- Education technology nonprofit edX launched "credit-backed stackable" credentials known as MicroBachelors Programs that can be completed online and counted toward a bachelor's degree, according to a Jan. 8 announcement.
- EdX said the programs are a cheaper alternative to traditional undergraduate education degrees, costing roughly $166 per credit on average. MicroBachelors Programs are geared toward adults who don't have a college degree or who require additional training to advance in their careers, the company said. All are developed by universities with funding assistance from organizations, including Boeing and Walmart.
- The first batch of MicroBachelors Programs includes IT Career Framework from Western Governors University and Computer Science Fundamentals from New York University. Upcoming programs include Professional Writing, offered by Arizona State University, edX said.
Skills-based credentialing continues to gain traction as a pathway for adult learners. Marketers have juggled a growing number of terms to define products and programs in this space, but the general trend has been toward programs that allow workers to complete lessons on their own time, use personal devices and earn transferable proof verifying new skills.
EdX's offering isn't the nonprofit's first foray into credentialing. The organization, formed by scientists from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, launched MicroMasters programs in 2016 with the same goal of providing an alternative pathway to career advancement. But it's unclear whether users of the edX platform will be interested in MicroBachelors or whether microcredentials can successfully solve the workforce's skill deficits, Inside Higher Ed reported.
A variety of entities are nonetheless embracing credentials. In Colorado, a free workforce certification is available to certain residents older than age 21. Other nonprofits, like Education Design Lab, are expanding their research into digital credentialing to determine whether the technology can help traditionally underserved populations.
One issue with the credentialing trend may be establishing a standard that employers trust. Some companies have attempted to devise such a standard, including IBM, which last year announced plans to launch a credentialing platform using blockchain technology.