Open Microcredentials

Peak of Inflated Expectations
UMN Assessment
Time Frame
2 to 5 Years
Last Updated on Sep 10, 2014

Open microcredentials are about creating ecosystems of open digital "badges" of accomplishments that can be used by an individual to indicate skills learned, no matter the circumstance (for example, in a university or in the workplace). “Open” stands in contrast to credentialing that exists in a proprietary environment and is not therefore portable. Microcredentials indicate specific, observable behaviors and are earned as the student demonstrates mastery throughout his or her learning. In contrast, credentials are traditionally awarded as the culmination of learning, and attest to knowledge and skills in a holistic rather than specific sense (think of the broadly defined attributes conferred on the recipient of an undergraduate liberal arts degree). Ideally, a claim represented by an "open credential" is verified by a relevant trusted party and attached to a secure digital identity.

The larger context for microcredentialing and badges is competency-based education (CBE). In a nutshell, CBE advocates for replacing seat time and credit hours as a measure of accomplishment with clearly delineated, outcomes-based competencies. Competency based education is not a new idea, but recent trends in higher education have given the conversation more urgency. For instance, the proliferation of online educational resources, most notably MOOCs, has raised awareness that learning happens in many places. Institutions of higher learning and students have a stake in figuring out how to document and validate mastery. The rising costs of higher education and the recognition that the workforce relies on life-long learning are also driving the search for approaches to education that are student-oriented, rather than institutionally bound.

The U.S. Department of Education is funding an initiative in support of colleges interested in experimenting with CBE programming.

Open Microcredentials at the University of Minnesota
The Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) is an early adopter of midrocredentialing, having added badging to their Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) Orientation program: “digital badges ... enable CRCs to showcase training progress, such as on their LinkedIn profile.”

OIT is exploring badging for student workers who need to demonstrate technology competencies.

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