A Crash Course in Micro-credentials for Universities

Have you seen any of your university’s alumni post about their most recent certification on LinkedIn? Perhaps they’ve completed Google Career Certificates or digital marketing courses with HubSpot. These certifications are examples of a new and innovative offering in the realm of continuing education: micro-credentials.

As a higher-education institution, you’re likely familiar with micro-credentials and digital badges, which can help students master professional skills from their college course. If you’re not incorporating these courses into your offerings for students and alumni, you may be missing out.

In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of micro-credentials, how you can use them for the many audiences your institution serves, and how to create them for both asynchronous and event settings alike. We’ll cover the following points:

  • Defining Micro-credentials
  • Micro-credential Use Cases for Universities
  • Wrapping Up: How to Create Micro-credentials

By the end of this guide, you’ll understand how to implement micro-credentials across a variety of contexts for all of your learners. Let’s get started.


Defining Micro-credentials

Skyepack’s comprehensive guide to micro-credentials defines them as “short, stackable courses that learners—whether students, employees, or organization members—take to develop specific skills in their field.”

Micro-credentials often target skills that are in high-demand in a specific industry, such as IT support, project management, UX design, and cybersecurity. The process for learners completing a micro-credential usually involves:

  1. Reviewing the course materials. This could include lectures, seminars, or online learning materials. Learners may access these materials in either one continuous course or multiple stacked modules.
  2. Completing course assignments to accomplish learning goals and objectives.
  3. Passing an assessment that tests learners’ acquired knowledge and understanding of the skill at hand. that tests learners’ acquired knowledge and understanding of the skill at hand.
  4. Earning the micro-credential, which could be represented as a certificate, digital badge, or a line on their resumes.

Micro-credentials are often asynchronous, which means that learners can complete them on their own schedules independently of instructor or peer involvement. However, they can also have synchronous elements such as lectures or event attendance.


Why incorporate micro-credentials into your university’s offerings?

Before taking the next step to implement micro-credentials in your course, let’s discuss the benefits of micro-credentials and digital badges. There are a number of reasons why you should consider incorporating micro-credentials into your university’s ongoing professional development offerings:

  • You already have the raw materials available. Each professor at your university is an expert in their respective field. Invite them to author micro-credentials that focus on their areas of expertise.
  • Micro-credentials meet the need for ongoing upskilling. Employers are looking for the most skilled prospective employees possible, and individuals are discovering that they need additional skills to be competitive candidates. You can provide micro-credentials to meet this need for alumni or new learners at your university.
  • Quick wins can be a student retention tool. A four-year degree, while worthwhile for many, can feel like an insurmountable goal for some students. This can lead to students dropping out after a year or two to pursue faster alternatives. By contrast, supplementary micro-credentials can provide quick wins for students along their higher education journeys, motivating them to cross the finish line.

In addition to these benefits, it’s now easier than ever to incorporate micro-credentials into your course lineup. Rapid development is on-trend in the world of instructional design, and that holds true for micro-credentials. You can partner with course development experts that specialize in iterative instructional design methods to bring these credentials to life in a quick and efficient manner.


Micro-credential Use Cases for Universities

Now that we’ve discussed what micro-credentials are and how they can benefit your institution, let’s quickly discuss how you can use them to appeal to the different audiences your university serves.


Alumni are one of the best fundraising sources for a university. Driven by nostalgia and gratitude for their degree-issuing institutions, many alumni make charitable contributions to their alma mater for years following graduation.

Micro-credentials offer a new way to bring alumni back into your university’s community. Consider creating micro-credentials that target high-demand skills and offering them to alumni for purchase to help them continue their professional development journeys with your university long after graduation.

Current Students

Your faculty work hard to research the latest innovations in their fields and equip students with up-to-date skills upon graduating. However, there will still be at least a small gap between what students know when they enter the workforce and what they need to know to be successful in doing so.

Micro-credentials can bridge that gap and help students learn additional skills needed for success in their first job. For example, basic professional skills and tips for working in a full-time office environment can be beneficial for new graduates.

Other Learners

Micro-credentials are an ideal way to increase the reach of your university’s offerings—whether courses or educational events—beyond your student and alumni base.

There are numerous ways you can use micro-credentials to reach professionals that haven’t attended your institution. For example, many companies are seeking innovative ways to provide workplace benefits and add value for their employees, from setting up workplace philanthropy programs to providing ongoing education opportunities. BadgeCert partners with many organizations from different sectors to create tailored micro-credentialing programs.


Wrapping Up: How to Create Micro-credentials

Once you’re ready to get started with micro-credentials, there are three main elements to keep in mind:

  • Instructor’s teaching capacity: Just as you’d invest in speaker training before a big event, you’ll want to provide training for all instructors who will be creating micro-credentials. This is a new type of course, and by training instructors, you’ll equip them with the tools needed for continuing to create micro-credentials going forward.
  • Instructional design capacity: Your instructors are likely busier than ever, both with their teaching and personal research workloads. It’s likely that you don’t have significant resources available to develop new credentialing courses. Consider partnering with an instructional design firm that specializes in rapid, iterative development to bring your micro-credentials to life.
  • Delivery capacity: You’ll want a custom branded online marketplace and learning platform to sell and deliver micro-credentials to learners. While there are numerous unbranded options, a platform that’s branded to your university creates a more cohesive experience for learners.

So, have a think about incorporating micro-credentials into your university’s professional development offerings. Contact the BadgeCert team today.

December 7, 2022

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