Ten years ago Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) began offering year long, coached, professional learning that was:

– Personalized and self-directed
– Focused on the needs of our learners and their learners
– Strength based and appreciative|
– Job embedded and practical

Unrelated to that work, more recently Digital Promise designers created an info-graphic to explain the benefits they saw in micro-credentials. (Digital Promise) This graphic (on the left) is a slice out of that info-graphic. As I studied the Digital Promise info-graphic and reflected on the micro-credentials they are offering on Bloomboard, it hit me, THIS is what is missing!

Let me explain.

PLP’s journey started out with year-long learning within a bounded cohort immersed in an online community of inquiry. It was deep, intense, and some likened it to graduate level work. Appreciative inquiry trained coaches worked with teams who developed action research projects as they co-created their way through five learning cycles. Great stuff for sure. Only one problem- our clients wanted something less intensive. I remember a conversation where someone told me, “Sheryl your company’s PD is outstanding. But do we have to marry you? Can’t we just date you?”

Blended Learning

With that we created shorter versions of the year long learning. We still immersed learners within networks and communities but made it more “course like” with an abbreviated timeline. PLP’s instructor led courses were different than typical online learning and our evaluations were great. We allowed learners to take their own self directed journey by individualizing the syllabus to meet the needs and interests of the learner. We also put connected coaches in the courses who helped learners reflect deeply about what they wanted to learn and how they would show mastery of the learning. In other words our professional learning was personalized and competency based. Our problem remained –  it was still too intense for some and clients requested we lighten up again.

Self Paced Learning

That led us to creating self paced courses with videos. No instructor. No coaches. No checking behind you to make sure you did the learning, Rather we created courses with great content and creative suggestions for activities you could do to deepen the learning called “Try It and “Think About” sections which allowed for reflection of what individuals were learning in the application pieces.

As I watched the analytics for these courses I began to notice that many folks just wanted to get through the content. They spent little time looking through the thick resource section and only seconds on the “Try It” or “Think About” sections. Even though options for threaded discussions among those taking the courses were provided and there were other ways to share (such as the use of common hashtags in social media spaces) still, very few took advantage of those options. It began to occur to me, you have to be a self directed learner to really benefit from self directed learning. 

What’s Missing

Coming back to my opening paragraph about micro-credentials, I had this idea. I hope you will help me think about it more deeply in the comments below.

I have a course called Digital Citizenship that is on sale right now for $5 USD. It is a great course for anyone who is a self directed learner. It is also a great course for anyone who wants an entry level, 2-3 hour experience that lays a foundation for digital citizenship.

Typically, the most common way this course has been purchased is by district site license, where districts make it a required course for all their faculty. I have been wondering about how I could make the course better for all learners while giving options for those who want different levels of intensity in their learning experiences.

Make It Three Courses Instead of One

I got to thinking, what if I recreated the course into three sections (offered separately) and learners earned a micro-credential for each section based on reflections and artifacts that were created? (Think portfolio assessment for National Board Certification but on a much smaller course focused scale.) The design could still be self paced but with strategies embedded in the modules to encourage learners to engage deeply with the content and each other.

For Example

Course 1– Intro into digital citizenship from a 30,000 foot perspective. Big overview. Ethical implications. What kind of citizen do we want to help our students become? (Thanks @peterskillen)

Course 2 – Teacher digital citizenship (the good, the bad and the ugly). Both personal citizenship (thinking a teacher can not give away what they do not own) and then an inclusion of strategies and methods (good pedagogy) for integrating digital citizenship into their courses and classrooms.

Course 3 –  Student digital citizenship- Using ISTE standards as a guide unpack the standards with lots of personal stories (videos) and resources with expected outcomes around lesson creation and use.

Personalized Learning

There could be a coaching onDemand aspect too. Districts (or schools and individuals) could have options to purchase either a truly self directed course, a self directed course with an earned micro-credential, or a facilitated course with various touch points with a coach who facilitated the learning. Participants could earn micro-credentials based on a personalized path created with their coach.


What do you think? Am I just recreating the graduate level, intensive learning clients suggested was too tough for teacher PD so many years ago? Or is this what we need now? Would districts that are working toward being future forward and reinventing themselves in the best interest of children love this kind of learning? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I am grateful for your willingness to brainstorm with me.

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Powerful Learning Practice

During a 25-year education career, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has been a classroom teacher, technology coach, charter school principal, district administrator, university instructor and digital learning consultant. Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice, where she works with schools and districts from around the world to re-envision their learning cultures and communities through the Connected Learner Experience and other e-learning opportunities. She is the author (with Lani Ritter Hall) of The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age (Solution Tree, 2012) and serves on the ISTE Board of Directors.

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