A New Educational Tool: SAU Microcredentials


Over the last decade, expectations for educating the workforce have changed. We are in the midst of a generational shift in the workforce while also reaping the extraordinary benefits of digital technology. Together, those changes signal the need for skill-specific mastery that can supplement a traditional academic degree.

Microcredentials-also called digital badges-are a new type of skill certification. They are condensed training programs that verify students have achieved specific skills and/or competencies. Additionally, badges can be "stacked" together to indicate a higher skill set in that subject area.

More specifically, microcredentials address an industry or profession-specific competency, deliver training toward entry-level skills, or provide a marketable skill toward career advancement.

St. Ambrose has joined a number of colleges and universities in offering this new means of educational enrichment. The Master of Public Health program led the way in offering an epidemiology microcredential this spring. More such offerings are in the works.

"In the coming years, I would like to see us add multiple microcredentials that complement our undergraduate and graduate degrees," said Mike Puthoff, PhD, dean of Graduate Studies and coordinator of microcredentials at SAU. "It's important that our microcredentials match the mission and vision of St. Ambrose University. We need to bring the St. Ambrose experience to
our microcredentials."

sample of a microcredential badge

Sample of a Microcredential badge

For students and workers alike, earning digital badges can be a way to stay nimble in a career field or supplement their current knowledge base.

"There are times when an individual wants additional skills that can complement their undergraduate degree," Puthoff said. "A microcredential in business may help a person with a degree in the fine arts manage their art studio. A graduate with a kinesiology degree wants to better market themselves and a microcredential could help them better understand how to reach future customers."

Academic degrees are still vital, and can be supported and enhanced by microcredentials. The St. Ambrose Professional Development Center (PDC) also will offer microcredential courses.

"Microcredentials have the potential to be a tremendous value-add to the professional development landscape," said PDC Director Megan Tarasi. "Microcredentials are distinct from traditional certificates in that they incorporate competency-based metrics within learning outcomes in order to verify a student's proficiency."

Upon earning a microcredential, students are issued digital badges instead of diplomas or certificates.

"These technology-driven badges showcase and validate participant's credentials to employers in today's digital-first world," Tarasi continued. "Professional websites such as LinkedIn allow users to prominently display badges, which help to differentiate badge-holders in a competitive career field."

–Robin JB Ruetenik '15 MOL

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