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Published on November 8th, 2019 | by University Communications

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Saint Leo to launch a new pathway for learning

This spring, Saint Leo University will officially become a higher-education provider of a micro-credentials program, an emerging teaching approach designed to meet the lifelong learning needs of students.

Micro-credentialing is a way for individuals to quickly learn a specific set of skills through a series of quality, self-paced or instructor-led courses. Upon completion, students receive a micro-credit or badge to signify their new competency. This can then be included on students’ resumes or social media profiles to show that they have invested in learning a new skill.

More and more, working professionals are enrolling in these skills-based programs to stay relevant with changes taking place in their industry or profession. For example, with the increased need for security and emergency preparedness, security personnel may feel the need to enhance their skills and knowledge in security management. Or, leaders of nonprofit organizations may want to learn more about grant writing to attract new revenue streams for their organizations.

In other areas of concern, employers are seeing gaps in their employees’ skills like communication, team building, problem solving, or creativity. These “power skills” or “durable skills,” once more commonly known as “soft skills,” are now in growing demand. The lack of these skills in the workplace is responsible for what is often referred to as “the skills gap.” So micro-credentials can assist those in the workforce in upskilling in a number of focused areas, without the time or financial commitment of getting an additional degree.

In fact, because of the rapid acceleration of change in industry, research tells us that professional skills can become obsolete in as little as four years, ushering in a new age of lifelong learning. To help build a micro-credentialing program at Saint Leo University, the Center for Alternative Pathways was established this fall. Led by Dr. Cindy Lee, the center is currently piloting a micro-credentialing program on grantsmanship in partnership with the Ocala Education Center, which will help the Center for Alternative Pathways test and refine the program for long-term success.

The goal is for the Center for Alternative Pathways to offer 10 or more programs by the time it launches in late spring. Lee says it is important not to compare Saint Leo University’s micro-credentialing program to a typical college course. Micro-credentialing courses are often part of ongoing professional development offered as non-credit instruction, though in some cases these credentials may take credit-bearing form as well.

The cost for each credential also varies, based on the market rate for the skill area and the depth of the material. Some micro-credentials may be completed in as little as 12 hours of work, while others may take an additional commitment lasting several weeks. In all cases, Saint Leo micro-credentials will contain specific learning outcomes and assessments to demonstrate to employers that students have learned the specific skill.

“This is a completely new program that will help Saint Leo reach an entirely new group of learners,” said Lee. “Employers tell us that they need resources and support to fill the gaps in their employees’ skill levels, and through micro-credentialing, we can help them accomplish this.”

More information about the Center for Alternative Pathways can be found on our website; click here. Additional information about the official launch of the center and program will be shared with the university community and public in the upcoming months.

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