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Micro-Credentials at Mason

Micro-Credentials Working Group Final Report

The Micro-Credentials Working Group presents its final report and recommendations.

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Throughout the fall, Continuing and Professional Education will be hosting webinars to engage the community in how to develop micro-credentials and to discuss the different ways Mason and other universities are building these new offerings for learners.

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Micro-Credentials at Mason

Seeking to enhance Mason’s mission of access to excellence for both traditional and adult learners, and to respond to the growing need for more affordable approaches to lifelong learning, the Micro-Credentials Working Group was established to provide recommendations on the development, delivery, and management of micro-credentials at Mason. Micro-credentials offer shorter and faster markers of critical skill acquisition, which helps our students and learners better align their educational needs with dramatically changing labor markets, without diminishing the breadth, quality and rigor of a Mason degree. To view the micro-credentials Mason currently offers, click on the photo below.

The Brief (Evolving) Story of Micro-Credentials

Universities across the country are examining how to provide affordable, high-quality, short-form, post-secondary education and professional development – commonly referred to as micro-credentials. While micro-credentials offer more than just employment potential, Micro-credentials are valuable to Mason students, alumni, and prospective learners because:

  • They motivate students toward completion of a credential or degree program by highlighting progressive attainment of skills;
  • They provide markers for co-curricular and experiential learning;
  • They provide students pathways to articulate achievements that might get lost during transitions;
  • They provide shorter, faster and more labor market responsive skill development for the professional and lifelong learner; and
  • They provide validated indicators of skill attainment “within” a degree to employers.

Although Mason can provide students with a critical connection between education and employment through micro-credentials, there are also benefits to both learning design and faculty/program interests:

  • Micro-credentials encourage more non-traditional experiential learning and co-curricular activity to be incorporated into the Mason experience by providing a quality issuance infrastructure that articulates skills and competencies gained in a digital credential;
  • They help translate learning objectives from academic language into applied terms to non-educators; and
  • In some instances, micro-credentials can help departments generate new growth opportunities.

Where We Are Headed

The Micro-Credentials Working Group that was tasked with exploring micro-credentials at Mason offers five recommendations for the development, delivery, and management of a non-credit micro-credentials program. Due to the high value and opportunity to integrate micro-credentials into degrees or “stackable” offerings, the Working Group offers a sixth recommendation establishing a clear pathway towards future credit-bearing micro-credentials.  

Working Group Recommendations

The Working Group offers five recommendations for the development, delivery, and management of a non-credit micro-credentials program at Mason. Due to the high value and opportunity to integrate micro-credentials into degrees or “stackable” offerings, the Working Group offers a sixth recommendation establishing a clear pathway towards future credit-bearing micro-credentials.

Define Micro-Credentials as Digital Credentials (Badges)

Micro-credentials at this time should be defined as Digital Credentials and conveyed in a digital format (commonly referred to as a digital badge). A digital credential appears like a “badge” on a resume or LinkedIn page connected to a URL containing verified details from a third party (university) certifying that the learning outcomes of the credential have been achieved. Click here to see an example.

Develop (Initially) a Non-Credit Micro-Credentials Program for Mason

Given the complexity of defining and managing micro-credentials, Mason should initially focus on developing micro-credentials in the non-credit space. A non-credit focus allows the Mason community to become familiar with micro-credentials and provides the university with the time it needs to develop policies and garner resources for the more complex process of defining and managing credit-bearing micro-credentials.

  • Digital Credential as A Non-Credit Supplement to a Degree: Micro-credentials should be used to reflect skills or competencies developed within a course or series of courses. This includes the recognition of a non-credit co-curricular, experiential learning projects and capstone experiences as a supplement to the degree.
  • Digital Credential as A Replacement for the Non-Credit “Certificate of Completion”: Micro-credentials can be used to replace Certificates of Completion – effectively digitizing those certificates to make these certificates easier to monitor, track and, over time, permit more consistent standards of quality.

Establish a Faculty/Program-Driven Approach for Authorizing Non-Credit Digital Credentials

Digital credentials can offer faculty new ways of designing multi-disciplinary, co-curricular, or experiential learning formats. Non-credit digital credentials should be inspired by and authorized by college supported units across the Mason community, but centrally administered or “issued” under the Office of the Provost within the Continuing and Professional Education unit (CPE). Self-authorization, coupled with central issuance of credentials should enable faculty to advise and guide the construction of the credentials, while permitting the university to track, record and issue digital credentials to ensure standards are adhered to and prevent over-proliferation.

Develop Micro-Credentials with Employers

Given the potential for creating micro-credentials that reflect high-demand skills by our regional and national employers, it is essential that Mason broaden our engagement with employers in the collaborative development of micro-credentials. The Working Group encourages faculty to work directly with groups of employers to create micro-credentials that meet employer needs, ensure academic standards and offer greater clarity to students about changing labor market needs.

Launch a Micro-Credentials Communications Campaign for Mason Faculty and Staff

A series of communications and promotions are planned to further the adoption of the recommendations in this report. The report will be briefed to the Interim Provost, presented at the various governance councils, and promoted in the Provost’s digital communication channels. Additionally, the Working Group will outline a series of faculty workshops to provide best practice sharing for faculty on how to build micro-credentials.

Establish the Basis for Stackable (Credit-Bearing) Micro-Credentials

The Working Group recognizes there is significant policy and resourcing complexity around managing a credit-bearing micro-credentials program at Mason. Therefore, the Working Group recommends that the Mason Policy Management Group (PMG), and other associated committees, develop a policy framework for stacking micro-credentials earned outside of, or within, the university towards their degree. Central to this effort is policy and a resourcing plan to support Prior Learning Assessment (PLA).This Working Group could be re-assembled in part to support he PMG’s work.

There are three areas for future PMG examination: Credit for prior learning, stackability, and degrees that include a micro-credential. Associated with these considerations is also the conversion of non-credit micro-credentials into credit-bearing progression toward a degree in specific circumstances.

Micro-Credentials Working Group

The Mason Micro-Credential Working Group was charged in January 2020 to support the mission of George Mason University. The Working Group included a broad representation from across all colleges/schools and central academic administration units and presented its Final Report in July 2020.

Name

Department

Title

Marc Austin (Chair)

Office of the Provost

Executive Director, Professional Education & Academic Ventures

Lisa Sedlock (Coordinator)

Office of the Provost

Assistant Director of Operations

Laurence Bray

Office of the Provost

Associate Provost for Graduate Education

Liza Durant

Volgenau School of Engineering

Associate Dean, Strategic Initiatives & Comm. Engagement

Maria Emelianenko

College of Science        Professor, Mathematical Sciences

Jesse Guessford

Office of the Provost

Associate Director, Undergraduate Education

Brett Josephson

School of Business

Director of Execuctive Development and Assistant Professor of Marketing

Jason Kinser   

College of Science   

Associate Professor, Computational and Data Sciences

Nance Lucas   

Center for the Advancement of Well Being

Executive Director and Chief Well-Being Officer

Doug McKenna

Office of the Provost  

University Registrar

Karen Reedy  

College of Visual and Performing Arts

Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education

Keith Renshaw

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Professor and Chair, Psychology

Kammy Sanghera

Volgenau School of Engineering

Associate Professor/Executive Director, STEM Outreach

Julie Shedd     

School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution  

Associate Dean

Matt Smith

Office of the Provost  

Director of Accreditation

Jessica Srikantia

Schar School of Policy and Government

Associate Professor

Carol Urban

College of Health and Human Services

Associate Dean, Practice/Strategic Initiatives

Shahron Williams van Rooij

CCollege of Education and Human Development

Associate Professor

Paige Wolf      

School of Business

Associate Dean, Graduate Programs