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08 / 2019 article

Three Keys for Effective Microcredentials

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The baseline requirement to get many higher paying jobs in today’s society has been a college degree. Beyond that, evaluating a potential employee or positioning oneself for that dream job has been more challenging.

One thing employers are learning is that they really want professionals with easily-identifiable, practical, demonstrable skills that apply directly to the job at hand. According to a study by Northeastern, more than half of employers (64 percent) believe that the need for continuous lifelong learning will demand higher levels of education and more credentials. Job seekers—or those looking to grow within an organization—need to show they have the required skills and knowledge. So how does an aspiring professional learn what they need to know, and then show it clearly to a decision maker? One answer is microcredentialing.

Microcredentials are digital certificates that show the learner has demonstrated competency in a specific area. During the course, professionals learn by doing: they apply the lessons while they learn at their workplace, and then gather and report on the results, showing they’ve mastered the skill. At the end of the course, they are able to clearly show they’ve mastered the subject, and thus earned their credential. 

For this process, we have found that professional learning—and specifically the process by which one earns a microcredential certificate—is most effective when it is:

  • Personalized and self-directed
  • Practical, addressing a specific need and immediately useful
  • Rewarding, and provides a sense of pride and accomplishment

This is why we’re seeing the rise in microcredentialing. It is a new way of learning that exactly fits the criteria that makes professional learning effective. Let me walk through each of these criteria.

Personalized

Learners choose exactly what skills they want to pursue and can create their own “education playlist” of courses. They can choose their area of focus and how they want to learn. Depending on the credential and the learner, the process can take a week or two or as long as a year. At the end, when the learner receives their microcredential, they have gained exactly the knowledge they wanted to improve the quality of their work and their value to the organization.

Learners can often “stack” their microcredentials to show mastery in a larger concept. For example, in a handful of states, teachers can combine several classroom-management-related competencies to meet recertification requirements. Our e-learning platform, [email protected], provides specializations that group courses in specific functional areas such as human resources, marketing, and technology. Our Certification courses dive even deeper into a specific area. For example, the 30-hour Certified Digital Marketing Specialist in Strategy and Planning course earns a certification from the Digital Marketing Institute, which could be followed by Digital Marketing Specialist Certifications in Search, Social Media, and Sales.  One size does not fit all—nor should it.

Practical

Earning a microcredential is immediately relevant to daily work. Instead of ticking off hours in a classroom to improve a skill, learners demonstrate their knowledge and how it applies to their specific job needs. It does not require rote memorization nor a specific time requirement. There is less focus on the structure of the process, and more on the learning and the final outcome.

Rewarding

In addition to the satisfaction of gaining valuable knowledge, earning a microcredential often comes with a visual reward. Most include a digital badge for every credential earned, which earners can display on LinkedIn, a blog, or any other personal website or portfolio. Some may even use it in their email signatures. For employers looking to solve specific challenges in their organization, seeing specific competencies connected to a potential employee goes a long way in demonstrating what they are capable of doing, rather than just what their job descriptions have been.

With continued recognition of the immediate value of microcredentials, we see their value continuing to grow in multiple sectors. Watch this space—and start thinking about what skill you might need to start your collection of microcredential badges!

 

Written by Anurag Malik, President and CEO of [email protected]