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How educators benefit from micro-credentialing systems

by Mark Otter on

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Originally published on SmartBrief.

Continuing education for teachers is a modern-day necessity -- but one that comes with logistical headaches for districts and other educational organizations. With so many options for teachers when it comes to advancing skill sets, how can both the educators and their supervisors properly, and conveniently, track what is learned?

Digital badges are quickly replacing paper and certificate-style credits that recognize competencies and learning outcomes for continuing education courses. They help build a portfolio of learned skills that can easily follow the recipients throughout their careers. Open digital badges can support digital certificates that simply recognize new ideas a learner has explored, while micro-credentials demonstrate deeper understanding and mastery.

Mark Otter, CEO of Participate, a company that engages educators in meaningful, purpose-driven blended learning experiences through online Communities of Practice, says that the main purpose of micro-credentialing for teacher professional development is to give teachers autonomy in their professional learning. Otter uses the metaphor of a container to explain the flexible structure of digital badges and how they can be deployed to create an effective infrastructure for micro-credentials.

“The digital badge is the container, or technical infrastructure, and within it, micro-credentials, or artifacts from diverse learning experiences, are stored,” Otter said. “Micro-credentials tend to be very specific skills or learned items that make up the digital badge. Digital badges can be certificates that indicate a learner has completed a certain number of required hours or micro-credentials that display evidence of specific skills mastered and demonstrations of deeper knowledge. This allows for the creation of a larger digital badge ecosystem.”

For districts and other school organizations, setting up a micro-credentialing system streamlines continuing education for teachers and provides a big-picture snapshot of who is learning what. Platforms like Participate have peer mentors and reviewers who provide feedback and verify learning outcomes. Participate also employs a "train the trainers" model to ensure that schools and organizations have the support they need to build their own effective peer and expert review system, taking even more pressure off of the districts.

The key for micro-credentials is the term ‘credential’ - It’s more than a certificate. The work has been reviewed by peer experts.

Is your district starting from ground zero but ready to put the process in place? Keep these vital steps in mind:

Review current resources

Before adding a new micro-credentialing initiative, organizations should take stock of what they have in place--or do not have in place.

What is the problem you are trying to solve? What are the goals of adding micro-credentialing? Be really clear on what resources you already have, particularly if you have a digital badge program.

For some districts, that will mean fine-tuning a digital badging program with micro-credentialing options. For others, the process may start from square one.

Pin down the current resources you have and the ones you lack, then decide where to start with micro-credentialing.

Create a buy-in plan

Teachers are masters of adaptation. New initiatives for pedagogy, technology and more are constantly being rolled out and, understandably, teachers can lack enthusiasm for the “next big thing.” To be met with the right buy-in, districts and educational organizations must show the benefits of a micro-credentialing system.

Initially, digital badging and micro-credentialing was compared to gamification. The idea was that people would be motivated by the badge or digital credential itself. But it turned out that no one really cared about that. Instead, the tangible benefits of these programs should be pointed out, clearly.

Come up with a plan for rolling out the system and what benefits teachers will receive, such as:

  • A central hub for tracking new skills and certifications.
  • Digital tracking that teachers can take with them.
  • Less paperwork, greater convenience of filing proof of learning and skills.

The real beauty of the micro-credential is that it allows teachers agency in what they pick. Then the district can recognize the learning that happens.

Are you ready to start a micro-credentialing system? Click here to collaborate.