Saint Leo University is offering a new form of high-quality instruction that allows adults to pick up new skills or knowledge in just a short time period through highly focused courses.

Rather than seeking degrees, students in these courses—some of whom will start June 29—will be enrolling to earn micro-credentials from the new Center for Alternative Pathway Programs ( at Saint Leo. For mastering the material in certain courses taken over a brief period, learners will be awarded digital Saint Leo "badges," a formal acknowledgement that can be added to resumes and online documents, and whose validity employers can trust. A badge signifies a micro-credential the way a diploma represents the completion of a college degree program.

Saint Leo launched the Center for Alternative Pathway Programs to help address the continuing education needs in the American marketplace, according to Dr. Cindy Lee, director of the center at Saint Leo. People who have completed some level of formal education or workplace training still find, on a regular basis, that they need to learn new techniques, business processes, or programs, or revisit material, Lee said. This happens because applied practices and knowledge for work environments now becomes outdated quickly, in as little as four years, according to Lee.

"The solution for individuals facing such problems is called upskilling," Lee explained. Employees and job applicants can add to skills they bring to the marketplace in just a few weeks or months if they can find relevant courses focused on the right material, she explained.

Acquisition of new skills sets can be verified

Through the center, Saint Leo faculty and consultants designed micro-credential courses in topics such as cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, grantsmanship, and exam preparation for the Project Management Professional credential. Courses starting with the June 29 launch date will be delivered online. Later, when coronavirus safety precautions permit, some courses might be offered in small group settings. The roster of badge-bearing courses will be expanded, and Saint Leo expects to have a handful more by the end of the calendar year.  

Additionally, the Center for Alternative Pathway Programs has added to its catalog a variety of other self-paced, career-oriented online courses from the developer MindEdge Inc. These courses were added to the site for the convenience of learners because of their relevance to the work world. They can also be useful to new college graduates. These courses can be accessed from the Center for Alternative Pathway Programs website.

Prices are set for all courses individually, and all payments are handled digitally.

(There is separate, non-badge bearing classification of "community" online enrichment courses on the Center for Alternative Pathway Programs platform as well, with topics from birding to spirituality. These courses are free, as the Saint Leo faculty developed them in the spring as service to help people alleviate boredom or find means of relaxation during COVID-19 quarantine.)

The Center for Alternative Pathway Programs operates independently from Saint Leo's academic colleges. Still, this work continues the private, Catholic nonprofit university's commitment to offering education to those who seek it, Lee said. The effort also resonates with a theme the university repeats to students in degree programs: that they should embrace lifelong learning.

While many students will find their courses through individual searches, Lee noted the center is also eager to work with companies, professional associations, or other groups that want to offer training to employees or members. The Center for Alternative Pathway Programs can create customized courses, Lee said, so that workplaces or work-related groups can get instruction directly relevant to what their members need.

About the Center for Alternative Pathway Programs

Saint Leo University's micro-credential courses, offered through the Center for Alternative Pathway Programs, helps individuals quickly pick up new skills and gain additional expertise in areas that add value to their career and lives. Taught by experienced Saint Leo University instructors and other subject matter experts, micro-credential courses focus on specific, valued skills or niche areas of study. Courses can be completed in just a few short weeks and are offered both online and in group settings. Upon completion of a course, a digital badge validates each new competency to employers and others. The center welcomes both individual learners and work-based groups in search of customized instruction. Through its partner MindEdge, the center also offers a suite of self-paced professional development courses.