Scaling Up Micro-credentials

The Friday Institute has learned a lot about the implementation of micro-credentials through our pilots of the Learning Differences and Fractions Foundations stacks. To date we’ve reviewed roughly 500 submissions from educators in 98 countries around the world. Educators are getting excited about them, and I am too. Now, though, I wonder how districts can use micro-credentials support educators.

The prospect of re-designing an entire professional development system is daunting, particularly when it’s a totally new idea, like micro-credentials. With this in mind, I have summarized three easy ways district teams can leverage to start implementing a competency-based, micro-credentialing approach:

  1. Start by testing the waters in the shallow end. Take an already existing session and make it competency based. When I was coaching new teachers, I had teachers work on a product during a session I facilitated. They didn’t sign in for credit until the end when they shared their product with me. Those who needed more time emailed me their products at a later date, but they didn’t get credit for the session until they demonstrated mastery of the skill. This small tweak emulates the competency based approach and might allow district leaders to get a feel for the potential value of micro-credentials as well as the potential push-back such a system will create.
  2. Build micro-credentials around new professional development. If you’re already going to be developing something new, you could try a single micro-credential or stack and see how it goes. I’ve found that education tech topics (e.g., using Google Apps for Education in your classroom) lend themselves well to the micro-credential framework, and people are willing to try them in that space. Many have taken this approach, including Winston Salem-Forsyth County Schools, Surry County (who also gamified their micro-credentials!), Charlotte-Mecklenberg, and New Hanover County.
  3. Pilot a few micro-credentials with your “early adopters.” Every district I’ve worked with has some set of formally or informally recognized early adopters - the teachers who are eager to try new things, give good feedback, and help make it better. Pilot a set of micro-credentials to get these teacher leaders on board, get their feedback, and start building buzz in your district about micro-credentials.

These represent only a few ways for district leaders to start implementing micro-credentials and explore their potential. As more and more districts try these out, I hope to learn from their experiences.