(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has joined an academic movement that is transforming higher education, adding a total of 17 “micro-credentials” that are designed to recognize individual skillsets or competencies of both degree-seeking and non-degree-seeking students. The certifications provide opportunities for existing students and for mid-career learners seeking to expand their options.
SOU’s micro-credentials range from Cinema Production Technology to Foundations of Professional Writing to Values-based Leadership. Most of the new micro-credentials require about 12 credit hours of coursework – which can stand alone or count toward students’ degree requirements. Some include community workshops, service learning or other opportunities to apply skills and knowledge.
“Micro-credentials provide our students another very useful tool to demonstrate their academic and occupational abilities,” said Susan Walsh, SOU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Employers are increasingly looking for particular skills, along with broad knowledge and the ability to innovate. These micro-credentials certify students’ mastery of very distinct areas of study, and can be equally valuable to undergraduates wanting to strengthen their degree programs and to adult learners looking to boost their careers.”
Micro-credentials, whose acceptance has grown quickly over the past several years among U.S. colleges and universities, allow students to craft what have been called “t-shaped” educational experiences – the broad, horizontal base of their academic majors combined with deep, vertical concentrations in one or more specialized areas of study. They are typically brief, accessible programs that are considered “stackable” as learners achieve sets of discrete, demonstrable areas of expertise based on their career needs, professional goals or personal interests.
SOU, like most institutions offering micro-credentials, awards digital badges to those who complete the mini-certifications. Digital badges can be shared through social media, email signatures or electronic resumes.
The micro-credential programs currently offered by SOU – with more expected to be added – are Cinema Production Technology; Community Planning; Digital Security; EDI: Gender, Indigeneity, & Sexuality; Environmental Research & Data Analysis; Foundations of Professional Writing; Foundations of School Mental and Behavioral Health; Foundations of Sustainability and Tourism; Geographic Information Systems (GIS; Network Technology; Project Management; Set Skills for Cinema Production; Social Media Strategy; Story Development for Screenwriting; Sustainable Food Systems; Team Leadership and Collaboration; and Values-Based Leadership.