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More Students Are 'Stacking' Credentials en Route to a Degree


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young man wearing mask using laptop computer

Microcredential programs can cost far less than conventional two- and four-year colleges and universities.

Credit: Dimitar Dilkoff / Wired

The economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic is giving non-traditional education programs, known variously as "stackable credentials" or "microcredentials," a burst of momentum. Under the programs, students get a credential in a skill they need, then another, and another. Each can quickly pay off on its own by helping to get a job, raise, or promotion. Over time, they can add up to a bachelor's degree.

The concept allows students to gather education quickly, at a low cost, in subjects directly relevant to available jobs.

Enrollment in the the stackable information technology bachelor's program offered by Western Governors University has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic. The number taking microcredential programs from edX, an online course provider that also offers a microcredential program, rose to 65,000 by the end of April, a 14-fold increase since early March.

"People are looking for shorter forms of learning during this time," says Anant Agarwal, CEO of edX. "The ability to earn a microcredential within a few months and improve their potential to get hired as we come out of Covid becomes much more important."

From Wired
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