Micro-credentials are limited certifications regarding an individual's demonstration of possessing specific skills or knowledge. They are sometimes conferred as open or digital badges as opposed to a more traditional written diploma. In contrast with a post-secondary baccalaureate degree, which might require four years of study under a wide-ranging curriculum, a student might take a series of eight-week classes to receive a number of micro-credentials that certify them to be qualified in a set of job-specific data collection, analysis and visualization software programs. Micro-credentials are often promoted as a means to develop and recognize more granular, sub-degree knowledge and skills and to allow for a more flexible, individually-tailored education curriculum. In addition, micro-credentials may or may not be conferred by government chartered or accredited educational institutions.
- Goal: Increase the effectiveness of educational credentials
- Goal: Increase the number of educational choices open to students
- Goal: Decrease the cost of education
- Goal: Increase the effectiveness of local curricula
- Goal: Reduce unnecessary redundancy in student curricula
- Goal: Increase the rate of educational attainment
- Goal: Increase the supply of skilled workers
Adrienne is a marketing and communications professional who is interested in expanding her technical skills in graphic design. Employers in her industry have partnered with a local alternative education institution to offer micro-credentials in various graphic design techniques and software programs. Although this program is not formally recognized by her government, employers place value on the micro-credentials, and Adrienne decides to pay a smaller amount of tuition in order to receive them. In receiving her new micro-credentials, Adrienne takes on new work in her current job and receives a promotion and pay increase.
Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:
- Over-specialization that decreases an individual's long-term job security and career flexibility
- Reduction in the amount of general knowledge (e.g., civics) acquired by citizens through education
- Potential for informal institutions to provide ineffective curricula if not regulated by government.
If answered yes, the following questions indicate conditions under which the policy may be most effectively implemented:
- Is there a gap in the technical skills required by local or would-be local employers and the local population?
- Can the skills lacked by local residents be learned more cheaply and efficiently in short-term modules?
- Are there well-intentioned entities who possess the ability to educate local residents on these skills?
- Will employers value the micro-credentials as sufficient qualifications for employment?
The following questions should be considered when determining how to implement this policy:
- What role, if any, should government play in regulating private educational institutions providing micro-credentials?
- What role, if any, should government plan in encouraging public institutions to offer micro-credentials?
- What oversight or enforcement role will government take on to ensure that micro-credentials are administered in a manner that provides fair value to students?
- Has adoption of: Limited.
- For area type(s): Urban. Micro-credentials are most applicable in urban environments, which tend to allow for greater specialization of labor.
- For issue type(s): Efficiency.
- Limited. The offering of micro-credentials is limited to a small but growing number of education providers such as General Assembly, Dev Bootcamp, Hack Reactor and the Mozilla Foundation's Open Badges Initiative. They are generally unsanctioned but not prohibited by government. 
- Post-Secondary. Currently, micro-credentials are most often offered for technical, specialized skills such as computer programming.
- Notable entities who have implemented or adopted this policy include:
- Advocates - Educational Choice. Assumption: Micro-credentials increases the educational options available to students in accordance with personal choice and market demand
- Advocates - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Assumption: Micro-credentials increases the number of students who are able to access and develop science, technology, engineering and math skills.
- Associations - Business Councils, Partnerships, and Chambers of Commerce. Assumption: Micro-credentials allows for the development of curricula and skills more specialized and tailored to business needs.
- Associations - Online Education Institutions (MOOCs). Assumption: Micro-credentials are conducive to online education models in that they represent an additional step away from the more traditional, brick-and-mortar model of education and towards online education.
- Providers - Textbooks. Assumption: Micro-credentials offer a vehicle for education content providers to sell additional educational content outside of those designed to support traditional education degrees.
- Associations - Public Colleges and Universities. Assumption: Alternative providers who administer micro-credentials threaten the funding and educational model of the traditional, general education-steeped model of educational institutions.
- Associations - Private Colleges and Universities. Assumption: Alternative providers who administer micro-credentials threaten the funding and educational model of the traditional, general education-steeped model of educational institutions.
- Associations - Religion-Affiliated Colleges and Universities. Assumption: Alternative providers who administer micro-credentials threaten the funding and educational model of the traditional, general education-steeped model of educational institutions.
- Associations - University Athletics. Assumption: Alternative providers who administer micro-credentials threaten the funding and educational model of the traditional, general education-steeped model of educational institutions, which are more likely to offer athletics programs.
- Personalized workplace learning: An exploratory study on digital badging within a teacher professional development program. Gamrat, C., Zimmerman, H. T., Dudek, J. and Peck, K. (2014). British Journal of Educational Technology, 45: 1136–1148. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12200
- Microcredentials on the open web. Halavais, Alexander. Selected Papers of Internet Research 14.0, 2013: Denver, USA.
- Exploring the use of micro-credentialing and digital badges in learning environments to encourage motivation to learn and achieve. Elliot, Richard and John Clayton. Emerging Technologies Centre, Waikato Institute of Technology. Elliott, R., Clayton, J., & Iwata, J. (2014). In B. Hegarty, J. McDonald, & S.-K. Loke (Eds.), Rhetoric and Reality: Critical perspectives on educational technology. Proceedings ascilite Dunedin 2014 (pp. 703-707).
- The Case for Social Innovation Micro-Credentials. Article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review summarizing three social trends that support the utility of micro-credentials.
- "A New Credential for the Tech Industry." Kamanetz, Anya. nprEd Blog. October 15, 2014. http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/10/15/356199691/a-new-credential-for-the-tech-industry
- "Digital Badges at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute." The Wheel: The Instructional Technology Blog of ATS at UC Davis. November 27, 2013. http://wheel.ucdavis.edu/2013/11/digital-badges-at-the-agricultural-sustainability-institute/
- Purdue University Passport Program Website. http://www.itap.purdue.edu/studio/passport/