Northwestern Polytechnic campus in Grande Prairie, Alta. on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Photo by Jesse Boily)Jesse Boily

Original Published on Jul 07, 2022 at 09:47

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Northwestern Polytechnic (NWP) Continuing Education is expanding its programming by adding micro-credential courses.

Horse Lake First Nation initiated the first micro-credential course to train its community members to better support the Clear Hills Youth Treatment Centre.

“The definition (for micro-credentials) we use is it’s a thing that learners can get skills quickly, and get them to work quickly,” said Michelle Wallace, NWP Continuing Education associate dean.

The programs are flexible, so students can learn the skills they need to be ready for work.

“Instead of a student having to come on campus for the entire term or take an online course for an entire term, they’re able to get it done in three weekends,” said Wallace.

“Learners are demanding that flexibility.”

The first NWP micro-credential course was the Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) course.

The ELCC and Indigenous Services departments worked together to adapt the CD1050 credit course, Art, Music and Story, into a micro-credential that incorporated indigenous components.

The course would usually be taught over an entire term (four months), but it was packaged into three weekends every two weeks.

The first course was delivered to 20 Western Cree Tribal Council students.

“This course is successful because it removes traditional walls of education and offers a unique experience that can be applied directly into programs,” said Laura Tangen, Horse Lake First Nation School principal and director of Awasis Day Care.

Tangen taught the first NWP micro credential course in January and February.

“Building a wonderfully sculpted micro-credential has broken down many of the barriers to achieving post-secondary education goals,” she said.

“The reality is that people are working, they have families, they have all these other responsibilities as well, so having that flexibility to know that they can still pursue training in bite-sized pieces or with asynchronous delivery or all of those types of things make it a lot more attainable,” said Wallace.

The micro-credential course gives students credit, so if they decide to move on for formal certification later, they do not need to repeat the course.

“What we’re finding with a lot of the micro-credentials is that laddering potential is really appealing to a lot of learners,” said Wallace. “(It’s) knowing that what you’re doing now can have some benefit in the future as well or that potential should you choose to do that.”

The ELCC micro-credential course will now be offered to the public, along with additional courses such as a Microsoft Office micro-credential.

“We took a traditional course that we’d be offering on the office administration certificate side, and broken it into three bite-sized modules of about 15 hours each, so taking a 45-hour course and breaking it into three modules,” said Wallace.

She explained that learners can choose what they want to learn from the course or take the complete course for the credit.

The micro-credential courses are being offered asynchronously and face-to-face to best suit students’ needs.

“Asynchronous will be helpful for those students that come can’t come to campus,” said Wallace.

“This initiative was so successful because it allowed students to complete an entire course with minimal interruption to their daily routines and home lives,” said Tangen. “I know that many of the students are employed full-time throughout the week, have young children at home, and have to travel a fair distance from their home communities to participate.”

Wallace said Continuing Education is in the process of creating more micro-credential courses potentially with their business administration programs for human resources, bookkeeping, and partnering for courses like nutrition.

“I think in the years to come, we’re going to see a lot more; it’s going to become more mainstream, for sure,” said Wallace.

This item reprinted with permission from Town & Country News, Beaverlodge, Alberta