Not all micro-credentials are equal: 5 choices with a new micro-credential


Not all micro-credentials are equal: 5 choices with a new micro-credential

Dr. Isabelle Gonthier


There is great diversity in the range and format of micro-credentials available – from stackable to specialist, fully remote to multi-modal. It is now easier than ever to demonstrate knowledge through this learning and development pathway. Micro-credentials are an opportunity to upskill more easily, whether remaining in or switching to a new field, and are more flexible than some traditional routes.

It’s unsurprising then that industry investment in and take-up of micro-credentialing continues to grow. Investment in micro and alternative credentialing is projected to reach $20 billion by 2050.1 And, globally, employers are on average 76% more likely to hire a candidate who has earned an industry micro-credential. It’s therefore important for testing organizations interested in embracing micro-credentials to consider the various types and delivery methods available.

In this blog, we investigate five options choices to consider for a new micro-credential:

  • Stackable micro-credentials
  • Specialty micro-credentials
  • Introductory credentials
  • Digital badges
  • Different delivery mechanisms

Each has its own advantages for individuals and the organizations that employ them.

1. Stackable credentials

Stackable, or modular, credentials are building blocks towards a broader certificate. These components are completed over a set period, and stack together. They provide greater flexibility, as individual learners can decide what they want to specialize in.

Stackable credentials are especially useful for those who may not have the time to commit to a financially- or time-heavy program. They can be completed in an individual’s own time, alongside existing responsibilities, to demonstrate knowledge and progress at their own pace. Employees can pick and choose specific areas of certification relevant to their career and aspirations.

2. Specialty micro-credentials

Specialty micro-credentials demonstrate professional specialty in practise. They are often attached to a major banner certification, so that individuals can show specific knowledge in the field.

They are a ‘lighter weight’ and more accessible way to gain and assess additional skills. Often cheaper than full certifications, they are popular for showing specialized knowledge. They can be used to demonstrate that an individual stays up to date with the latest advancements and knowledge as part of their professional development.

3. Introductory credentials

Introductory credentials are taster credentials that introduce the learner to a new field, or act as a stepping- stone to a more advanced course or certification. Ideal for those wanting to learn more about a new industry, introductory credentials offer a top-level knowledge overview. Individuals can then decide whether to invest further in a more specialized certification.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are an example of introductory credentials popular across the world. As the name suggests, they are accessed online, and do not have a participation limit. Their resources are free and range across subjects from digital marketing, to sustainability, to programming, to emotional intelligence and beyond.

4. Digital badges

Digital badges are certificates or badges showing proof of having gained a micro-credential. They are easily shared publicly, and are often displayed on websites and profiles, such as LinkedIn. Or simply printed and framed!

They show proof of competence for a specific skill. When combined with other certifications and badges, digital badges demonstrate a tailored portfolio of demonstrable knowledge, skill and curiosity. Offering a digital badge for completion of your micro-credential makes it easier for individuals to validate their achievement, especially when coupled with a unique user identifier.

5. Different delivery mechanisms

There are a range of different delivery mechanisms for micro-credentials. Most resources are fully available online, on demand, as with MOOCs. However, some have an element of face-to-face or hybrid learning. The delivery will depend on the credential’s content, so the two must be considered together when planning a micro-credential.

There are different options for test delivery, as well as learning. In-person, fully remote, and multi-modal are all options for testing organizations. Flexibility of learning should be matched by flexibility of delivery. So carefully consider which option best suits your learners.

Not all micro-credentials are equal

Micro-credentials are soaring in popularity. The demand for curious, knowledgeable employees is growing at a similar rate. So the time is ripe for testing organizations to further consider what type of micro-credential best suits their needs. By understanding the available options in development, delivery and testing, you can offer an attractive micro-credentialing package that is flexible, convenient, and rigorous.

Download our latest guide to micro-credentialing to learn more. We outline in further detail your micro-credentialing options, from how to develop a micro-credential to its various benefits.