In recent years, “microcredentials” and badges have been discussed as a means to certify marketplace skills and knowledge. There is even speculation that they will replace or erode degrees.
Yet such nondegree certifications aren’t new to higher education: Colleges already offer certifications in everything from digital marketing and data analytics to cosmetology.
What is new is that we are calling them badges and microcredentials and using them primarily to certify specific skills, such as cross-cultural competency, welding and conversational Spanish.
So what are they? Microcredentials are certifications of mastery; badges verify the attainment of specific competencies.
No matter what we are calling them, they may be here to stay.
Last year, some 68 percent of adults considering enrolling in education preferred nondegree pathways, up from 50 percent the year before, a study by Strada Education, a nonprofit focused on forging pathways between education and employment, found.
Certificates and degrees have existed side by side for more than two hundred years: Yale established the first certificate program for students who took only scientific and English language classes two centuries ago.
And while degrees and certificates seem destined to coexist, actual degrees from institutions have always enjoyed a higher status as the far more valuable credential — but several factors are now likely to reset the balance between them.
Over the years, certificate programs, both in technical fields and in the professions, have become commonplace: two in five working-age Americans hold a nondegree postsecondary credential. A study conducted more than 40 years ago found that 21 percent of four-year arts and sciences colleges and 28 percent of professional schools awarded certificates.
Today, they are even more common at two-year schools: In 2019, community colleges granted 852,504 associate degrees and 579,822 certificates.
Read the full article about certificates and microcredentials by Arthur Levine and Scott Van Pelt at The Hechinger Report.
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