Message from the Executive Director: How Will You Respond?

At a recent ASAE conference, I learned of the ASAE Foresight Works project, a research project focusing on the future trends impacting associations. Of the 41 trends articulated, three rose to the top for potential impact on the credentialing space: Micro-learning, Next-Gen Professional, and the Rejection of Expertise. (There are several other topics in the report which impact various aspects of credentialing such as the state of higher education, using data effectively/efficiently and in bigger more intelligent ways. I’ll say more about those in future columns.) There is much to be optimistic about with these action briefs, as well as cautionary measures. The ICE Board of Directors discussed these trends at a recent board meeting to feed their thinking on the future of credentialing.


We’ve been hearing about micro-learning and micro-credentialing for some time.  Offering smaller sized education or skills based training (micro-learning) or stackable, smaller sized credentials has been around for a while as a concept and has been championed by our fast-paced lifestyle or the younger population of learners and potential certificants. However, it seems the credentialing space is struggling with how to incorporate these concepts into credentialing programs with either stackable constructs or recognition of this education in pre-requisite requirements. ICE conducted a mini-survey last summer of ICE members to learn about the use of micro-credentialing. (This survey remains open if you would like to respond.) Of the 36 respondents, only 35 percent currently had a micro-credential incorporated into their program but over 65 percent intended to create one.

Related Resources

Recording: ICE Executive Conversation on a Strategic Re-imagining of a Maintenance of Certification

Publication: Digital Badge Report 

How do you plan to incorporate micro-learning, micro-credentialing concepts into your credentialing program? Are you planning any partnerships with membership or professional organizations on any aspect of micro-learning?  At the end of this article, I invite you to join us in a discussion on the ICE LinkedIn Group, to share your thoughts on this and the other trends mentioned here.

Next-Gen Professional

ASAE has renamed the millennial generation to Next-Gen professionals based on feedback about its accumulating, negative connotation around the term “millennial,” as portrayed by the media. Estimates on the size of this generation range between 75 and 90 million. There is no question that this group is playing, and will continue to play, an important role in shaping our workplace. The Next-Gen professional expects that the workplace will adapt to their values and ideas, and we would be wise to listen. The Next-Gen professional values mentoring and training, as well as state-of-the-art technology platforms for education and working, personalization training and plenty of live networking opportunities.

What will their perspectives be on credentialing? The conventional wisdom believes, due to high levels of college debt and wariness of expertise, they will not respond well to lengthy and expensive certification programs. They are responding to smaller, bite-sized education with associated recognition (see micro-learning above). The commonly cited statistic about this generation is that they are expected to change careers —not just jobs — at least six times in their lifetime. However, Pew Research Center says something different. The concern has been that this generation will not invest heavily in career development.

What are you anticipating with the Next-Gen professionals in your organization’s occupation/profession? How will employers in your occupation respond to the demand for more training? Are you partnering in any unique ways with employers to provide Next-Gen focused solutions or approaches?

Rejection of Expertise

This trend could call into question the very relevance of credentials. As the public grows more wary of “experts” and their related credentials, the more attractive alternative or unofficial sources for information or guidance becomes. This trend is fueled by the apparent limitless sources of information. The idea of self-diagnosis from WebMD (according to the ASAE study trust in doctors is at a 40 year low) or the lack of faith in large institutions and the resulting populist political movement are examples of this phenomenon.

How is your organization handling the “trust” factor from the end-users of your certificants’ services?  (Resource: You might consider reading Death of Expertise by Thomas Nichols.) With so many resources available a few clicks away, technology also plays a role in how individuals inform themselves, what sources they trust, and when/why they would seek out additional knowledge. While this may seem to be a trend with detrimental impact on credentialing and the sources that develop programs, it could be that a pendulum effect is in play. And as the pendulum swings back toward the acceptance of expertise as a valuable resource, the credentialing organizations would be well-positioned with the strong value proposition of quality credentials.

The Next Step: Starting a Dialogue 

I raise these trends in an effort to engage in a dialogue with you about how they might impact your organization’s strategies. As provocative as some of these trends might seem,  I am also encouraged by a few thoughts: Micro-learning and Micro-credentialing have become familiar concepts in the ICE community – incorporating a solid strategy and design is the next steps; millennials want their employers to invest in them and their skill development; the pendulum will likely swing back toward the valid need for expertise in all fields and professions. Nonetheless, we would be wise to understand both the threat and opportunity posed by each of these trends in order to determine how credentialing might be impacted or how credentialing programs might need to evolve or how the pipeline of potential certificants is filled.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Please email me at or join the discussion in our LinkedIn Group around the following trends: Micro-learning, Next Gen Professional, Rejection of Expertise. 

Join the conversation on the ICE LinkedIn Group


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