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In higher education a microdegree, also microcredentials and micromasters, is a qualification [1] focused upon a specified professional or career discipline and typically comprises one or more sources of accelerated educational experiences. Microdegrees are a single manifestation of Competency Based Education (CBE) which seeks to tie credentialing to specific skills sets. [2] Micro-credentials may be completed on-site, online or in a blended format. [3]

Microcredentials including microdegrees act as a pointer to the criteria for and demonstration of the skills represented by the microcredential. Because the credentials are presented in a digital format, they can be parsed automatically for verification over the web and allow for a greater level of granularity than a traditional paper transcript. Microdegrees meet the criteria for Open Educational Data defined by the U.S. Department of Education. [4]

Within the hierarchy of educational credentials microdegrees are considered to be "certificates" requiring a lower level of commitment and rigor than a traditional degree program but serving an important role as a vocational credential. [5] [6]

Microcredentials may have a credit value at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, and this may be used towards undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications. [7] or potentially at another university (subject to the agreement of the receiving institution).

The advent of the microdegree is presented by its promoters as a challenge to the existing degree model as it permits students to utilize accelerated, free and low cost programs to earn credentials of direct relevance to their interests and career ambitions. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

Microdegrees and other microcredentials are also seen as a system to facilitate and record lifelong learning. [13] A significant percentage of microdegree students are working adults seeking career change or advancement. [14] [15]

Some institutions that offer Microdegree programs describe themselves as a "Micro College". [16] [17] [18]

In recent years, MOOC platforms have started expanding their offerings of microcredentials as viable substitutes, going as far as offering a blended education model. Such programs allow graduates of the respective microcredential programs to have a reduced residency period at traditional universities. [19] Universities like MIT have started admitting its first batch of students in supply chain management at a reduced 5-month residency period through their blended learning initiatives on the edX platform with the launch of its Micromasters program. [20]

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Distance education Mode of delivering education to students who are not physically present

Distance education, also known as distance learning, is the education of students who may not always be physically present at a school. Traditionally, this usually involved correspondence courses wherein the student corresponded with the school via mail. Today, it usually involves online education. A distance learning program can be completely distance learning, or a combination of distance learning and traditional classroom instruction.

Lifelong learning is the "ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated" pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. It is important for an individual's competitiveness and employability, but also enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development.

Higher education in the United States is an optional stage of formal learning following secondary education. Higher education is also referred as post-secondary education, third-stage, third-level, or tertiary education. It covers stages 5 to 8 on the International ISCED 2011 scale. It is delivered at 4,360 Title IV degree-granting institutions, known as colleges or universities. These may be public or private universities, research universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, or for-profit colleges. US higher education is loosely regulated by the government and by several third-party organizations.

American College of Healthcare Sciences For-profit online holistic health distance educational institute in Portland, Oregon, United States

The American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) is based in Portland, Oregon and specializes in online holistic health distance education, founded in 1978. ACHS is a Certified B Corporation and accredited, for-profit college with accredited online certificates, degrees, and microcredentials in aromatherapy, herbal medicine, holistic nutrition, wellness coaching, and integrative health modalities.

University of Washington Continuum College

University of Washington Continuum College, formerly Educational Outreach is the continuing education and professional development unit of the University of Washington (UW), in Seattle, Washington. Founded in 1912, UW Continuum College was originally the branch of the university offering correspondence courses. Today, this UW unit provides wide-ranging programs for non-traditional and lifelong learning students, including degree programs, certificate programs and select courses through UW Professional & Continuing Education, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), UW in the High School, UW Summer Quarter, UW Summer Youth, UW International & English Language Programs, Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning at the UW, and Conference Services. The programs provided are fee-based and self-sustaining and do not receive state funds for support.

University of Massachusetts Global

University of Massachusetts Global, formerly known as Brandman University, is a private nonprofit university with 25 campuses throughout California and Washington and a virtual campus. The university offers more than 90 degree, certificate, credential and professional programs for working adults. Brandman was a separate, regionally-accredited university within the Chapman University system. In September 2021, Brandman separated from the Chapman University system, and formed a new affiliation with the University of Massachusetts, UMass Global. UMass Global retained its regional accreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission. Gary Brahm is the appointed chancellor of the university.

Massive open online course Education service on the web

A massive open online course or an open online course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the Web. In addition to traditional course materials, such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive courses with user forums or social media discussions to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants (TAs), as well as immediate feedback to quick quizzes and assignments. MOOCs are a widely researched development in distance education, first introduced in 2008, that emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012.

Digital learning is any type of learning that is accompanied by technology or by instructional practice that makes effective use of technology. It encompasses the application of a wide spectrum of practices, including blended and virtual learning.

Digital badges are a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in various learning environments.

edX Online education provider

edX is an American massive open online course (MOOC) provider created by Harvard and MIT. It hosts online university-level courses in a wide range of disciplines to a worldwide student body, including some courses at no charge. It also conducts research into learning based on how people use its platform. edX runs on the free Open edX open-source software platform. 2U is the parent company, with edX operating as its global online learning platform and primary brand for products and services.

MITx is the massive open online course (MOOC) program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A constituent program of MIT’s Office of Digital Learning, MITx produces MOOCs from MIT departments and faculty that appear on the edX platform. MITx also supports residential experiments with scalable learning technologies and research on digital learning. MOOCs offered through edX by MITx are open-enrollment and free to take. In September 2012, edX and MITx introduced the option to receive an ID verified certificate on some courses.

National University (California) Private university in the United States

National University (NU) is a private university with its headquarters in San Diego, California. Founded in 1971, National University offers academic degree programs at campuses throughout California, a satellite campus in Nevada, and various programs online. Programs at National University are designed for adult learners. On-campus classes are typically blended learning courses, concentrated to four weeks or on weeknights with occasional Saturday classes. The university uses asynchronous learning and real-time virtual classrooms for its online programs.

FutureLearn is a British digital education platform founded in December 2012. The company is jointly owned by The Open University and SEEK Ltd. It is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), ExpertTrack, microcredential and Degree learning platform. As of November included over 250 UK and international partners, including industry and government partners.

Concentric Sky is a software development company located in Eugene, Oregon. The company was founded in 2005 by Wayne Skipper, and grew to nearly 90 employees prior its sale to Instructure in April 2022. In 2015, Cale Bruckner was promoted to President of the company. Skipper continued to serve as CEO until the company's sale. Concentric Sky is the maker of Badgr and is a well-known contributor to the development of open technology standards focused on advancing equity outcomes for learners and workers.

Online learning in higher education Development in distance education that began in the mid-1980s

Online learning involves courses offered by primary institutions that are 100% virtual. Online learning, or virtual classes offered over the internet, is contrasted with traditional courses taken in a brick-and-mortar school building. It is a development in distance education that expanded in the 1990s with the spread of the commercial Internet and the World Wide Web. The learner experience is typically asynchronous but may also incorporate synchronous elements. The vast majority of institutions utilize a learning management system for the administration of online courses. As theories of distance education evolve, digital technologies to support learning and pedagogy continue to transform as well.

University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) is an American non-profit association for professional, continuing, and online higher education, mostly engaged in adult education. It was established in 1915 and has more than 400 member institutions, and 12,000 individuals.

Online credentials for learning are digital credentials that are offered in place of traditional paper credentials for a skill or educational achievement. They are directly linked to the accelerated development of internet communication technologies, the development of digital badges, electronic passports and massive open online courses (MOOCs).

MicroMasters programs are a series of online graduate level courses offered by universities through edX that one can take to develop standalone skills for career advancement or earn graduate level credentials.

MIT Open Learning is an Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) organization, headed by Sanjay Sarma, that oversees several MIT educational initiatives, such as MIT Open CourseWare, MITx, MicroMasters, MIT Bootcamps and others.

XuetangX is a massive open online course (MOOC) platform. It offers online courses in multiple disciplines and also certificate and degree programs. Launched on 10 October 2013 as the first Chinese MOOC platform, XuetangX was initiated by Tsinghua University and MOE Research Center for Online Education, for the purposes of communication and the application of research in the field of online education.


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