September 27, 2020 | programming | No Comments
In two years, students can earn an associate degree in remotely piloted aircraft systems or in culinary arts management at Mohawk Valley Community College.
But after only three to five courses, they can earn a micro-credential in data analysis, maintenance or operations for remotely piloted aircraft system; in-kitchen competencies, introduction to baking or advanced baking; in code academy; or in IT support professional.
Micro-credentials are a cluster of courses that teach a specific skill sought by area employers. MVCC awarded micro-credentials to its first students — in kitchen competencies — in July.
“With the addition of micro-credentials, we are able to offer credentials through competency-based training, allowing students to enter or return to the workforce with enhanced skills in a shorter timeframe than the traditional degree or certificate,” said Lew Kahler, vice president for learning and academic affairs, in a statement. “In today’s workforce, having the flexibility to offer and complete such training is essential to building a stronger community.”
And MVCC is working to get more micro-credential programs in place in the areas of welding, machining, industrial controls, carpentry and masonry, said Tim Thomas, assistant vice president for academic affairs. Those programs should be available by next fall and possibly as early as this spring, he said.
The coming of Cree Inc., which is building a silicon-carbide wafer fabrication facility in Marcy, should bring new opportunities for more micro-credential programs to add new skills to technicians’ degrees, Thomas said.
“Our academic programming constantly is in flux because we pride ourselves in our ability to meet the workforce demands of the region,” he noted.
Micro-credentials are used by a number of SUNY colleges — many of them community colleges with programs similar to MVCC’s, although Herkimer County Community College does not offer micro-credentials. But four-year colleges offer them, too, including programs for undergraduates and programs for graduate students.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute, with campuses in Albany and Marcy, is working to put micro-credentials into place, including one that’s particularly timely given the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the strengths of our online (Master of Science) program in information design and technology is in online instruction, which is very timely in this current era of distance learning,” said Andy Russell, dean of the SUNY Poly College of Arts and Sciences in an email. “From kindergarten through graduate programs, every teacher is trying to find better ways to deliver engaging educational experiences online. We are actively working on the implementation of a micro-credential in online instructional design.
“And we’re eager to work with community partners to build out this and other micro-credentials that feed into the (information design and technology) master’s degree, including information design, digital culture, and online research methods.”
At MVCC, micro-credentials can help students in a number of situations, Thomas said.
They can give students a particular marketable skill that lets them start working right away, he said. Students can then work while finishing their associate degree or take a break from education, but come back and finish their degree sometime in the future, he said.
The second scenario just formalizes something students already are doing, taking time off from college and coming back for more courses again and again over the years, Thomas said.
Micro-credentials also can just give a specific, complementary skill to students earning an associate degree in a different field, say a criminal justice major who wants to become a police officer, but earns a micro-credential in drone flight, he said.
They also can be used to train workers for a new skill they need on their job, such as a NYSEG worker who needs to learn how to process drone data after a company switches from helicopter searches to drone searches to find vegetation growing on power lines, Thomas said.
MVCC was among the first to start talking about micro-credentials for undergraduate about five years ago, he said.
“I think it’s pretty cool that we were ahead of the game there,” he said, “so our conversations were able to inform what SUNY’s idea of micro-credentials has become.”