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In higher education a microdegree, also microcredentials and micromasters, is a qualification[1] focused upon a specified professional or career discipline and typically comprises one or more sources of accelerated educational experiences. Microdegrees are a single manifestation of Competency Based Education (CBE) which seeks to tie credentialing to specific skills sets.[2] Micro-credentials may be completed on-site, online or in a blended format.[3]

Microcredentials including microdegrees act as a pointer to the criteria for and demonstration of the skills represented by the microcredential. Because the credentials are presented in a digital format, they can be parsed automatically for verification over the web and allow for a greater level of granularity than a traditional paper transcript. Microdegrees meet the criteria for Open Educational Data defined by the U.S. Department of Education.[4]

Within the hierarchy of educational credentials microdegrees are considered to be "certificates" requiring a lower level of commitment and rigor than a traditional degree program but serving an important role as a vocational credential.[5][6]

Microcredentials may have a credit value at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, and this may be used towards undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications.[7] or potentially at another university (subject to the agreement of the receiving institution).

The advent of the microdegree is presented by its promoters as a challenge to the existing degree model as it permits students to utilize accelerated, free and low cost programs to earn credentials of direct relevance to their interests and career ambitions.[8][9][10][11][12]

Microdegrees and other microcredentials are also seen as a system to facilitate and record lifelong learning.[13] A significant percentage of microdegree students are working adults seeking career change or advancement.[14][15]

Some institutions that offer microdegree programs describe themselves as a "Micro College".[16][17][18]

In recent years, MOOC platforms have started expanding their offerings of microcredentials as viable substitutes, going as far as offering a blended education model. Such programs allow graduates of the respective microcredential programs to have a reduced residency period at traditional universities.[19] Universities like MIT have started admitting its first batch of students in supply chain management at a reduced five-month residency period through their blended learning initiatives on the edX platform with the launch of its MicroMasters program.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A3, EAC (2020-12-11). "A European approach to micro-credentials". Education and Training - European Commission. Retrieved 2021-09-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "MOOCs and Credentialing: A Revolutionary Perspective". EdCircuit.com. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  3. ^ A3, EAC (2020-12-11). "A European approach to micro-credentials". Education and Training - European Commission. Retrieved 2021-09-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ DOE, U.S. (2015-04-09). "Open Data". ed.goc. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  5. ^ Fain, Paul (2012-06-06). "Certificates are misunderstood credentials that pay off - mostly for men". InsideHigherEd.com. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  6. ^ Leonhardt, David (2015-03-05). "Here's What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  8. ^ "Traditional college degrees could face 'serious competition' as online 'microdegrees' emerge, website reports". NOLA.com. 2015-02-24. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  9. ^ "How Google and Coursera may upend the traditional college degree | Brookings Institution". Brookings.edu. 2015-02-23. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  10. ^ "Meet the New, Self-Appointed MOOC Accreditors: Google and Instagram – Wired Campus - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education". Chronicle.com. 2015-02-11. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  11. ^ "MOOC Sightings 003: FutureLearn, Microdegrees, 'Open Internet' | Educational Technology and Change Journal". Etcjournal.com. 2015-02-25. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  12. ^ "How to Make Micro Credentials Matter | EdSurge News". Edsurge.com. 2 February 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  13. ^ "Micro-Credentials: Empowering Lifelong Learners". Edutopia.org. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  14. ^ Young, Jeffrey R. (March 9, 2015). "PhD or Microdegree?". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2015-03-09.
  15. ^ "Degrees Converting Into Lifelong Learning, in Kaplan A.(2021) Higher Education at the Crossroads of Disruption, The University of the 21st Century". Emerald. Retrieved 2021-04-19.
  16. ^ "Micro-Colleges and the Pop-Up University". Hastac.org. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  17. ^ "Trimming the Fat – Introducing the Lean Micro-College Model". www.futuristspeaker.com. 29 September 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  18. ^ "DaVinci Coders given Microdegree-granting authority for its software coding courses". Innovationnews.com. 10 April 2015. Retrieved 2015-04-10.
  19. ^ Gordon, Adam. "'MicroMasters' Surge As MOOCs Go From Education To Qualification". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
  20. ^ "MIT MicroMasters Begins On-Campus Phase -- Campus Technology". Campus Technology. Retrieved 2018-03-09.