• Disclaimer: MoocLab is community-supported. If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners.

Courses 2020 - The Year of the Open Online Credit-Backed Credential


Founder at MoocLab
Staff member
Group Manager
Just in the past week, we have seen the launch of two new credit-backed credentials offered through taking open online courses - Microcredentials from FutureLearn and MicroBachelors from edX. Both are designed to give learners the opportunity to gain skills in industry-related fields without the time and cost commitment of a full degree. They can be used as an independent certification or to earn academic credit towards a degree, and in most cases, do not have any admissions requirements making them open to anyone looking to gain a credential.

UK-based MOOC platform FutureLearn has been offering professional or academic course credits since 2016 with their course pathways, known as "Programs". Programs are designed to deepen understanding of a specialist subject with the opportunity to earn a professional or academic credential. The new Microcredentials focus more on developing career-relevant professional skills in rapidly-growing fields such as Data Science, Cyber Security, Project Management, Teaching and Finance. Each Microcredential includes a formal online assessment and meets the standards set by the Common Microcredential Framework (CMF) whose purpose is to make qualifications more readable and understandable across different countries and systems. As of today, FutureLearn has six Microcredentials available on their platform ranging in price from £450 to £1,200. See the full list here.

EdX's MicroBachelors are the first undergraduate-level credential available through open online courses, and provide a pathway to a full Bachelor’s degree. MicroBachelors are delivered in partnership with top colleges, universities and Fortune 1000 corporations and follow a similar format to the graduate-level MicroMasters launched on the edX platform in 2015. The new MicroBachelors programs are designed for adults without a college degree and aim to "deliver immediately transferable skills to meet the real-world needs of employers, while providing a pathway to a full Bachelor’s degree".

Priced affordably at between $500 and $1,500 (around $166 per credit), the programs are delivered fully online, allowing working adults to fit their study around their own schedule. On completion, learners can elect to use the credential as an independent qualification or apply credit toward a full Bachelor’s degree. To date, edX have two MicroBachelors programs available on their platform, one in IT by Western Governors University and one in Computer Science New York University.

For both FutureLearn and edX, making high-quality education more accessible for everyone forms part of both platforms' core mission, and these programs are the latest step toward fulfilling that mission. Equally, breaking degrees down by making credentials "stackable" is the emerging trend in higher education, and these digital microcredentials provide the perfect framework to achieve a more modular (and more affordable) approach to gaining in-demand skills and qualifications that meets the needs of today's professionals. In 2020, we can expect to see more providers of open online courses experimenting with credit-backed stackable credentials.

Find out more


  • Microcredentials 900x400.png
    Microcredentials 900x400.png
    126.2 KB · Views: 776