Northwestern College to begin offering micro-credentials

Northwestern College will begin offering micro-credentials this fall to help a wide variety of constituents differentiate themselves in the workplace. The micro-credentialing program is a joint effort between Northwestern’s Center for Innovation & Leadership and its Graduate School & Adult Learning.

“Micro-credentials bridge a skills gap that has emerged between workers and the fast-paced changes in their industry,” says Dr. Nathan Phinney, Northwestern’s vice president for academic affairs, who cites three groups that can be prepared for success through them. “Working professionals can learn in small segments to set themselves apart in the workplace. Undergraduate and graduate students can develop proficiencies in a skill beyond typical classroom learning. And high school students can add learning and highlight their skills for colleges or employers.”

Smaller than a minor, certificate or major, micro-credentials allow individuals to meet their personalized learning needs by gaining knowledge and skills in areas relevant to their academic or professional goals. The micro-credential programs are themed around 21st-century competencies and skills identified as essential by national associations and regional employers. Skills include critical thinking and problem-solving, teamwork and collaboration, leadership, professionalism, oral and written communication, diversity and bias, and content more directly tied to technical or performance-based standards such as project management and more.

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Upon completion of a micro-credential, learners will receive a digital badge—a clickable, verifiable credential that showcases their mastery of a skill or knowledge in an area of interest. Digital badges include information such as the date earned, issuing institution, program criteria and work samples. The digital badge and data can be displayed on social media sites such as LinkedIn, added as a link on resumes, or embedded in e-portfolios and email signatures for visible recognition. Northwestern’s partner for digital badge display is Credly Inc.

All campus departments as well as leaders in their fields from around the world can propose to offer a micro-credential from Northwestern College. “We have a long history of offering excellent programs that assist employers and employees, and now badges will create a new method for showcasing the value of our programs and our learners’ specific competencies and skills,” says Erica Vonk, director of the Center for Innovation & Leadership. “Badges will make our learners highly desirable in the workplace, and we are eager to work with new organizational partners to develop programs to fit their needs.

“We created a micro-credential program so we can provide more personalized learning opportunities for all types of learners,” says Vonk. “Northwestern is emerging as a leader in this new way of offering relevant skill-based learning in a society where skills are changing more rapidly than ever before. The abilities needed now may be different in two years—micro-credentials are suited to meet that demand.”

Studies have shown that employees who have micro-credentials are viewed as more competitive not only while trying to land a job, but also after they are employed. In addition, in a recent survey of human resource managers across different industries, 95% were interested in the micro-credentials of potential hires.