Micro-credentials: What Are They? Should You Invest in Them?

Updated: Dec 22, 2021



Contact Skyepack to incorporate micro-credentials to your learning strategy.

Between a global pandemic and the introduction of new technologies, ongoing education has become crucial for professionals to expand their skills and stay relevant in a constantly-evolving workforce. Your organization's learners constantly need to reinvent their resumes to remain competitive in their current jobs (or, position themselves effectively for the next one).


At the same time, we as a society are more strapped for time than ever before. Your learners, while they want to improve their skill sets, don't have the time to dedicate toward full-time learning opportunities in that pursuit.


That's where micro-credentials enter the picture.


At Skyepack, we work with universities, associations, and corporations to create innovative micro-credential ecosystems. Using that expertise, we've created this guide to micro-credentialing, in which we'll answer the following questions:

  • What is a micro-credential?

  • What are the benefits of micro-credentialing?

  • How do you create a micro-credential?

After providing an overview of micro-credentials, we'll break down what the course creation process looks like for these unique courses using Skyepack's process as an example.

Let's get started.

What are micro-credentials?

What is a micro-credential?

Micro-credentials are defined as short, stackable courses that learners—whether students, employees, or organization members—take to develop specific skills in their field. They function as a way for individuals to continue learning and developing their skill sets in addition to their core educational pursuits.


The field of micro-credentials is fairly young and rapidly developing. Because of this, there is significant variation in what these courses look like in practice. For example, it could be an online continuing education course for working professionals that ends with awarding learners with a digital badge or micro-certification. Or, it could be a mini-degree or nano-degree completed with the help of a university. It can also even be a micro-course that's completed for the sheer knowledge benefits, with no badge, certificate, or degree awarded afterward.


Learners can access micro-credentials through a variety of avenues, such as universities and other formal educational institutions, online providers that specialize in micro-credentials, or even their employers.


This section contains examples of micro-credentials.

What are examples of micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials often target skills in high-growth fields, such as:

  • IT Support

  • Data Analytics

  • Project Management

  • UX Design

  • Cyber Security

A great example of this is Google's Career Certificates, which empower working professionals to learn job-ready skills in as few as 10-hours of learning per week. These fully online learning programs can be completed at the learner's own pace and, upon completion, allow the learner to add a Google credential to their resumes. The program reports that 82% of graduates had a positive career impact in as few as six months after completing a micro-credential.


For universities, we can observe institutions such as the State University of New York (SUNY) rolling out micro-credentials as a tool to provide individualized learning experiences for students. Though early in the development and implementation process, SUNY has already expressed that its micro-credentials will result in digital badges, massive open online courses (MOOCs), or micro-awards given to students who complete a course and clearly display their competency in the course's topics.


How do micro-credentials work?

How do micro-credentials work?

Micro-credentials can be offered through an online or classroom setting. The process of earning a micro-credential is generally as follows. Learners:

  1. Review lectures, seminars, or online learning materials. Note: Many micro-credentials are asynchronous, so these portions are often completed independently by the learner on their own schedule.

  2. Complete any corresponding assignments.

  3. Pass an assessment or skills test to display the knowledge they've gained.

  4. Earn the micro-credential badge or certificate, if applicable.

At that point, the learner is considered to have mastered the topic covered by the micro-credential. Oftentimes, multiple micro-credentials can be completed in a sequential and stackable manner for learners looking to achieve mastery in a more complex or broad topic.


What are the benefits of micro-credentials?

What are the benefits of micro-credentialing?

While micro-credentials are a fairly new development in job training, they're rapidly gaining steam as an instructional design trend. It’s easy to see why when you consider the benefits for both learners and your institution alike:


This graphic summarizes the benefits of micro-credentials.

Benefits for Learners

Before your institution invests in micro-credential development, you first need to understand whether there is a need within your audience for such courses. After all, you don't want to invest in course creation and then fail to sell the corresponding credential.


Recent research shows that not only do micro-credentials offer a variety of benefits for learners but that those learners are eager to access such courses. For example:

  • At least one-third of the individuals who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic report that they will need additional education to secure a new job. Micro-credentials allow these professionals to enhance their skill sets without needing to complete a traditional four-year degree, remaining competitive in the workforce despite adversity.

  • Only 41% of students report feeling prepared or extremely prepared for their post-college careers, and only 11% of business leaders strongly agree that graduates had all the needed skills for their businesses. Some industries are evolving too fast for university curriculum to keep up; students can use micro-credentials to enhance their skill sets and be well-prepared to join the workforce.

  • More than one-fourth of students in traditional college programs quit after one year. University can be challenging for some students, and some of them may struggle to see the "end game" when it's four years away. By contrast, micro-credentials are motivating; they can be completed on a fast timeline and allow learners to achieve a quick win on their continuing education path.

Due to both an ongoing trend of rapid innovation and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the workforce is now more competitive than ever before. Whether your institution serves students, members, or working professionals, these learners are eager to improve their skills in a quick, accessible manner.

Benefits for Institutions

Even if there is high demand for micro-credentials within your audience, these courses don't just spontaneously appear, available for use. To offer micro-credentials, your institution needs to invest significant time and resources into course development.

It's easy to argue in favor of this investment when you consider micro-credential’s many benefits for the organization developing them. By offering micro-credentials, your organization can look forward to increased:

  • Retention: When you provide your audience more value through micro-credential courses, individuals will be more likely to continue engaging with your organization for the long run. For instance, students may continue taking courses for professional development after graduating. For businesses, employees may remain in the roles because they feel supported in them.

  • Revenue: Micro-credentials are often sold by the issuing institution. This can be a valuable supplemental income stream for your organization.

  • Employee Satisfaction: Micro-credentials allow your organization’s instructors to create resources that align with their unique research interests, empowering them to display their expertise in a niche topic and explore those interests further.

Your organization already has subject matter experts on hand, ready to share their expertise on in-demand topics in your industry. All you need to do is equip them with the tools to turn that expertise into a tangible micro-credential.


This section discusses how to create a micro-credential.

How do you create a micro-credential?

If you're ready to incorporate micro-credentials into your organization's educational offerings, you may feel overwhelmed at the prospect. Not only do you need to teach your instructors and subject matter experts how to develop micro-content, but you also have to equip them with the tools and resources to put that training into action.

Considering many educational professionals are strapped for time—after all, teaching is only one part of the instructor role—you may be wondering how facilitating these two steps is possible. But it is! Especially if you partner with a company that specializes in micro-credentials, such as Skyepack.


Skyepack can work with you to overcome institutional barriers and develop a full micro-credential ecosystem for your organization. This is done through a two-phase process.


This is the two-phase micro-credential development process.


Phase 1: Building Market Awareness and Teaching Capacity

We recognize that many members of your teaching and course design faculty may have little experience with micro-credentials. That's why we'll train your team on the basics of micro-credentials and how to craft these experiences before beginning to create content.

This is done through a short, eight-week hybrid course that's shared with all faculty members that you wish to instruct on micro-credentials. In this course, instructors will learn how to build a micro-credential course, as well as familiarize themselves with any associated costs with building such a course. Then, your instructors will use this information to submit a proposal to your team, outlining the budget they'll need to bring the course to life.

Phase 2: Building Instructional Design and Distribution Capacity

The next step in the process is equipping your instructors with the tools needed to successfully create courses and distribute them to learners. There are four key considerations with regards to this phase:

  • Instructional Design: Your organization's internal design teams have likely been flooded with tasks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as online learning was on the rise. Using Skyepack's Agile Instructional Design methodology, which empowers our team to rapidly develop custom content, we can work directly with Phase 1 participants to develop micro-credential courses.

  • Distribution: Skyepack's Micro-credential Learning Platform empowers you to distribute courses quickly and efficiently. This includes elements such as student rostering, managing e-commerce, delivering content, administering quizzes and testing, grading, and even awarding badges and certificates.

  • Branded Marketplace: While most partners on the market, such as Coursera and Skillshare, will provide a marketplace for learners to enroll and complete courses, they're unbranded resources. By contrast, Skyepack's platform is fully branded to your organization to create a consistent experience and build brand loyalty.

  • Corporate and Distribution Partners: If you partner with any large organizations, such as associations, nonprofits, and corporations, and deliver content to those partners, it can be challenging to accommodate their needs. Skyepack's platform is designed to seamlessly integrate with your large partners' learning technology—such as HR information systems and constituent relationship management systems—to simplify content delivery.

Your organization already has the talent and expertise to create micro-credentials; all you need now is the framework to bring those experiences to life. Skyepack specializes in creating custom digital course materials, both elevating the learning experience and saving instructors' time. Now, we're bringing that expertise to the world of micro-credentials. To learn more, contact our team today.

 

Micro-credentials are trending in the instructional design world, and it's easy to see why. With benefits for learners and institutions alike, these accessible achievements are a worthwhile addition to your organization's educational offerings.


If you're ready to dive into the world of micro-credentials, reach out to Skyepack today. In the meantime, explore the following additional instructional design resources from our blog:


Contact Skyepack today to incorporate micro-credentials into your strategy.