The Lab’s 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials

After years of research and on-the-ground work with academia, students, employers, assessment providers, and technologists, the Lab designed a rigorous set of eight micro-credentials that transform the way learners recognize, activate, and display in-demand skills.

More than 800 higher ed institutions and 125 K-12 districts are using our micro-credentials via a free toolkit released by the Lab two years ago—we’ve recently released version two of the original toolkit, vsbl, a platform that allows multiple options for institutions to employ the Lab’s micro-credentials. The credentials are currently being used in some 40 pilots around the world that are implemented in a variety of models.

Each of the 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials represent a core 21st century skill. To earn a micro-credential, a learner must demonstrate proficiency via a performance-based assessment in four core sub-competencies. Once a learner successfully completes the four assessments, they are awarded a digital badge.

  • Initiative

    Initiative in the 21st century includes self-efficacy and the capacity to identify needs and respond proactively.
  • Creative Problem-Solving

    Creative problem-solving in the 21st century workplace includes the capacity to solve problems in new ways.
  • Collaboration

    Collaboration in the 21st century includes the capacity to work productively with different individuals and groups toward a common goal.
  • Intercultural Fluency

    Intercultural fluency in the 21st century includes the capacity to operate and communicate in different cultural contexts.
  • Resilience

    Resilience in the 21st century includes the capacity to learn from experience and the capacity to adapt.
  • Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking in the 21st century includes the capacity to reason logically and rigorously.
  • Oral Communication

    Oral communication in the 21st century includes the capacity to speak with clarity and precision and understand and recognize nonverbal cues.
  • Empathy

    Empathy in the 21st century includes the capacity to understand others' perspectives and feelings and to use this understanding to improve the quality of personal and professional relationships, behaviors, team cohesion, and performance.

Our Micro-credential Framework is Unique

By unbundling each skill, the Lab has identified discrete skills that allow learners to practice and demonstrate mastery on each skill with greater precision.   

The Lab is committed to updating this framework as needed and will continue to use what we learn through our direct work with stakeholders to inform our thinking and the badge-earning experience.

We’re testing our micro-credentials with institutions, learners, and employers in BadgedToHire + with our Badging Fellows.

Learn More About Our Pedagogy

Become a 21st Century Skills Facilitator

Issuing the Lab’s 21st Century Skills Micro-credentials requires the completion of our facilitator training. It is a self-paced, online learning experience, approximately 4-6 hours in duration. It is a community experience with colleagues around the world. Upon successful completion, learners are awarded a badge, issued by Education Design Lab.

Interested in Using Our Micro-credentials?

Launching a scalable micro-credentialing initiative can be a complex undertaking. We offer everything from 2-day sprints to 6-month, even year-long engagements to co-design custom scalable solutions for your unique organizational needs. Developing a digital microcredential strategy?  Want to build your own badges?  We can do that, too. The Lab’s team of experts will meet your unique needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a badge and a micro-credential?

An educational credential is awarded upon successful completion of an identified scope of learning. The scope tends to be broad and encompassing (e.g., a diploma, degree or certification). A micro-credential is more focused, discrete and, if you measure learning by seat time or instructional hours, shorter in duration than a credential. Successful learning done to earn a micro-credential can be awarded in the form of a digital badge. A digital badge is a validated indicator of a mastered accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest that can be earned in many learning environments (HASTAC). It is the portable, transferable technology used to display the successful completion of learning and the digital format includes metadata that communicates details to others such as an employer.

What makes the Lab’s micro-credentials unique?

The Lab’s micro-credentials were co-designed with 20 colleges and 60 employers and target the most in-demand universal skills in the emerging job market of the future. Beyond the methodical process used to design them, what makes the Lab’s micro-credentials unique is the set of “core four” sub-competencies associated with each skill. Every skill has a more discrete set of skills associated with it (e.g., playing soccer requires stamina, footwork, agility, etc.). 21st century skills are no different. Identifying these “core four” skills allows individuals to get a better handle on their skills and target areas for continued growth and improvement.

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