Six universities have teamed up to create a new credentialing initiative called the University Learning Store aimed at allowing users to obtain "micro-credentials" in specific skills, which the creators hope will help make the certification of knowledge more clear.
Users can take a course for $50, $100, or $150, and then take a test to receive a micro-credential that accurately assesses their skills based on input from industry professionals.
These courses are designed to allow professionals to improve their skills quickly or to obtain certifications to prove skills they already have.
Each course can be accomplished in a matter of days or weeks, according to the University Learning Store website, and no assignments are assigned beyond the assessments.
The courses and skill-based assessments are developed by university faculties and then double-checked by employers and industry experts.
The University of Wisconsin-Extension is the founding institution, reports Joshua Bolkan of Campus Technology, along with the University of California Los Angeles, University of California Davis Extension, University of California Irvine Division of Continuing Education, and the University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education.
David Schejbal, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, compared the service to a department store where you can shop for exactly what you need, reports Parth Shah of Wisconsin Public Radio. He said:
Although an array of non-degree credentials exist, they can leave employers guessing as to their true value. With the University Learning Store, leading institutions have joined forces to introduce credentials that clearly indicate the capabilities of the credential holders."
"Microcredentials earned online through the University Learning Store give employers confidence in learners' capabilities because of a thorough, industry-based verification process. To earn a micro-credential, learners must prove their knowledge through hands-on, skills-based assessments. Employers and industry experts have verified these assessments as appropriate measures of competencies, aligning the training to job skills needed to close the skills gap.
These credentials will be available as printable certificates or social media badges. They will also be accompanied by competency summaries to tell potential employers exactly what skills someone has acquired.
According to EdSurge, credentials are available in three categories: power skills (like communication, teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving, and critical thinking), technical skills (specific to each industry), and career advancement skills (like leadership, public speaking, management, and negotiation). Industries covered by the technical skills credentials include business, information technology, agriculture, healthcare, and sustainability. More courses are in development and will be launched soon.
Larger certifications made up of three micro-credentials are also available, reports Business Wire. The two currently available are in Global Business Communication (via the Georgia Institute of Technology) and Business Communications (via the University of Wisconsin-Extension). More will be released in the future.
The Global Business Communication certification includes the courses Speaking Effectively in the Global Workplace, Applying Best Practices for Email Communication in the Global Workplace, and Presenting Effectively to Global Audiences. The Business Communications certification includes Applying Active Listening Skills, Emails That Work: Writing for the Digital Age, and Communicating Professionally Via Phone.
In addition to helping individuals get ahead in their careers, the University Learning Store is designed to help companies improve the knowledge and skills of their workers in a way that's convenient and cost-effective.
Courses and certifications are currently half price as the program is being piloted.