The Demand for Micro-Credentials
The unpredictability of a pandemic, the rapid evolution of technology, and a shifting job market have all contributed to a meteoric rise in the popularity of micro-credentials. Student demands have shifted, and so has their ability to spend extended periods on continuing their education. As seen in EducationDynamics’ 2021 Higher Ed Landscape Report, college retention rates have declined significantly due to various disruptions caused by the pandemic, while completion rates for short-term training programs are rising.
Some sectors of the corporate world have even made micro-credentials a part of their training strategy. Micro-credentials are a lower-investment way to ensure employees have the essential skills to excel in their chosen professions. However, the main draw for business leaders is how these credentials quickly upskill employees. For employees, it offers them a way to make their learning more straightforward and accessible.
Pandemic Impact on Micro-Credential Popularity
The social and economic disruptions caused by the pandemic have fundamentally disrupted the higher ed landscape for possibly years to come. Businesses have closed, unemployment rates have skyrocketed, and adult students have had to adjust their education plans to meet their current situations. People are also quitting their jobs in record numbers. They are either leaving the workforce for good or choosing to leave the force for an extended period. This “great resignation” is convoluted, but the motivation comes from looking for new roles in new sectors for most people. A large portion of this group will be seeking accessible and affordable learning opportunities to enhance their existing resumes and support their career shifts.
Micro-credentials seem to fit the bill. Especially if they are well-designed and stackable. The number of people enrolled in stackable bachelor’s programs and online micro-credentialing programs has also ballooned over the last year. These numbers will only continue to rise as these programs increase in availability.
Unbundled Education in the Real World
Unbundled education creates broader choices for students from all walks of life. Students who might not afford a 2 or 4-year degree program can still enroll and take advantage of continuing their education and expanding their skills. Micro-credentials also offer a quicker return on investment for students who might be unsure about the overall value and time commitment of a degree.
The stackable format also gives students a sense that they’re making progress. Rather than waiting two, four, or more years for a degree, they earn credentials in a matter of months. Those credentials can immediately be leveraged into jobs, raises, and promotions.
Many colleges and universities are challenged by accreditation requirements and other red tape that can slow the introduction of micro-credentialing programs. But student demand for them is only growing, and micro-credentials have long been on the road to becoming a mainstream option for large populations of adult students.
The Micro-credentials Students Want
- Make them stackable – Some programs offer a host of micro-credentials that build to a more traditional degree or certification. Students earn certificates piece by piece, and when they’ve collected enough, they have a degree.
- Recognize life experience – Some very appealing programs give students credit for their prior work or life experience. This helps them finish their degree more quickly while also proving their skills to future employers.
- Partner with employers – One of the best ways to make sure micro-credentials work for your students is to partner with employers. They know what skills they want applicants to have and which seem to be lacking in their industries. Such partnerships also reassure students of the value of your micro-credential offerings.
- Add verification – Of course, one of the worries about micro-credentials is how to verify them. How can an employer verify that a student has earned a micro-credential? Some are turning to blockchain technology for verification. Others are issuing signed certificates similar to those a student earns for a stand-alone certification program. Digital badges can also help students share their credentials online.
Looking for guidance on how best to market and reach and enroll students into your micro-credential programs? Reach out to our experts and start a conversation today.