Micro-credentialing: How to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world

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It may come as a shock to some, but the skills you, your employees or your students possess now may not be relevant in another year. The World Economic Forum says that to stay relevant, 50% of workers will need to reskill. In fact, in 2022, 42% of the core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change, and that percentage only grows steeper in 2023.

Professionals enhance their skills constantly anyway. Whether learning remote teamwork in a post-covid world or honing project management skills, professional growth is an ongoing process to stay relevant and advance in your career. How do you prove mastery of these skills to current and future employers? That’s where micro-credentialing comes in.

Micro-credentialing is the talk of the town in the assessment industry, but it’s probably a mystery to the rest of the world.  Micro-credentialing and badging provide the solution to lifelong learning, staying relevant in an ever-evolving job market, and providing equal opportunities to everyone – regardless of demographic and economic background.  But what exactly is micro-credentialing? 

Unraveling the mystery of micro-credentialing

Micro-credentialing is the process of earning a micro-credential or a badge, essentially mini-degrees or certifications in a specific topic area. They can be broad, such as ‘Information Literacy’ or more narrow, like learning a particular coding language such as ‘Python.’ To earn a micro-credential, you must complete a certain number of activities, assessments, and projects related to the topic. Once you’ve completed the requirements, you submit your work and take an exam to earn the badge.

The quest to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning

Lifelong learning can be broken down into three definitions: formal, non-formal and informal learning, with micro-credentialing and badging bridging the gap between formal and informal learning. 

Formal learning

Formal learning is traditional university learning whereby you earn an Associates, Bachelors or Masters Degree at the end of your two-plus years. These degrees can also be referred to as ‘macro-credentials’ and take a certain amount of requirements to obtain – usually in the form of hefty tuition fees, years of your time to complete, and high costs for learning materials, transportation, and on-campus living expenses. The benefit of earning a college degree is that it’s time-honoured and well-respected worldwide, currently. The downside is that it’s costly, time-consuming, and depending on the industry, the skills you learned in university might decay before you even graduate. 

Informal learning

Informal learning is what most people do during their downtime – watching a YouTube channel, Netflix documentary, or listening to a podcast. While you’re likely never to earn a degree or a digital badge for this, it’s a low-effort, highly accessible, and entertaining way to supplement your education and tickle your brain. 

Non-formal learning

Non-formal learning, or micro-credentials (also known as digital badges), are certification-style qualifications individuals choose to study to improve skills in a particular industry. The benefits of these micro-credentials are that they are short, low-cost online courses that provide learners with a ‘digital badge’ when completed. This means they are less time-consuming and more accessible to a broader range of people.

Though this new learning concept is not as widely recognised yet, it continues to gain recognition. Once fully established, it’s expected to be highly sought after in the professional landscape, as it demonstrates continuous learning, the initiative to stay up-to-date professionally, and the ambition to prove qualifications. 

Micro-credentials offer a myriad of benefits, such as:

  • They allow the learner to develop a personalised learning plan.
  • They let employees continuously learn skills that can be showcased and verified to prospective employers.
  • They offer a structured approach to learning on the job
  • Most importantly, they offer a flexible learning environment that is accessible to a wide range of people.

How to use micro-credentialing and badging like a pro

Anticipate the market

In the late 1980s, India started advertising short-form computer courses designed to be accessible to a variety of people, regardless of socio-economical status. The first rounds of students who signed up and got their micro-credentials were amongst the first to be hired in the IT industry.

The takeaway? Innovators will enter a market if there is demand. Those most up-to-date on their skillset have the best shot at opportunities in their industry, and micro-credentialing is the only way to ensure this happens at the fast pace of the 21st century. Microcredentials should support learners’ integration into the workplace, promoting both upskilling and reskilling. 

Design a micro-credential

Traditional university programmes leading to diplomas and degrees are designed to run over three to four years. When it comes to micro-credentials, the curriculum you create should be conceptualised in hours, not years. Sessions should be modulated so that each concept is quickly absorbed. 

If you have previous experience designing a semester or year-long course, converting it into micro-credential form will be simple. When structuring a micro-credential course, develop a broad outline for a programme that fills knowledge gaps and upgrades learners’ understanding. Next, split the programme into stand-alone mini-courses, assuming each is worth one credit hour. Generally, this can be broken down into bite-sized chunks of four to eight lessons, given that digital badge seekers will likely be employed and will only have a few hours a week to devote to learning.

Make it online-friendly

As most micro-credential courses are delivered online, providing a medley of delivery materials is essential to optimise learner access and engagement.  Divide learning content into written materials (texts and presentations), multimedia and video (remember to make it accessible by providing transcription), and recommended supplemental reading. Learning materials must be evidence-based and publicly accessible resources.

Micro-credentials focus on speedy development. It’s optimal to offer just three assignments – a beginning assignment at the start of the course, one in the middle, and a final assessment. They may be graded, ungraded, or a mixture of both. The grand finale is the exam at the end of just a few short weeks, giving your students a micro-credential they can use to resume-build their careers.

Partner with a platform committed to constant improvement 

A feedback loop completes the micro-credential cycle. Surveys at the end of the course, industry feedback on course efficacy, and psychometric data all contribute to evaluating and improving your micro-credential creation and delivery. 

Partnerships between organisations and online exam platforms can prove highly effective in developing these courses, with organisations providing the pedagogy while online exam tech companies provide the tools to deliver it.

Discover the Cirrus features for online assessment.

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Cristina Gilbert
Copywriter and digital content enthusiast, Cristina is motivated by the fast-paced world of e-assessment and the opportunities online exams give students to thrive.
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