Microcredentials: Small courses with big advantages
Microcredentials are rapidly gaining popularity around the world. Microcredentials allow individuals to develop new skills and obtain recognition for them in weeks or even days.
What are microcredentials?
Microcredentials, also called nanoprograms and microcourses, are short, specialized courses. They are sometimes defined as “mini-degrees” because they take less time to complete than traditional certificates and diplomas. Microcredentials are designed by or in collaboration with related industries and organizations to align with the needs of the industry and fill in skills gaps.
Microcredentials enhance an individual’s skill and experience in a specific area or topic through the completion of a learning or training program. They can have stand-alone value or be combined with other microcredentials in related topics and count towards a higher-level certification. Microcredentials are an attractive option for people looking to develop additional skills for professional advancement.
How are microcredentials recognized by employers?
Upon successful completion of a microcredential, individuals are awarded a digital badge, which is the digital equivalent of a certificate. These look like images but contain metadata that provide employers with proof of ownership, as well as a description of the owner’s skills. They can be added to virtual portfolios, resumés and social media profiles, making them an easily accessible and verifiable tool for current and potential employers who are interested in knowing the type of skills people have. Some badges also have expiration dates if the skills they represent need to be updated periodically.
What are the benefits of microcredentials?
While microcredentials won’t be replacing traditional degrees any time soon, they can be useful to have, particularly in the workplace. They provide concrete evidence that someone has learned a particular skill, thanks to the digital badge earned once the microcredential has been completed. They also add value to previously obtained degrees by updating certain skills, which can be very important in fast-paced industries such as the tech industry, or by providing additional in-depth knowledge of a particular area of the degree.
Microcredentials are advantageous because they can be tailored to an individual’s specific career needs by offering training in a particular area and close skill gaps. This allows individuals to move up in the organization or change jobs. More importantly, microcredentials show a commitment to learning new things and staying up to date with the latest developments of the industry.
Where are microcredentials offered?
Microcredentials were first offered as massive open online courses (MOOC) on learning platforms, including edX, Coursera and Udacity. Since then, some employers, such as Amazon, IBM and Siemens, have started to offer microcredentials to their employees.
In Canada, several universities across the country now offer microcredentials: the University of Toronto offers microcredentials in multiple disciplines, including finance and information technology; Athabasca University in Alberta offers a microcredential in artificial intelligence ethics and Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University has microcredentials in strategic and inclusive communication, among others. In most cases, they are “open courses”, meaning there are no prerequisites to sign up. They are open to students and individuals working in a related field or simply looking to pad their resumé; anyone can sign up for a microcredential course at a nearby university and upgrade their skills.
About Universities Canada
Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, advancing higher education, research and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians.
Assistant Director, Communications