In a rapidly changing economy, micro-credentialing has emerged as a time-saving and cost-effective method to help learners gain recognition for their skills.
Micro-credentials are digital certifications that verify an individual’s competence with a skill or set of skills. They can be earned asynchronously and stacked together to demonstrate readiness for in-demand jobs.
Today, postsecondary providers are working to revitalize regions that have been deeply affected by recession, geographic isolation, limited industry, and systemic racism. The pandemic has intensified the need to leverage digital tools, such as micro-credentials, to promote local economic growth.
Our new report, Micro-credentials for Social Mobility in Rural Postsecondary Communities: A Landscape Report explores the impact of earning micro-credentials on the social mobility of rural learners, prioritizing those impacted by poverty, particularly Black, Latino, and Indigenous populations, as well as women.
In partnership with four innovative postsecondary institutions that are using micro-credentials, we conducted case studies to create real-time career pathways for rural learners. The institutions include Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative, Savannah Technical College/Technical College System of Georgia, Tennessee State University’s Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences, and the University of Maine System’s Statewide All Learning Counts Initiative. As a result of this work, we identified five key themes for success across all four micro-credentialing initiatives: partnerships, employer recognition, program sustainability, program appeal, and potential for learning/higher education attainment.
Most postsecondary programs offering micro-credentials are still in pilot phases; however preliminary research indicates that micro-credentials can—and in some cases, do—lead to job promotions, higher wages, and an increase in self-confidence for rural learners.
“I think that micro-credentials are a great way to allow people to have the opportunity to achieve things that maybe otherwise they couldn’t. I go back to the whole concept of making it micro, making it smaller, condensing the information so that you experience success quicker versus having a string of courses and months before you can see any gratification that comes from being able to successfully complete it. I think that part of it is great and new. I know for me and traditional classroom settings, when you talk about a semester, that’s a long time. But if I can meet small goals and feel accomplished, then that might give me what I need to go on and not quit, and see that it’s attainable.” – Yolando Ingram (Learner), ClearPath ECE, Tennessee State University Genesis Family Child Care, Owner/Operator
To determine whether micro-credentials can promote social mobility for rural learners—in particular, poverty-impacted Black, Latino, and Indigenous populations—further research is needed to understand long-term efforts and evaluation. Such effects may be observed by focusing on efforts across the rural south, specifically looking at the initiatives of f Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Service Institutions (HSIs), as well as Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).
Read the full report, Micro-credentials for Social Mobility in Rural Postsecondary Communities:
A Landscape Report here!
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