Stackable Microcredits

Last modified: November 14, 2021
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Estimated reading time: 5 min

Context

Traditional educational credential systems do not recognize specific skill sets needed to be work-ready, either post-graduation or between jobs. As a result, embedding “stackable” credits aligned to industry certifications within associate degrees has emerged in recent years. Micro-credits focus on assessing the achievement of incremental parcels of learning related to a particular skill or competency. Micro-credits are awarded by delivering micro-services to validate skills gained through experience or prior learning. They can open access to employment, postsecondary programming, and lifelong learning opportunities. By organizing programs into a series of knowledge-enabled pathways that build on each other, inLab can offer incremental milestones on the path to associate degree, certification, and licensing completion. 

A micro-credential is an assessment of learning that is related to a specific skill or competency. It is usually carried out in a variety of contexts and is usually recognized as a certification.

Trust

The learning that a microcredential provides is specific and verified by credible assessments. All participants in the ecosystem need to be able to trust that this type of credential is representative of a level of skills acquisition.

Value

Securing value is the key to the system’s success. If value is not recognized, the skills acquired by the user will not be recognized. This is why it is so important that the various parties involved in the system have the same recognition value.

Exchange

One key component of this concept is that micro-credentials should be trackable and verifiable. They should be stored in a neutral location and seamlessly transferrable from one organization to another. The challenge is ensuring that micro-credentials are secure and verifiable no matter where they are located.

Engagement

Issuing Body: Micro-certifications will be issued by an established agency, organization, institution, or employer. 

Competency/skills targeted: Micro-certifications will adhere to harmonized skills and competency language and will be aligned with a common competency framework.

Outcomes: Micro-certifications will recognize performance competencies explicitly aligned to underlying knowledge, attitudes, and skills. 

Assessment: Micro-certifications will require evidence of achievement of outcomes. Evidence of the value of the microcredential will be embedded in its design and visible to employers. 

Transcriptable: Micro-certifications will be compatible with traditional transcripts, where possible. 

Partner endorsement: Micro-certifications will be validated by industry partners/external bodies, where possible. 

Knowledge Enabled

inLab programs combine stackable credentials with opportunities to earn credit for prior learning provides multiple entry points into the market opportunities. This ensures that members who have gained knowledge and skills through work experience, public service, or informal education have access to higher education and can receive credit for competencies mastered along the journey.

Career Pathways

Consider inLab’s stackable credentials as building blocks for industry-informed career pathways that maximize learners’ skill acquisition, investment of time and financial resources, and employability. As learners complete credentials aligned to in-demand skills and employment opportunities, they can also secure high-quality employment in their chosen career fields while continuing their education. 

Exit and Entry

inLab’s stackable credentials are intended to represent exit and entry points to maximize investment opportunities through high-quality skills-based programs. Ideally, members can exit a program for:

  • Full-time employment and resume part-time education
  • Leverage earned credentials to secure an entry-level position 
  • Join co-op teams and leverage group resources to deliver high-level services
  • Leverage network resources and form new startups
  • Design new ownership model and exit to community

Programs

inLab programs embedded with stackable credentials help meet the needs of employers, students, and communities by: 

  • Providing flexibility for members who must balance work and family demands while furthering their education or who may be uncertain about committing to a full degree program. 
  •  Meet the evolving skill needs of employers among both new hires and current workers. 
  • Improve the ability of communities to increase postsecondary credential attainment, especially among underserved populations. 
  • Give colleges and corporations tools for addressing technology advancements requiring more education and training at all employment levels. 

Stakeholders

While stakeholders reap many benefits from the stackable credentials approach, inLab’s Quadruple Helix strategy calls for communities of practice to: 

  • Engage often and at more profound, more complex levels with business and industry to identify current and future workforce/market needs; 
  • Facilitate job skills validation by employers to ensure that a program’s instruction and work-based learning experiences prepare learners for in-demand employment opportunities; 
  • Identify and embed preparation for employer-valued industry certifications within a program; 
  • Develop career pathway maps that identify multiple entries and exit points and demonstrate the alignment of credentials with communities needs; and 
  • Offer distributed delivery options that are flexible and responsive to the needs of diverse learners.

Stackable Credentials Within a Career Pathways Framework 

The word “credential” is an overarching term associated with a broad range of awards, including degrees, badges, certifications, and micro-credentials. A credential is considered stackable when it is part of a sequence of industry-recognized credentials accumulated over time to demonstrate an individual’s expanded knowledge and competencies, help them advance within a career pathway, and enable the learner to earn family-sustaining wages. Several countries and local governments have developed systems for evaluating or recognizing these credentials, although the growing number of non-degree credentials may confuse students and employers without a method for determining a credential’s value or validity. 

   inLab offer a combination of rigorous and high-quality education, training, and other services that: 

  • Aligns with the skill needs of industries in the economy of regional economy involved; 
  • Prepares an individual to be successful in any of a full range of secondary or postsecondary education options, including apprenticeships registered under the National Apprenticeship Act; 
  • Includes counseling to support an individual in achieving the individual’s education and career goals; 
  • Includes, as appropriate, education offered concurrently with and in the same context as workforce preparation activities and training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster; 
  • Organizes education, training, and other services to meet the particular needs of an individual in a manner that accelerates the educational and career advancement of the individual to the extent practical; 
  • Enables an individual to attain a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent, and at least one recognized postsecondary credential; and; 
  • Helps an individual enter or advance within a specific occupation or occupational cluster. 

While a career pathway is designed to enable an individual to continue along pre-determined educational sequences to achieve higher-level skills and competencies in an occupation or field, stackable credentials represent milestones along the pathway that validate employers of an individual’s mastery of specific skills competencies. These milestones should be used to assess retention and completion rates for students who do not complete a degree program during continuous enrolment. Because these credentials provide evidence of skill attainment in areas aligned to industry needs, stackable credentials enable adult learners to pause their participation in a pathway while still realizing the educational value and employment opportunity for the portion of the pathway that they completed. 

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Adopted from Source: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, Introduction to Stackable Credentials, Washington, D.C., 2021. 
https://cte.ed.gov/initiatives/credentials 

Badges

Micro-credentials are generally defined in various formats. Some of these include digital certificates, micro-certifications, and hybrid approaches. Micro-credentials in virtual learning experiences are often built from digital badges. While they can be used to prove credentials, they can also be null because not all of them have an assessment-based accreditation standard.

Open digital badges are an example of a common technical standard that can be used to enable people to easily identify themselves across various settings. They rely on a common technical standard to be transferable across various settings.

That is why inLab’s micro-credentials are deeply embedded in the program curricula to enable verified technological augmentations—such as streamed video, social media, and integration of network capabilities.

Ecosystem

More specifically GCRI’s Academy, Journal, inLab, Broadcasts, Campaigns, Jobs, Forum, Hackathon, Networks and global initiatives are designed to deliver world’s most comprehensive alternative micro-credentials.

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