From shifting student demographics to distance learning, higher education has seen its fair share of changes in recent years. As it continues to evolve to meet the needs of today's students, new trends continue to emerge.
Among these trends, microcredentials have become more prevalent. These competency-based recognitions help fill the gap between the soft skills employers want and what candidates have to offer. Many hiring managers view soft skills as just as -- or even more important -- than hard skills. Having microcredentials helps individuals demonstrate their capabilities and qualifications with sought-after soft skills.
Programs awarding microcredentials have expanded significantly in recent years to meet the labor market's evolving needs. By offering microcredentials at your college or university, you can adapt to the changing higher education landscape and take your enrollment rates and revenue to the next level.
What Is a Microcredential?
A microcredential is a competency-based certification. Microcredentials typically align with soft skills that employers value, such as a student's proficiency in oral communication or teamwork. A rubric outlines the specific criteria for each skill, and students earn the microcredential once they successfully demonstrate the competency. Upon successful completion, students receive a digital badge, which they can easily add to online resumes and ePortfolios.
Microcredentials are generally:
- Performance-based: Unlike traditional certificates and degrees, which are earned based on test grades and class time, microcredentials are awarded based on subject mastery.
- Flexible: Microcredentials can also be modular or stackable. Some microcredentials are based on one-off learning and assessment experiences, while others are based on modules that can be stacked to create a larger qualification.
- Personalized: Students can choose microcredentials tailored to their specific goals, enjoy flexible start and end dates, and choose from online or in-person settings to best accommodate their schedules.
Types of Microcredentials in Higher Education
Microcredentials in education are diverse and vary from institution to institution. They may be geared toward undergraduate students or those seeking professional advancement.
Microcredential Examples for Educators
Educator microcredentials present a unique opportunity to connect professional learning to practice. Some examples of microcredentials for educators offered by the National Education Association (NEA) include:
- Arts integration: Educators learn how to integrate the arts into their classroom instruction and engage students in the creative process.
- Classroom management: Educators develop the skills to create a student-centered learning community and explore classroom organization and routine.
- Elevating the profession through educator ethics: Educators examine various ethical situations to understand complex relationships and make ethical decisions.
- Technology integration: Educators learn how to leverage digital tools to support students using communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills.
Microcredential Examples for College Students
Colleges and universities offer unique sets of microcredentials to help ready students for the workforce. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) outlines several career readiness competencies, including:
- Communication: Clearly and effectively exchange ideas, information, and perspectives with people inside and outside an organization.
- Professionalism: Understand and demonstrate effective work habits and learn how to act in the best interest of a larger workplace or community.
- Teamwork: Build and maintain relationships and work collaboratively toward shared goals while appreciating diverse viewpoints.
- Critical thinking: Identify and respond to various needs through a logical analysis of relevant information and an understanding of situational context.
How to Earn Microcredentials
Earning a microcredential is similar to taking an abbreviated version of a college course. It may take anywhere from a month to a year, depending on the competency.
Training and assessment pathways vary, but a typical microcredential course may require:
- Assignments: Students complete assignments and projects to demonstrate field knowledge.
- Lectures and seminars: Students attend lectures and seminars to learn about the latest industry research.
- Portfolio presentations: Students present a portfolio of work showcasing their skill set.
- Field work: Students demonstrate their ability to apply the competency successfully in the workplace.
Benefits of Offering Microcredentials
Administrators can give their college or university a competitive edge in the fast-changing higher education landscape by offering microcredentials. With microcredentials, your higher education institution can:
- Help students fill the gap: Microcredential programs offer the perfect solution for individuals looking to strengthen their skill sets and resumes. Many colleges and universities offer degree programs that train students on the technical skills they need for their desired profession. But training for soft skills like communication and project management is less prevalent. Competency-based education provides this essential soft-skills training, and microcredentials serve as formal recognition of a student's aptitudes in various competencies.
- Grow enrollment and revenue: By offering microcredentials, you attract students looking for nontraditional higher education options, helping you reach your enrollment and revenue goals. Microcredentials are especially well-suited to technical and community colleges where performance- and skill-based mastery is vital to the student's desired occupation.
- Offer flexibility: Microcredentials can be developed from scratch and tailored to your institution's specific needs. Rather than offering a uniform program, you can give your students and educators options better suited to their unique skill sets, goals, and schedules.
- Use scalable solutions: You can take a scalable approach to adopting microcredentials, starting with just a few and expanding as needed. By eliminating a large upfront commitment, you can minimize costs and analyze the effectiveness of each microcredential before incorporating more.
- Stay competitive: Offering microcredentials can help your higher education institution stay competitive. As colleges and universities look for ways to prepare students for today's evolving labor landscape, you'll be one step ahead of the curve with microcredential options already available.
Use ePortfolios to Incorporate Microcredentials Into Academic Programs
Watermark ePortfolio software makes it easy to incorporate microcredentials and digital badges in higher education programs.
Our Student Learning and Licensure solution provides a centralized location for students to complete assignments, organize artifacts, and log their field experience. Along the way, evaluators assess student progress and provide feedback. At the end of their learning journey, students have a robust ePortfolio, allowing them to market themselves to employers confidently.
What's more, ePortfolios serve as evidence of program quality and outcome achievement, which is required for program accreditation and state reporting.
Our platform integrates with major learning management systems (LMS), so students can easily pull artifacts from the LMS to their ePortfolio. Grades also flow to and from your LMS, automatically eliminating duplicate entries. You can run accurate, detailed reports, allowing for an easier accreditation process.
Request a Demo From Watermark Today
At Watermark, we offer a range of software solutions that give higher education institutions the insights they need to evolve. Our comprehensive ePortfolios make it easy to highlight your microcredential programs.
To see our software in action, request a demo today. Our friendly, knowledgeable team will walk you through all the different program features and answer any questions you may have.
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