Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Growing Potential of Micro-Credentials

There is a great deal of talk these days about micro-credentials and digital badging as a means to acknowledge professional learning of educators. While many organizations are trying to seize an opportunity to monetize this space for their own benefit, a pioneer in micro-credentials created a free platform for any educator to use over three years ago. In Uncommon Learning, I provide insight into Laura Fleming’s pioneering work in this area with the simple premise of acknowledging the informal learning that many educators now engage in on a daily basis. 

Micro-credentials can be used to guide, motivate, and validate informal learning. Check out what Mozilla has created with its Open Badges platform. Acknowledging the informal learning of educators had been a long-neglected area in schools, and Ms. Fleming felt she could make a big impact there. She felt that a digital badge-based system would allow participating educators to learn and earn badges anytime and anywhere. Educators could then use those badges to build and communicate their own reputations to their colleagues and to senior staff, capturing a complete picture of their own professional development for others to see. 

Worlds of Learning provides a framework that allows any educator to earn micro-credentials for free through learning about a range of technology tools and applications and then putting what they learn into practice in their own teaching. The platform developed by Laura Fleming in 2013 has been designed so that its resources will help to prepare educators to fully leverage the potential for mastering digital-age skills as embodied in the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Teachers as well as assisting them to achieve the seamless integration of technology as addressed by the Common Core State Standards. 

As technology convergence and integration continue to increase generally in our society, it is paramount that teachers possess the skills and behaviors of digital-age professionals. Educators should be comfortable teaching, working, and learning in an increasingly connected global digital society. The real aim of educational technology should be to modernize pedagogy and to shape the education of the future. Registered users on the Worlds of Learning site can take the tools presented on the platform and integrate them seamlessly into meaningful learning that addresses the standards in their respective content areas for free.

Laura has streamlined the user experience on the platform as much as possible. Teachers (or indeed anyone who wants to join) simply register on the platform. Members can then choose to learn about a tool from among the (growing) selection of badges she has on the site. Her badges include those for mastering tools like Buncee, Padlet, and ThingLink, as well as a variety of other web-based tools. 

To learn about each tool, Laura provides a deliberately brief description of what the tool is. She also includes a very short screencast that provides an overview of how to use each tool and a brief written description of how the tool can be used and how the tool can be integrated effectively into the curriculum through the Common Core. Educators can earn the badge by then assimilating what they’ve learned into their own instruction in some way. Users submit “proof” to her that they have done so. Their evidence might consist of a web link to a page or site that demonstrates what they have done, a lesson plan, a video of classroom practice, or even a text description of how they or their students have used the tool. Upon receiving documentation, she issues a digital badge for their learning. 

Educators want to create their own professional learning paths, they want to learn anytime and anywhere, and they want to receive appropriate and authoritative credit for their informal learning. Laura believes that the success of this platform rests on the fact that educators can take control of their own learning and that they can therefore learn what they want to learn when they want to learn it.  I, for one, could not be more proud of what Laura created and that this resource is free for anyone to use. Those organizations pirating her work for profit and claiming it to be their own should, at the very least, give her the proper credit that she deserves.

So what are your thoughts about using micro-credentials as a way to guide, motivate, and validate both the formal and informal learning of educators?


  1. Thanks for the post Eric,

    Pleased to learn about Laura's work. For a deeper dive into digital badges, Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier's post in EdSurge is a good look at how badging works at scale-- 1,800 teachers in a large urban district:



  2. Our state requires teachers to earn 1/2 of the required 36 hours based on their PGP, Growth Plan for evaluation.
    Our school encourages teachers to count professional reading, twitter chats, F2F workshops, and online learning as evidence of their learning if they reflect on BloomBoard or provide a certificate. I've found that many teachers prefer the certificate as proof, rather than actually reflecting on their learning and showing how it could be used in their classroom.
    My question is simple. Is a badge system just another kind of certificate? Or does it require a T to show that they actually learned something that can be used?

  3. The educator has to actually demonstrate what he or she has learned. This is not only more meaningful to the educator, but also actual evidence of improvement.