Online microcredentials poised to go mainstream

Seven major institutions create joint credentialing platform

While badges and other microcredentials have been more popular among ed-tech companies than at traditional universities, a new partnership may signal new interest in these degree alternatives, Paul Fain reports for Inside Higher Ed.

The project is still in the prototype stages—its name, the University Learning Store, is still tentative.

But the plan is already attracting attention because of the schools backing it. The project is a collaboration between the Georgia Institute of Technology; the University of Wisconsin Extension (UWE); Northwestern University; the University of Washington; and the University of California's campuses at Davis, Irvine, and Los Angeles.

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Ultimately, the goal is to create a web platform where students can access a variety of modules, assessments, and services from different providers, UWE officials told Inside Higher Ed. The store "would provide students with credentials that are much shorter and cheaper than conventional degrees," explained David Schejbal, dean of continuing education, outreach, and e-learning and UWE.

The variety also would allow students to customize their experiences. "These should all fit you," Schejbal told Inside Higher Ed. "It would all work for the student."

According to UWE officials, the platform will be targeted to both current students and professionals looking to advance their careers—or earn proof of skills they already have.

Unlike many MOOCs, the new platform wholly divorces itself from the typical college course, writes Fain. Schejbal says they are planning on a "freemium" model for pricing—so much of the content will be free, but students will pay for things that are more expensive for universities to provide, like assessments or tutoring services.

Fain writes that UWE is putting a lot of care into the assessments, recognizing the role they play in determining the quality of the credentials. Deb Bushway, interim dean at UWE, says the assessments will be "authentic" and will build on the school's work on competency-based education (Fain, Inside Higher Ed, 8/14).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

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