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Getting the Maximum out of Micro-Credentials

by Sarah Hodge |

As TESOL educators, we are familiar with in-service training and external trainings and workshops, but how can we stay current on trends and techniques when time and budget may be limited? Enter the micro-credential: These bite-sized courses are the perfect way to brush up on new developments and add a variety of skills to your teaching toolbox.

Because I have limited time for professional development, micro-credentials have been a great outlet to explore a wealth of teaching-related topics on a schedule that’s convenient for me.

What Are Micro-Credentials?

As featured in this earlier TESOL blog post, micro-credentials are competency-based short courses that demonstrate mastery in a particular area or skill.  Micro-credentials typically use one of two assessments to measure progress: completing a specific activity or module, or submitting an assessment to demonstrate mastery. Micro-credentials are usually offered online, but they can also be in person or blended. Courses may last a few days to weeks and related courses can be stacked together.

Although they have been around for several decades, micro-credentials really took off after the COVID-19 pandemic shifted in-person learning to a digital platform, with more than 1,600 micro-credentials offered in 2022. There’s been a shift in perception as well: In 2013, roughly 40% of U.S. companies accepted online learning when assessing potential employees. In a 2021 survey, 71% of employers replied that online credentials were equal to or better than credits earned through traditional means. In addition to being used for professional development, micro-credentials can be used to upskill or reskill as part of an employment pathway.

You’ll find micro-credential courses offered by many universities and organizations (including TESOL International Association) on a wide range of TESOL-centric topics, including teaching English pronunciation, error correction, materials development, social-emotional learning, teaching online, ELT leadership, and more. As you complete courses, you’ll earn digital badges that can be shared on your LMS profile, on LinkedIn, or as part of your online CV. Your institute or organization may cover expenses for micro-credentials offered by select organizations, so be sure to check!


    • Micro-credentials offer a customized on-demand learning experience that is more convenient for busy teachers than traditional professional learning
    • Courses cost much less than a college class or certificate (some are free)
    • Micro-credential courses take less time to complete than a traditional course
    • Micro-credentials allow educators to “stack” or mix and match from a wide variety of topics that appeal to them
    • The resulting digital badges demonstrate a commitment to continuing education and enhancing skills

English Language Teaching–Related Micro-Credentials to Explore

American English at State

The free MOOCs offered by American English as State are hosted on the Canvas Network platform and have included titles such as:

    • Professional Development for Teacher Trainers
    • TESOL Methodology
    • Developing and Teaching Academic Writing Courses
    • Teaching English to Large Classes
    • Using Educational Technology in the English Language Classroom

OPEN Program course enrollment is on a rolling basis, so be sure to check back to see the latest offerings. If you’re planning on integrating OPEN MOOCs into your classroom, there is also a downloadable guide available here.


In addition to micro-credential courses in core teaching skills, Bridge offers micro-credentials in English pronunciation, error correction, teaching English with low resources, English as a second language test prep, and 21st-century skills. Bridge also offers blended courses. If you’re not sure which course is right for you, they also offer info sessions. Check out their catalog.

Digital Promise

Digital Promise offers a combination of free and paid micro-credential courses related to ELT, including language acquisition best practices, constructive conversations, and understanding the role of language in content learning. You’ll also find free micro-credentials on refugee educators, including differentiating instruction to support refugee students.

National Education Association

The NEA Supporting English Language Learners course comprise a stack of eight micro-credentials and includes analyzing assessments to support English language learner learning, understanding second language acquisition stages, using English language learner strategies in the classroom, and formative assessments to support learning. It is free for NEA members, US$125 per course for nonmembers.

TESOL International Association

TESOL Modular Education offers 6-hour standalone courses that cover topics like High-Leverage Teaching Practices, The 6 Principles, and Social-Emotional Learning.


Founded in 2010, Udemy has more than 210,000 courses and more than 75,000 instructors. Select ESL/EFL courses include:

As you complete micro-credentials, consider creating a spreadsheet or similar system to track them.

Educational Technology Micro-Credentials

NEA: Technology Integration: This stack of seven micro-credentials will guide educators in leveraging digital tools and support critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills. Topics include adult learning, digital and virtual learning, peer mentoring and collaboration, professional leadership, and student learning.

Several tech companies also offer free courses/digital badges that can be used for professional development, including Adobe and SMART Technologies.

Further Reading

Building Educator Capacity Through Microcredentials, by Eric M. Carbaugh, Laura McCullough, Meghan Raftery, Ebbie Linaburg

Tamoliune, G., Greenspon, R., Tereseviciene, M., Volungeviciene, A., Trepule, E., & Dauksiene, E. (2023). Exploring the potential of micro-credentials: A systematic literature review. Frontiers in Education, 7.

About the author

Sarah Hodge

Sarah Hodge is a supervisory ESL instructor at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) English Language Center in San Antonio, Texas, USA. Since earning her MA TESOL in 2006, she has taught English as a foreign language, English for specific purposes, and English for academic purposes to thousands of international military officers, enlisted personnel, and civilians at DLI's resident campus as well as internationally. She has also developed curriculum, has conducted onboarding and teacher training, and was part of the Peer Coaching Initiative Working Group. A SMART Gold Ambassador and Lumio Certified Trainer, Sarah is passionate about integrating educational technology into the language classroom. Her research interests include bilingualism and language processing disorders.

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