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What are Micro-Credentials?

  • 5 Min Read

Learning and development in the workplace takes many forms. Some programmes are short and fully online training, while others take longer and incorporate face-to-face and practical applications. So, what are micro-credentials, and where do they fit?

Micro-credentials are flexible, short-term courses with clear learning outcomes that help learners achieve a range of learning goals. For employees, it’s about gaining new skills to reach career goals and thrive in a changing world of work. For employers, it’s about addressing skill gaps, identifying top talent, and nurturing a culture of learning across the business.

Public and private organisations alike are creating micro-credential courses. The Council of the European Union (EU) recently adopted a recommendation on a European approach to define micro-credentials, describe standard elements for them and establish principles for designing and issuing them. This will enable organisations in EU member states to develop and compare micro-credentials consistently.


With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how micro-credentials work, how they benefit individuals and companies, and how to get started with them.

How Do Micro-Credentials Work?

A micro-credential badge is awarded to a learner who has achieved a specific competency, whether they’ve completed a course or demonstrated their knowledge by other means. It is, in essence, proof of skill. The badge is verified by the issuing institution, and learners can share it across a variety of platforms, including digital portfolios and social media.

The badge itself contains information about how the learner achieved it, who issued it and what evidence there is that they demonstrated the particular skill. The proposal for a European approach outlines 11 standard elements that should be used to describe each micro-credential, including the:

  • identity the learner
  • title of the micro-credential
  • date the micro-credential was issued
  • body (or bodies) that awarded it in
  • country or region in which they’re located
  • learning outcomes
  • type (or types) of assessment used
  • measures used to assure quality

See page 16 in the Council Recommendation for the full list.

How Do Micro-Credentials Help Individuals?

1. Records of Professional Development

It can be hard for employees to prove they’ve taken part in ongoing training and professional development. This is particularly the case when the records are either not formalised or sit across different systems—whether as paper-based certificates or in professional membership associations and company-specific platforms. Micro-credentials provide a digital record that stays with employees.

2. Portable Digital Accreditation

Micro-credentials aren’t tied to the job the learner was doing, or the company they were doing it for when they completed it. They’re recognitions of achievement that travel with learners. What’s more, being digitally accredited, learners don’t have to worry about misplacing documents in the way they do with paper-based certificates.

3. Proof of Ongoing Learning

Micro-credentials are a convenient, lasting way to demonstrate continuous learning, which is crucial in today’s evolving workplace. The reality is that learning doesn’t end with formal education. It continues on a day-to-day basis throughout someone’s career. With micro-credentials, workers can gain the recognition they deserve for keeping their knowledge and skills up to date when they have a way to show what they’ve done.

4. Career Growth and Mobility

Micro-credentials can provide routes into alternative areas of work for employees who may wish to explore new opportunities. In some cases, they may want to upskill and try something new within their existing area of expertise. In others, they may be more eager to reskill and try an altogether different type of work.

In short, micro-credentials can help facilitate career progression and job changes.

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5. Motivation to Pursue New Skills

It’s rewarding for learners to know that they’re not learning something simply for the sake of it or because they find it interesting. At the end of the day, they can walk away with documented and recognized credentials that will boost their CVs.

How Do Micro-Credentials Help Companies?

1. Assess Skill Gaps

Now more than ever, companies need to know where they have skills gaps and how to fill them. Using a micro-credential strategy can help organisations understand the distribution of talent and make effective learning and development plans.

2. Support Rising Talent

In the same way that micro-credentials can help show where skills gaps exist, they can also shine a light on capabilities that employers didn’t know their employees had. This makes it easier to identify opportunities for people that not only engage their strengths and align with their career goals but also benefit the organisation. Plus, managers can be on the lookout for future professional development opportunities that align with individual professional interests and aspirations.

3. Enable Knowledge Transfer

When companies can identify who holds which skills, they can create programs, systems and conditions to knowledge transfer. Mentoring programmes, for example, can help employees learn from their peers and upskill to help the company achieve its goals.

4. Foster a Culture of Learning

Ongoing learning and development Wis something job seekers value and will compare when they’re considering potential employers. Offering micro-credentials within the workplace illustrates a company’s commitment to lifelong learning, skills development and recognised accreditation.

Getting Started With Micro-Credentials

If you’re considering using micro-credentials within your organisation, you should spend time considering the skills you want to recognise, now and in the future. Then, map learning outcomes to competencies and think about how learners will demonstrate knowledge and skills to be awarded the micro-credential.


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Here are some additional tips for getting started with micro-credentials:

1. Create Meaningful Micro-Credentials

The most important thing is to create the right micro-credentials—ones that are meaningful will deliver the competencies you need, and are tied to larger professional development goals. Fun badges are all very well, but at the end of the day, micro-credentials need to deliver value for your company and its employees.

2. Reflect the Range of Skills You Need

It’s easy to focus on technical skills, but what about communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration? Don’t neglect durable skills when planning your micro-credential strategy.

Also, think about your company’s values. Are they reflected in the micro-credentials you want your employees to attain?

3. Use a Graduated Scale

Micro-credentials should recognise different levels of mastery—lower levels when someone is making progress in grasping the concept and higher levels when they can demonstrate in-depth knowledge of it.

4. Start Small and Grow

Don’t roll out 100 badges at once. Start small, test badge types to see how they land, and grow from there. For more tips, check out our eBook, Addressing the Skills Gap With Micro-Credentialing.


Where to Go for Further Information

Micro-credentials bring a range of benefits for employees and employers alike. They can help individuals go after their professional development goals and support organisations to plug skill gaps and adapt to evolving industry needs. Even more, using or supporting micro-credentials can support a commitment to ongoing learning and help meet a need for a flexible study that fits people’s working lives.


To find out more about micro-credentials, take a look at our eBook, Addressing the Skills Gap with Micro-Credentialing, or D2L’s Credentials Offering.





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