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Workforce Readiness

EdX Advisory Council Calls for Short-Term Credential Programs, Industry-Aligned Curricula

Learning platform edX recently convened the first (virtual) meeting of its MicroBachelors Program Skills Advisory Council, a group launched in early 2020 that brings together foundations, corporations and academic institutions to "solve shared challenges around reskilling and upskilling in order to address the demands of the future workplace."  

Attendees included leaders from academic institutions offering MicroBachelors programs on edX; representatives from American Student Assistance, Walmart and Boeing (all funders of the MicroBachelors program initiative); and guests from IBM, ZipRecruiter, Raytheon and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Discussions in the meeting centered on two key areas: credentials and content. "There is a real market need for short-term programs that offer immediate payoff to students and companies," the council asserted. "It is important to foster collaboration between corporations and academic institutions to evaluate the quality and rigor of credential programs like the MicroBachelors programs in order to increase learner adoption and company recognition. Credit-bearing credentials are critical. Not only do they allow employers to invest in their employees' future and education, but the credit also provides an additional layer of trust; these programs are from accredited institutions and the rigorous content provides learning that employees can apply on the job.

As for content, "Programs must have a robust curriculum aligned with priorities for companies," the council said. "To achieve this, faculty and corporate L&D experts will need to work together to define what success looks like for the student, university and company. Sharing skills pathways that tie to promotions and greater job opportunities internally at companies can inform the curriculum so that learners can immediately apply skills and knowledge they learn as they go through a MicroBachelors program, not just upon completion. It is important to create content in subject areas that align with entry-level skills across industries and workplaces. To do this, companies and universities can work together to identify what emerging and baseline subject areas should be focused on. In addition, creating programs that stack naturally on top of each other — either as a credit pathway or career pathway — is key."

"When initially announced, the council's goal was to identify the core skills and learning pathways that MicroBachelors programs should deliver on," noted Nina Huntemann, edX vice president of learning, in a statement. "Now, as we face both a global pandemic and an economic downturn, the council plays an even bigger role in informing and creating MicroBachelors programs that offer meaningful solutions for those who need flexible, affordable and relevant education the most."

Findings from the council meeting will "directly inform the development of new MicroBachelors programs in the coming months," edX said.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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