From Badges to Micro-Credentials: a Modern Approach to Skill Development

Touro University System's micro-credentials and digital badges are a great opportunity to expand knowledge and skills.

September 22, 2023
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If you have never heard of a digital badge or micro-credential, it’s a form of accreditation that Touro University California (TUC) uses for situations where a full degree may not be necessary, but some formal training in the area is useful. 

“Think of micro-credential as being like a small certificate or a degree and a badge like a course of some kind,” says Dr. Michael Barbour, the coordinator for Micro-Credentials@Touro (a Touro University System [TUS] initiative). “You could do these things one off as opposed to having to put them all together in a degree program all the time.”

Badges are digital images with embedded code ensuring their authenticity and contain verification that a course was completed. In some instances, badges can be combined to earn micro-credentials, which mirror traditional degree structures.

Think of getting a driver’s license as a micro-credential made up of three badges: a badge for passing the written test, driving assessment, and vision exam.

Touro badges span categories like experiential, skills, noncredit, and credit. Experiential badges are largely based on attendance, for example getting a badge for attending a professional learning session, whereas skill-based badges emphasize practical skill demonstration.

Badges symbolize learning experiences that can range from a few hours to several weeks’ worth of learning. When the required learning requirements are met, you are automatically awarded a badge, which can be stacked to earn a micro-credential. This system allows learners to acquire specific skills or knowledge without having to complete an entire degree program. It can also supplement a degree with more nuanced learning on a specific subset of topics.

The Public Health department at TUC offers several courses to add expertise, like the Public Health Workforce micro-credential that focuses on practical skills for community public health workers, but also badges through the annual Social Justice in Public Health series. Each year covers a topic that intersects social justice with public health this year focusing on the effects of technology, completion of series qualifies for a digital badge. The Graduate School of Education also offers a Community Equity micro-credential for educators address systemic injustice issues, as well as a lecture series of their own.

Badges and micro-credentials are crucial in addressing the gap between knowledge and practical skills for professional development post-graduation. They offer a flexible way to upskill without committing to a full degree.

“If I’m a practicing M.D. or D.O. or P.A., I don’t need another master’s degree for my profession, but I think COVID taught us that a better understanding in public health is probably not a bad thing for a medical professional to have,” says Barbour of the kinds of training that badges allow for. “We can take out that one class on a topic that didn't exist pre-pandemic or that didn't exist prior to 2015 when you may have gotten your degree, and we can attach a badge to that and provide that learning for folks in the field that don't have it.”