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Are micro-credentials worth it? Your questions answered.

September 16, 2022

iStock-1167643870Micro-credentials are growing in popularity. In 2019, there were already more than 800 available and by mid-2021 the number of micro-credentials had soared to over 1,500. An increasing number of people are seeking a micro-credential as an alternative to more traditional training and education. And many employers now recognize micro-credentials during hiring, development and promotion.

However, as a credentialing organization, how can you be sure that adding a micro-credential to your offering will be worth the investment and effort? This blog covers some of the key considerations for any organization considering a new micro-credential. Including the potential benefits for employers, employees and the organizations that deliver them.

Why micro-credentials – the big picture?

A micro-credential offers proof of learning outcomes that is more specialized, affordable and faster to obtain than a more traditional credential, such as a degree or certification. In the current climate, where many industries are experiencing a skills shortage, this is invaluable. Micro-credentials provide an opportunity to rapidly upskill individuals with focused and up-to-date knowledge that is aligned with existing workforce needs.

What’s more, responsiveness to evolving technology, changing methods and techniques, and building organizational capacity are important across every industry and sector. Research shows the drivers for micro-credentialing are centered on a wide range of issues including employability, increased flexibility for learning, and promoting lifelong learning.

What are the benefits for credentialing organizations?

Investing in and developing micro-credentials is an opportunity for credentialing organizations to innovate and grow. For example, a new credential often unlocks access to a broader market such as test takers from different generations or at varied stages in their career.

A new micro-credential also provides strong evidence to your test takers and other stakeholders that your organization is keeping pace with the changing needs of your sector. A major benefit of a micro-credential is that with shorter tests you don’t need as many items in your item bank. This makes it possible to get an assessment validated and finalized more quickly.

ISACA is a global non-profit professional association for individuals and enterprises in the IT governance sector. Working closely with PSI, ISACA created five hybrid ‘stackable’ certificates, including cybersecurity and data science, to expand into new markets and diversify the organization’s learning and credentialing portfolio. These new credentials are also a way for ISACA to connect with the next generation before they enter the workforce, and support those wishing to switch to a career in IT.

How do micro-credentials benefit individuals and employers?

In addition to addressing the skills gap and talent shortage, micro-credentials give employers access to a broader untapped talent pool. They provide clear evidence of in-demand knowledge, skills and abilities during the hiring process. For recruitment and HR teams this makes it quicker and easier to match applicants to jobs.

The increased accessibility of micro-credentials in comparison to more traditional options increases equity, diversity and inclusion during the entire employee lifecycle – from attraction through to development and engagement. Presenting employers with agile qualifications that can pivot quickly to meet their changing demands.

For individuals, a micro-credential offers access to online learning and testing in a way that suits busy lifestyles – on-demand, anywhere, anytime. It’s a more affordable and less time-consuming way to provide a potential employer with validated proof of up-to-date knowledge and skills. This is particularly helpful for those with no work history or who want to change career.

A stackable micro-credential can also provide a pathway to a certification or degree for individuals who want to progress in their chosen profession. As well as an opportunity to enhance and update an existing degree or certification with new and emerging skills.

What’s important when creating a new micro-credential?

With 44% of executives and 39% of HR professionals believing that quality among credentials is too varied, there are still potential barriers to the success of a new micro-credential. However, there are steps a credentialing organization can take to address these challenges and increase the understanding and confidence with alternative credentials.

Of course, any new micro-credential must be current and up to date, so speed is fundamental. But high standards are still important. A rigorous development process is essential to protect the reputation of your programs and your organization – as well as ensure the success of your new micro-credential.

The first step is to identify the competencies and skills needed in your industry today. Followed by a test development process that is streamlined and focused on specific objectives. Organizations should also consider how they democratize test delivery with convenient and accessible testing. With test security that protects the integrity of your tests while safeguarding data and personal privacy.

What are the potential barriers to micro-credentials?

While micro-credentials have been around for some years, they are still new to many, so it’s important for credentialing organizations to clearly demonstrate the value of any new micro-credential. Selling it to potential test takers and other stakeholders includes promoting what your micro-credential has to offer, as well as being clear about your rigorous test development process and security measures.

Meet a growing need

Traditional methods of skilling, upskilling and reskilling the workforce are not keeping pace with demand. This presents an opportunity for credentialing organizations to step up and develop alternative credentials that meet a critical need.

There are many potential advantages to offering your test takers a new micro-credential. But these benefits will only be realized with rigorous processes, high standards and good communication throughout the process. Download our guide to micro-credentialing for advice and information on how to develop a relevant and high-quality micro-credential.

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i Class Central, 2021.
ii Dublin City University, 2021.
iii SHRM, 2021.

Dr. Isabelle Gonthier Dr. Isabelle Gonthier is the Senior Vice President of Assessment Services at PSI. She oversees and provides strategic guidance for all aspects of test development and psychometrics in a broad range of markets including certification, licensure, qualification, and language assessments. She has been highly engaged in the testing and credentialing industry for nearly 20 years. Most recently, she has held the position of Chief Assessment Officer for Meazure Learning (Yardstick-ProctorU) where she oversaw and provided strategic direction for all aspects of the professional credentialing business, including psychometrics, exam development, and business development.