OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Micro Credentials for Non-College-Bound Students

Enable non-college-bound students to legitimize their job skills and knowledge by earning Micro Credentials.

Photo of Sam Woodard
26 16

Written by

Our higher education system focuses on students who go to college, leaving the 55% of students who don’t get a college degree with a significant disadvantage in their careers. For those 2.8 million 18 year olds per year who don’t go on to receive a college degree, many of them go on to excel in their jobs and deliver value to the economy. The problem is that their career paths are often limited by a glass ceiling from not having a college degree.

People should have the opportunity to succeed in their career based on their skills, knowledge and experience and not be artificially limited because their path didn’t include going to college. We created the Micro Credential program to legitimize the value of students who joined the workforce instead of attending college. The Micro Credential program certifies the skills and knowledge that people gain during their career and awards them with credentials that formally recognizes the competencies and knowledge the worker has gained through real life experience rather than in the classroom.

For example, if after high school an individual works in an electronics factory assembling parts, over the course of a few years they can develop an understanding of how electronic devices are put together. Then they could earn a Micro Credential to certify their knowledge of electronics assembly. If the person then wanted to go into electronics repair, a potential employer could understand the applicant’s level of electronics knowledge and better judge their suitability for the position.

We are going to create a non profit organization to oversee granting Micro Credentials. This organization will specify the requirements for specific Micro Credentials. Individuals will then be able to apply for the Micro Credential by taking an assessment or otherwise submitting evidence of their skills. Where necessary, applications for a Micro Credential will be reviewed by subject matter experts in the appropriate career field. Over time, these Micro Credentials would gain the legitimacy of a degree by being very outcomes-focused and clear about the skills learners have mastered. The individual will be able to include it on resumes and job applications, and anyone needing verification of the credential can contact the organization.

Access and breaking the cycle of poverty

There are numerous factors that limit a high school graduate’s chances of pursuing a college degree. Low income students are significantly less likely to get a college degree, with only 22% of low SES students attaining an associate’s degree or higher by the age of 25.

As individuals without college degrees advance in their careers, they often hit a barrier where the next level job lists a degree as a requirement. Many employers will list a degree as a requirement and screen candidates for degrees. This barrier exists even for those with the appropriate knowledge and skills for the job.

Our Micro Credential system will enable students who traditionally have less access to college gain formal recognition for the skills and knowledge they have gained through experience / outside of academia. For students who come from poverty and don’t go to college, this means that they have more opportunities to advance their careers to move out of poverty when they are adults. This is an important step towards ending the cycle of poverty where people who grow up in poverty are limited in their opportunities to escape it as adults.

Legitimacy for all career paths

One of the results of a degree or credential is to signify the importance and value of the person to society. Through limiting degrees to certain paths and careers society signals the worth of certain careers and people. This is a problem in a society and economy where everyone’s contribution is important.

Everyone deserves to derive self worth from their work, and the way we certify people’s importance shouldn’t be reserved for people who have college degrees. Micro Credentials are a way to provide official recognition of people’s value to society no matter what position they hold.


Sources

Education attainment - National Center for Educational Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_104.65.asp

Population size - United States Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-03.pdf

Low SES students - National Center for Educational Statistics: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_104.91.asp

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

Our idea is designed for students who don’t pursue a college degree. These individuals deserve the opportunity to advance their careers based on the knowledge and skills they gain. Our effort is to create a system that formally recognizes these skills and knowledge. As we move towards a future where more jobs require a diverse array of skills, it is important for society to become better at recognizing and valuing skills. Empowering all people is an important piece of equality in the future.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm
  • An OpenIDEO outpost or chapter
  • A Design Jam or Workshop event

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

We would appreciate any help with: - Input from organizations who have undertaken similar credentialing efforts and also from universities, such as Southern New Hampshire University, that are making an effort to grant transfer credit to applicants based on real life experience - Insight from those working with students who take a career path that doesn’t include going to college. - Identifying which fields would be most open to piloting the acceptance of Micro Credentials.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We need to test the core value prop to make sure that it provides significant value to non-college-bound students. To test this, we will talk with individuals who did not attend college and have some work experience (5-10 years). We will ask them about the barriers they face advancing in their careers and their aspirations. Then we will share our idea of Micro Credentials and get their feedback on what ways that would be valuable to them.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a teacher and an education startup founder. My background includes teaching math in a low-income high school and internationally in Sierra Leone. I founded a startup called MathChat that enabled hundreds of thousands of students to collaborate on math. My interest is in developing scalable ways to improve education for underserved students. This idea was formed through working together with a group of educators, education policy advisors, education administrators and startup founders.

26 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of SelfiemoneyTransfer Services
Team

I like this idea. The state of education is crazy. Over cost and not practical for this time we live. It should be short more practical education. Education is also lack creative its like hearing cattle.
Its plain as day all billionaires drop out of collage and continued with their creative. We need more mentorship. Example programs like bring child to work.
I was told a real story of a young showed up at some rich guy house in Hollywood looking for rich to teach him . rich guy was piss ,at first and ask young guy how you find my house, young guy said google maps and can you rich teach me. Rich guy did.

Years later rich guy ran into young guy and was surprise young took what he learn and was now rich. Real story so it shows me again and again mentorship and small micro educational video courses.

With my project Selfiemoneytranfer app I am hoping to jump into the micro money transfer , education, health and insurance for world billions of under bank and working poor.

View all comments