Microcredentials Confuse Employers, Colleges and Learners (Inside Higher Ed)

March 3, 2023

Reskilling. Upskilling. Certificates. Certifications. Badges. Licenses. Microcredentials. Alternative credentials. Digital credentials.

So many terms. So little agreement on what they mean, least of all in higher ed.

“Employers say, ‘It’s great that this individual has these skills, but we’ll ask our own questions to verify the learner’s knowledge,’” Kyle Albert, assistant research professor at the George Washington University Institute of Public Policy, said. “It’s a trust-but-verify situation.”

Nonetheless, demand in the large, growing microcredential market is strong, but learners also struggle to make sense of offerings. By one count, the United States is home to more than one million unique educational credentials, which represents a more than threefold increase since 2018. (Some are offered by nonacademic providers.)

“Digital credential options are fairly easy to find on the internet where websites describe the curriculum,” Albert said. “But some [learners] say that they click on the first few that come up … and they rely on anecdotal reviews on Reddit, Yelp or,” given the largely absent data and analysis on program quality.

And colleges struggle to deliver what employers want.

“With the economy shifting … we need workforce education training faster and better,” said James Fong, chief research officer at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA).

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