Prior to the domestication of the electron, we had to go to “bricks and mortar” buildings and campuses to learn.
But, today, you don’t have to leave your desk to have virtually unlimited learning options available to you.
Unfortunately, our existing industrialized education monoliths continues to brainwash the business and professional communities that a traditional approach to credentialing is the only way.   Under this, Henry Ford Assembly line model, all similar learners ride an educational conveyer belt in which they all take the same series of classes and when a number of courses or units are accumulated, they get a stamp of endorsement called a certificate or diploma.  The amount of actually useful learning acquired on this 20 year assembly line varies greatly between learners.
There is no question a certificate or diploma is still relevant to today’s workforce.  Employers and customers want to know you have the skills to do the job.
However, the problem is that the certificates or diplomas are not personally detailed enough for any outside observer to optimally value that certificate or diploma.
Fortunately we have 21st Century tools to fix this very real problem  It is called “Micro-credentialing.”  Micro-credentialing means that a learner gets a series of “personalized” micro-credentials acknowledging an individual’s completion of work, whether it is a noncredit course, a seminar, or other professional learning and skill building.
UC San Diego workforce research analyst Dr. Josh Shapiro notes, “Degrees and certificates often do a poor job of communicating detailed information about graduates. Micro-credentials and badges, however, indicate specific knowledge and skills—impacting skill sets that industry is seeking in new hires.”
The tools available to us today can usher in a welcomed new learning era, in which the competency verification industry needs, can be more optimally met.  The tools available to us today, can easily and cheaply provide information to the community beyond what a transcript or diploma is able to convey.
We are living in a time when people need to possess a list of competencies that can be added to over time with a verifiable rubric to measure skill mastery, recognized and endorsed by industry and connected to our emerging online social media outlets like LinkedIn.
“Badges without taxonomies, without some shared understanding, without rubrics, are meaningless,” notes Matthew Pittinsky, an assistant research professor in the school of social and family dynamics at Arizona State University and founder of Parchment, a credentials-management company.
The notion of a student obtaining one large qualification rather than offer an array of micro-credentials (badges) is a relic of the past. From an employer’s point of view, the value of hiring a person with numerous mini-qualifications and a diploma provides a higher confidence in their investment as opposed to the risk involved in hiring a “blue chip” student from a brand name university.
UCSD Extension K-16 Programs have begun to implement a micro-credentialing program targeting students enrolled in our pre-collegiate programs. Their strategy seeks to refine the operational process involved in offering badges but also elevate these credentials from an informal acknowledgement to a professionally recognized measure of skills.
Of Course many people, particularly those entranced in the existing educational industrial monoliths, will dump all over this approach.  I understand that.  Confirmation bias, selective perception, and motivated reasoning combine with these educational agents of the past to resist any other model.  But, that resistance will eventually wain as more and more 21st Century tools are deployed.
So, what are Micro-credentials:

  1. One skill at a time: Each micro-credential will focus on one competency and skill tied to a single rubric.
  2. Evidence to demonstrate skills: Students must demonstrate their competence by demonstrating and providing multiple examples of their work and to multiple assessors.
  3. Assessment and review: Each micro-credential will be reviewed, evaluated and endorsed by an advisory panel to ensure it is a reliable articulation of a specific skill.
  4. Connected to needed Community skills: Each micro-credential must be linked to needed community skills.