Toward a Better Understanding of Micro-credentials

Post by Ross McKerlich, project manager, Micro-Credentials, and Helena Prins, advisor, Learning and Teaching, at BCcampus

Definitions can be hard to find when it comes to recent innovations. Micro-credentials are no different, but it is important to build an understanding so you can discover applications for them. One way to build a definition is to start small, or basic, and add defining characteristics. 

Basic Definition

What are micro-credentials in basic terms? The word has two root words – “micro,” meaning small, and “credential,” meaning a qualification. This results in a basic definition:

A micro-credential is a small qualification.

This definition is true, but it somewhat mutes the potential impact of micro-credentials. Adding characteristics to the basic definition brings scope. 

Characteristic One: Focused Qualification

One primary characteristic is that micro-credentials often result from industry and post-secondary institutions working together to meet an industry need. They have a specific focus. The learner can apply knowledge quickly and hopefully gain meaningful employment.

A micro-credential is a small, focused qualification the learner can quickly apply in an area of industry need.

Characteristic Two: Competency Based

A second primary characteristic is that micro-credentials are competency based, so the learning is about knowledge, skills, and ability, which is a bit different from traditional knowledge-based qualifications. Competencies are assessed and endorsed by the institution that offers the micro-credential.

A micro-credential is a small, focused, competency-based qualification the learner can quickly apply in an area of industry need.

With this rough, unofficial definition in mind, who are the stakeholders to be considered? What are other use cases for micro-credentials? What has been done elsewhere that we could learn from? How can we ensure equity-focused micro-credentials? 

To explore some of these questions and more, keep an eye on our newsletter to join upcoming events and discussions around this hot topic! Here is one event happening soon:

  • Micro-credentials in the B.C. Context. March 1–12. A self-paced course with two special web conferences. Register here.

The feature image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Magda Ehlers from Pexels