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Microcredentials 101: What, How and Why You Should Earn Badges & Microcredentials

Hi, my name is Jackie Otala and I am the Badges Fellow at Clarkson University, within the Ignite department. In my role, I have had the pleasure of helping develop the Badges and Microcredentials program at Clarkson. I am also a graduate student at Clarkson, finishing up my Master’s in Engineering Science (really fun interdisciplinary engineering program). I got my Bachelor’s at Clarkson too in Engineering and Management (another really fun interdisciplinary engineering and business program). 

As you might be able to tell, I am very much into the concept of interdisciplinary: mixing around lots of different topics to ultimately achieve a really unique and personalized set of skills. And that just happens to connect really well with the mission of the Badges and Micocredentials program: allowing you to pick and choose specific professional skills to learn about and master that might go beyond your curriculum and current skill set. I wish the Badges and Microcredentials program was around when I was first starting university because I know I would have loved the opportunity to branch out and expand my skill set with the help of microcredentials. 

In this post, I’m going to explain all about microcredentials and badges, as I recognize this is a newer topic. But it’s definitely one you’ll continue to hear about in the future!

What are microcredentials?

Microcredentials are focused on skills at a very practical level, meaning the microcourses accompanying a microcredential are shorter than a standard university course. They can range anywhere from 3-20 hours worth of work and can usually be completed within a couple of weeks. Microcourses can be synchronous with workshops or seminars, or asynchronous with online activities. Microcredentials with synchronous microcourses are available at select times during the semester, so keep your eyes peeled for those announcements in Clarkson’s daily announcements emails! Microcredentials with asynchronous microcourses are available all year round, meaning as long as you are a Clarkson student you can start earning your first (or fifth!) microcredential right now.

Microcredentials (MCs) are claims about what an earner knows and can do with regard to a valuable and professional skill. The microcredential is validated by assessment, supported by evidence, and endorsed by Clarkson. With a flexible academic environment, the Microcredentials Program helps create and administer microcourses that help earners fulfill the claim made by a microcredential.

Microcredentials are focused on skills at a very practical level, meaning the microcourses accompanying a microcredential are shorter than a standard university course. They can range anywhere from 3-20 hours worth of work and can usually be completed within a couple of weeks. Microcourses can be synchronous with workshops or seminars, or asynchronous with online activities. Microcredentials with synchronous microcourses are available at select times during the semester, so keep your eyes peeled for those announcements in Clarkson’s daily announcements emails! Microcredentials with asynchronous microcourses are available all year round, meaning as long as you are a Clarkson student you can start earning your first (or fifth!) microcredential right now.

What are badges? 

Badges are the digital representation of that microcredential. Once you successfully complete the microcourse associated with the microcredential, you earn a badge as digital recognition of the completion of that microcredential. You can then share that badge on LinkedIn, put it on your resume; wherever you would like to share that skill with future employers. This is the badge for the Technical Sales microcredential (figure to the right).

Badges showcase not only the name of the microcredential you just completed, but also the type of microcredential: Knowledge, Skills, or an Experience. Knowledge microcredentials focus on the information and required knowledge about a topic. Skills microcredentials require you to apply that knowledge with a hands-on activity or scenario. Experience microcredentials, the most intensive of the three, allow you to master that skill through an independent or professional experience.

What are the benefits of micro-credentials and badges for college students? 

You will learn a lot of skills throughout your time at Clarkson; whether it be new softwares, new problem-solving techniques, interpersonal communication skills, the list goes on. And you may want to branch out and learn even more skills, beyond the classes you take! Microcredentials make it easy for you to not only verify and validate those skills, but also to translate them and promote them to future employers. By making all of the micro-credential information publicly available and easy to share on social media platforms like LinkedIn, employers can see your skills and what it took to achieve those skills. Each microcredential has a public webpage, Technical Sales as an example, that anyone can see. Then when you complete the microcredential and receive the badge, you can share it on LinkedIn like Miles did here (figure to the right)!

How can college students gain microcredentials and badges?

There are plenty of platforms, like LinkedIn, Google, IBM, etc., that offer microcredentials. Any institution that can help verify whether someone has a certain skill or not can offer a microcredential.

For Clarkson University specifically, we have successfully launched a program that offers microcredentials to undergraduate and graduate students in our Clarkson community. Each microcredential’s microcourse, where you learn the skills and are assessed, is housed on Clarkson’s Learning Management System, Moodle, just like the University’s courses. Once you complete that microcourse you will get an email from Credly, the tool we use at Clarkson to issue you the badge, letting you know that Clarkson has issued you a badge. Take a look at Clarkson’s Credly directory to see all of the Clarkson earners who have received a badge.

We also offer a number of badges related to hands-on skill building. A great example of this is in partnership with our Student Prototyping Machine Shop in our Coulter School of Engineering. Students from across the University can take microcourses to get certified in a number of shop specialties, such as welding, MasterCam, lathes and more. 

Can anyone work towards badges and microcredentials?

Clarkson’s Badges and Microcredentials program is still quite new. As we continue to add and expand our offerings, we are hoping to offer these microcredentials to more audiences, including lifelong adult learners and K-12 students. 


To learn more about Clarkson’s badge program, visit our dedicated webpage at  https://www.clarkson.edu/badges. To see a historical list of badges offered at Clarkson, visit our Credly page.

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