Micro-credentials move one step closer to gaining widespread trust thanks to this framework

"The framework identifies the information needed for the receiver to fully understand what knowledge and skills the credential represents," said Kelly Hoyland, director of higher education programs for 1EdTech. "Credentials that follow the framework will be more meaningful to receivers, and therefore, more valuable for the learners who earn them."

Micro-credentials are one step closer to gaining a trustworthy and dependable reputation. The 1EdTech TrustEd Microcredential Coalition, formed last year to standardize rapidly growing interest from educators and organizations to issue digital badges, has unveiled a new framework that identifies the core components every micro-credential should possess to sow trust and recognition across the school-to-career pipeline.

“The framework identifies the information needed for the receiver to fully understand what knowledge and skills the credential represents,” Kelly Hoyland, director of higher education programs for 1EdTech, said in a statement. “Credentials that follow the framework will be more meaningful to receivers, and therefore, more valuable for the learners who earn them.”

When an individual earns a micro-credential, the digital badge articulating that achievement contains metadata that communicates who possesses the badge, who issued it, the criteria needed to earn it and sufficient evidence that such criteria were fulfilled. The TrustEd Microcredential Framework maps out exactly what metadata a digital badge requires to certify a micro-credential earner’s achievement. Like a college diploma delineating achievement from an institution, a digital badge serves the same purpose but can also articulate exactly what the student earned more robustly.

“Micro-credentials represent a revolution in how we recognize learning and competency,” Chris Davis, vice president of academic quality at the University of Maryland Global Campus, said in an email.

With the framework completed, the next step is to create a certification process that communicates that the badge they’re looking at is legitimate.

“The challenge is validat[ing] not only that a credential has the required metadata, but also that the content of the metadata makes sense,” said Davis. “Each step of the process will require piloting and feedback. We don’t know what we don’t know, but we will learn as we go.”

The coalition that created the framework comprises higher education members, including Bowdoin College, The California State University System, the University of Maryland Global Campus, Southern New Hampshire University, Western Governors University, and Wichita State University. Greenville County Schools (S.C.), a K12 school district, is also a member. Anthology, Oracle and Google are just a few of the edtech powerhouses contributing as well. It aims to glue national cohesion on micro-credentials; an EDUCAUSE’s QuickPoll survey last year found that less than 10% of institutions had a mature micro-credentialing program.

“It is so important to have representatives from all educational levels, as well as suppliers and employers, so the credentials we create are valuable to everyone,” said Rob Coyle, technical program manager for 1EdTech. “That is the only way we can gain true traction and support skills-based hiring.”

The TrustEd Microcredential builds off the data and metadata standards established by OpenBadges, a popular digital badge format.

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Under the hood—what metadata is necessary in the framework?

Learners can earn a TrustEd Microcredential in three ways: by developing a set of knowledge tested through assessments, successfully applying their knowledge through a lab or project, or being recognized for completing a task or participating in an event. While the latter is more straightforward to issue, the micro-credentials that signify a digital badge earners’ sufficient knowledge or successful application must follow a rigorous framework described below.\

“We need standardization that is scalable and does not stifle innovation,” said Davis. “The coalition and the framework offer one pathway, and they also provide an approach that can inspire others to develop alternative pathways.”

  • Skills: identify the skills represented in the credential
  • Framework alignment: identify alignment to a framework
  • Issuer accreditation: Identify accreditation status or awarding authority
  • Issuer: Identify which organization is issuing the badge
  • Evidence: Provides the opportunity to include sample work or other evidence to support the assertion
  • Rubric: If applicable, provide the scoring rubric that was used in the assessment
  • Result: Identify the learners’ final assessment result (does not have to be numeric)
  • Criteria: Identify what the learner needed to achieve to earn the badge
  • Assessment: Information about assessment(s) completed in earning the credential
  • Duration: Information related to the length of time required to complete the credential
  • Achievement type: Must be closely aligned with the credential
  • Endorsement (if third-party endorsement is applicable)
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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