Competency Based Professional Development: A Guide for Developing Micro-credential Experiences

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session Community College/TAACCCT

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Micro-credentials (MC) are an innovative approach to professional development within a variety of settings that align with the marketplace demands for online learning with sharable digital representations of competency. Presenters will share case studies, step-by-step guide for developing MC’s, and website of resources with participants to design their own MC’s.

Sponsored By


Julie Steuber, Ph.D.,, is an Associate Professor in the College of Education and Leadership at Cardinal Stritch University. Past professional experiences include work as an early childhood elementary school teacher and currently serves as the Language & Literacy and Special Education Doctoral Program Chair. Her research interests include Early Childhood Education-instruction and assessment, Vocabulary Acquisition, Word Knowledge, Curriculum and Instruction, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Methodology.
Lisa Plichta is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Leadership at Cardinal Stritch University where she works with undergraduate teacher candidates. She earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Cardinal Stritch University. In addition to her work with teacher candidates, Lisa also facilitates mentoring and coaching workshops and leads the college’s professional development and micro-credentialing program. For 11 years, Lisa taught high school English in the Sussex-Hamilton School District located in Sussex, Wisconsin. For three years, she also served as Instructional Leader for English 9-12 for the school district. Her scholarship and educational interests include teacher coaching and mentoring, team teaching, teaching in a block schedule, and micro-credentialing.

Extended Abstract

Innovative approaches to professional development through competency based education and smaller grain size measures of learning are relevant in the marketplace based on the changing landscape of Higher Education and the needs of employers. Changes in the approach to professional development within many careers impact validation of initial licenses and advancement of knowledge and skills; for example, teachers, administrators, nurses, marketing, advertising, digital literacy, communications, etc.


Micro-credentials (MC) are an innovative approach to professional development within a variety of career settings that align with the demands for quality online learning, easily accessible on demand timeframes, and sharable digital representations of competency learning. Micro-credentials are digital representations of educational achievements that identify the issuing institution / organization that issued the micro-credentials, the specific competencies attained, and how mastery of the competencies was achieved.  The focus of learning is rooted in the application of content knowledge within a specific professional setting. Within a Micro-credential experience, participants demonstrate mastery through assigned project based activities; submit artifacts of reflection, participant learning, video evidence, data, etc. There is an expectation that the participant applies the learning.  Through instructor feedback, participants receive coaching through verification of competency.



Micro credentials, also known as badges are purely a digital online record of achievement that can be shared on a global level. Successful demonstration of competency through the Micro-credential experience are issued in the form of a badge by the institution; participants can share their badge on their linkedin, social media, with employers, etc. Integrated Badges are defined as integrated competency-based digital badges that can be awarded at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level within courses and programs. Integrated badges are integrated into current credit bearing courses offered by the university. Participants may or may not be enrolled in a program to earn a badge; however, badges are awarded as a result of the participant demonstrating competency and earning a grade of B- or higher / Pass on a specific assessment. This approach to badges allows the university to offer badges if they follow an agreed upon process for awarding badges. The benefit of integrated badges is that the participants can earn micro-credentials represented as badges as they earn their degree. Employers can view competencies achieved prior to completing the degree.


Participants in this session will learn about our Micro-credential case studies, engage in a discussion about the marketplace professional development needs and changes in higher education, and review our step-by-step Micro-credential guide and website. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and reflect on their own organization’s current and future practices for innovative professional development offerings.


Presenters will share a research-based step-by-step guide that includes processes and instructional templates for developing a Micro-credential experience that participants can utilize within their institutions. The first section of the guidebook includes a FAQ sheet that defines micro-credentials and badges, describes how Micro-credentials are similar and different from a course, clarifies participant populations, and outlines the steps to submit a proposal to our organization to design a Micro-credential. There is a need to establish a procedure for submitting proposals within large organizations so that branding, validating, and consistency of offerings follow the mission and vision of the organization. The second section of the guide includes a research -based Micro-credential planning template with examples that align with best practices in teaching and assessment of participants understanding. Within an organization, it is essential that the Micro-credential experiences are designed in a consistent manner to ensure grain size and provide consistency among both the Micro-credential designers and participants who would engage in the Micro-credential experience. The third section includes a meta-data proposal form with examples. The meta-data information, a summary of the MC experience, is stored within the digital badge and is shareable with outside organizations and employers. Meta-data includes Micro-credential experience content, key methods, evidence of learning with rubrics. The fourth section includes a visual example of what a Micro-credentials experience looks like on the online Canvas Learning Management System. This section includes how to utilize Quality Matters standards to develop the online learning experience that includes participant engagement, developing an understanding, and evidence of learning. Each of the sections of the guidebook provide ease of planning and implementation for a potential author of a Micro-credential within an organization.