employers?
Some career fields recognize micro-credentials more than others. Although they are still a newer style of learning, they are widely recognized in sectors such as business, marketing, and finance where, because of constantly changing laws, customer demand, and security, employees need to learn new skills on a regular basis. Research fields such as engineering and science require a bigger seal of approval than a micro-credential, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely worthless.
Microcredentials are seen as more advanced skills that an individual can bring to the job. They work as an asset in hand with a university education. By studying these “nano degrees”, a student can show a clear interest in a specialized aspect of their career and set themselves apart from other job applicants with similar degrees.
Before signing up for a micro-credential it is always important to check whether or not it will be recognized by employers in your field and to read previous students’ reviews to make sure it will be worth your time and money.
Long story short, micro-credentials are small accomplishments for courses of a larger degree or achievement. They improve your chances of getting employed as they:
- Enable learners to gain knowledge efficiently and effectively
- Help professionals fill gaps in their skillset
- Offer a cost-effective method of learning
- Make learning accessible to your busy lifestyle
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