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Micro-credentials: The Only Learning Trend You Need to Know About

It seems to me that in the last few weeks, we’ve all agreed to collectively give up on 2020. So, instead of dwelling on the year that was for digital learning - and what a crazy year that was - I wanted to talk about something that I think will be dominating conversations in the next 12 months - micro-credentials. 

If you don’t know what micro-credentials are, they’re bite sized courses that provide certified evidence of an individual’s skills and experience within a particular topic area. Interest in micro-credentials has been steadily growing over the last few years, but this has hit peak levels as educators have sought to find new ways to grow and support industry through Covid-19

This is something we’ve had personal experience with here at Guroo Producer. This year we have partnered with AGSM@UNSW to develop a series of short courses to address the training needs of executives, particularly during challenging times. The response has been incredible, allowing us to develop 65 programs over 16 weeks together, receiving a 4.5 star learner experience and onboarding over 250 new learners every month. But what has been most important has been reading the feedback from learners, who rate the delivery method and style highly. 

It’s part of why I personally like the concept of micro-credentials so much. They can help to engage learners and offer numerous other benefits (you knew a list was coming, didn’t you?)

Everyone benefits from micro-credentials

Often when people talk about benefits in digital learning, they can be focused on a single group of people. But micro-credentials are rare in the fact that they deliver unique benefits to the multiple groups involved.

Firstly, educators have long been in a position where they want to engage with industry and micro-credentials are the most logical place for this to happen. Not only can educational institutions create general courses to sell, they also offer the opportunity for contextualisation to particular organisations. This gives them two avenues towards B2B sales and delivery, allowing programs to become profitable more easily and also further encouraging a culture of learning.

In contrast, organisations need a new way to train their employees. The Future of Jobs Report by World Economic Forum recently found that by 2025, 50% of employees will need training to address a change in the kind of skills required. This necessitates a large shift in existing training programs, often into what we would currently consider nontraditional areas. For organisations, the speed and flexibility of micro-credentials can go a long way to addressing this need far more quickly than before. 

Finally, micro-credentials offer benefits to employees and the individuals who complete them. Micro-credentials themselves are sharable with platforms like Credely and can even form a virtual resume, demonstrating current skills in important areas. Courses completed are also transportable through out careers. With employability a crucial factor in tough economic times, the importance of this cannot be overstated.

The world of learning is changing

Gone are the days of a uni degree being all you need. Undergraduate courses are no longer enough and the world of postgraduate education is also changing, with many people unwilling to dedicate the time and effort into the pursuit of a masters degree.

Instead, institutions need to offer a solution that works alongside peoples’ lives and with the flexibility micro-credentials offer, they are perfectly positioned to do that. After all, it’s much easier to fit in a bite sized course amongst other responsibilities than traditional courses.

In addition to this, organisations are beginning to see the value of data in their learning. While traditionally information has only been kept about completion rates, micro-credentials often support the tracking of far more detailed data that can be used to identify trouble areas and further optimise what is being offered.

Micro-credentials are equally suited to all sorts of training

Increasingly, workers don’t simply do the job they are hired for in a silo. Instead, they will need to be cross-trained and understand more than their areas of expertise. By investing in micro-credentials, organisations can more easily diversify their workforce using a single training system.

This is because micro-credentials are equally suited to everything from technical skills that need to be constantly updated and soft skills which are playing an increasingly important role at work.

The difference between these two skill sets reflects exactly how comprehensive a micro-credentials strategy can be. While soft skills like teamwork and critical thinking can be easily addressed in the format, organisations that require more technical skills are also able to run their required training in the same way. This provides a continuity in workplaces, ensuring that all employees understand the structure and delivery of this training and removes any hierarchy where some courses may be valued over others.

Micro-credentials have a flexible stackable training structure

In some ways, micro-credentials represent the best pick and mix option for training, both for the employee and employer. Organisations can choose the specific courses that suit their businesses, stacking similar topics together to create a thorough program on any number of topics. They also offer multiple pathways for attainment, allowing them to acknowledge prior knowledge and streamline the offering with minimal effort.

As bite-sized courses, micro-credentials also have an extremely low barrier of entry for individuals. The commitment to complete a two week course is very different to signing yourself up for several months or even years. By breaking topics down into smaller chunks and rewarding completion, it’s easier to keep motivation high while also fitting within the daily life of your learners. 

Micro-credentials offer recognition to staff

Most employees will need some on the job training, but often this can be a source of tension. Too many organisations require this ongoing learning to be done alongside daily tasks, with no time set aside where learning can be a focus. Even worse, sometimes there can be hostile managers who don’t support staff in their education, causing those employees to see training as an additional burden.

This is in contrast to micro-credentials and their nod to gamification with badges. Micro-credentials offer the opportunity to recognise the learning staff have undertaken and reward them for this, while also providing something shiny to show off in the form of shareable badges.

Micro-credentials are quick to implement

Each organisation has different training requirements, some of which might be quite unique and these requirements may even change quickly. Micro-credentials are in a unique place to respond to this, as they don’t always have to align to accredited training packages. Instead, their credibility comes from the issuer, program quality and the learning itself. As a result, new programs can be created quickly and respond faster to a unique industry need without having to wait for a formal program to be created.

Have I convinced you or do you at least want to read a little more? We’ve got some resources on our site that might help

Josh Humphries
17 November 2020 5 Min Read

Keen to know more?
Read our post on the difference between micro-credentials and digital badges.

micro-credentials illustration

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