NSF Grant to Establish Partnership at UMW for Micro-Credentialing Research

A National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator award will position the University at Buffalo (UB) with partner institution the University of Montana Western as national leaders in micro-credentialing research. Micro-credentialing is a digital system used by universities, businesses and other organizations to recognize knowledge, skills, and accomplishments in ways that can be easily shared by recipients online.

Justin Mason

Justin A. Mason, Director of eLearning and Academic Technology at the University of Montana Western.

The research program, “A Universal Framework of Micro-Credentials for Nation-Wide Employment,” is under the direction of Sam Abramovich, Anne E. Reed, Director of UB’s Office of Micro-Credentials, and Justin A. Mason, Director of eLearning and Academic Technology at the University of Montana Western. The $417,000 grant will allow educators at each institution to identify processes where stakeholders can design ways to use micro-credentials to recognize individual talents, measure abilities, and provide formative feedback to learners.

“At the most basic level, micro-credentials verify, validate and attest that specific skills and/or competencies have been achieved, along with providing feedback for learning that is traditionally not assessed,” says Abramovich, director of the UB Open Education Research Lab and associate professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction in UB’s Graduate School of Education.

“I would like to encourage anyone on the University of Montana Western campus or in the community who is interested and could help us to identify potential partnerships with businesses, non-profits, and other educational institutions to reach out to me as we begin this exciting project,” said Justin Mason.

The partnerships between the institutions will allow for the comparison of micro-credentialing systems in both urban and rural settings. At Montana Western, the project will support both a project coordinator and instructional designer to oversee the research and outreach components of the project in collaboration with Mason. A kick-off event will be held in December at UMW, and anyone interested in the project is invited to attend.

“A micro-credential is like a certificate but is more granular, based on specific skills and contains evidence of an individual’s learning and accomplishments,” said Mason.

Micro-credentials are built on assessments that reliably show an individual has a particular skill or experience,” says Abramovich, “and they are especially useful for showcasing abilities and knowledge that are not obvious from looking at a job applicant’s formal qualifications on their resumé.”

Research in the grant will focus on the processes, procedures and resources necessary to implement micro-credentials. Educators will also study the best ways the “multi-stakeholder” design teams operate, then use this research to develop theory and operational findings on how micro-credentials can be designed to “ensure quality, sustainability and stakeholder acceptance.”

“Higher education has incredible expertise in identifying and assessing learning, and we think that colleges and universities can play a central role in making micro-credentials widely useful,” said Abramovich.

For more information, please contact Justin Mason, Director of eLearning and Academic Technology at the University of Montana Western, by calling 406-683-7536 or email justin.mason1@umwestern.edu.

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