In and beyond the classroom, people learn and acquire knowledge and skills that are valuable in the workplace but are not necessarily recognized by a formal degree. Formerly known as soft skills, these power skills, include critical thinking, problem solving, digital and financial literacy, leadership and teamwork, among others.
Credential As You Go is an initiative that wants to identify these valuable skills through a nationally recognized incremental credentialing system. Currently, this initiative spans the states of Colorado, North Carolina and New York, but thanks to a grant from Walmart, it will be expanding its reach across the country through a cohort of 28 higher education institutions and organizations.
Montgomery County Community College is among those selected for the first cohort, which includes seven private four-year colleges and universities, eight community colleges, nine public universities, two public systems of higher education and two certifying organizations.
“Microcredentials validate the knowledge and skills people acquire throughout life, work and education to highlight their marketability and enhance their value in the workforce,” said Tracy Kaiser-Goebel, Director of Educational Effectiveness and Assistant Professor of Communication Studies, who is leading the development of the Montco microcredentials/badging system in partnership with a team of representatives from across the College. “As part of the Credential As You Go cohort, we will be able to share their resources for development of the microcredentials, validated by meta-data, for the ultimate benefit of our students and community partners.”
As an institution of higher education, MCCC is answerable to federal and state regulations and the regional accreditor, said Kaiser-Goebel. Through participation in the Credential As You Go cohort, MCCC will continue to expand on its previous guided pathways and stackable credentials initiatives.
The microcredentials will be designed to allow students to earn credentials in a shorter timeframe, helping address the needs of the individuals to quickly gain skills and become employed.
“These offerings will be mapped to strategically improve connections between the 21st century workforce, the mission of the College, academic programs of study learning outcomes and program accreditation standards,” Kaiser-Goebel said.
One of the initial microcredential badges the College is planning for this spring addresses Financial Literacy for students. According to FINRA Investor Education Foundation, “Financial literacy is a strong indicator of positive financial outcomes for the future, but differing levels of financial literacy among Americans may contribute to widening inequality among different segments of the population.”
“We see increasing students’ Financial Literacy as an important part of our work to close equity gaps. As students apply for financial aid, they learn the first steps toward financial literacy. Through meetings with our Financial Aid representatives, completion of the FAFSA, and participation in the Financial Avenue series of self-paced modules, their financial literacy increases. By associating this process with a microcredential, students are incentivized to participate in the process,” said Kaiser-Goebel.
As students earn microcredentials and badges, they can add them to their resumes and LinkedIn accounts, which will help them be more marketable when they apply for jobs and start their careers.
Similarly, employees will gain microcredentials and badges for professional development, which encourages growth and advancement in their careers.
“On the faculty development side, we intend to develop a microcredential to memorialize the acquisition of important new skills as the College moves from Blackboard to Canvas LMS,” said Kaiser-Goebel.