What are micro-credentials?
Micro-credentials are also known as digital badges, nano degrees, micro-certifications, web badges, mini degrees and open badges. Compared to a degree, diploma, certificate or other lengthy accredited training, micro-credentials focus on smaller elements of learning. They are mini qualifications often gained by participating in short, free or low-cost online courses. These smaller blocks of learning can formalise soft and hard skills attained at work, such as teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. They can also help fill skill gaps, such as working with big data.
Regular upskilling is recognised as essential for the future, making micro-credentialing an increasingly popular and accessible option for lifelong learning. Micro-credentials offer students a pathway to higher education and help employees develop specific skills. Because the technology can capture and communicate what skills and knowledge a student has attained, micro-credentials are also a valuable tool for people to demonstrate both what they can do today and their future potential. Employees may consider them more advantageous than unaccredited and inhouse training which, while popular with employers, fail to offer formal recognition of learning that can enhance an individual's career development.
As they become more prevalent, micro-credentials also have the potential to be an efficient, cost-effective and flexible means for employers to use to certify learning outcomes. Thus, micro-credentials are likely to improve labour mobility to the benefit of the economy and the individual.
- Continuity and change: employers' training practices and partnerships with training providers [Australia]
- Micro-credentialing: 'Can open badges and micro-credentialing be used to create effective online recognition practices in the workplace?' [Australia]
- Realizing human potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: an agenda for leaders to shape the future of education, gender and work [international]
- Visions for Australian tertiary education
- What are micro credentials and how can they benefit you? [Australia]
What is the research saying?
In Australia, micro-credentials are forming part of recent discussions on the future of work, lifelong learning and the tertiary education sector. Future-proof: Australia's future post-secondary education and skills system finds, through stakeholder consultation, micro-credentials are beginning to be utilised in vocational and higher education and forming an important part of lifelong learning. However, Lifelong skills: equipping Australians for the future of work warns the full-cost recovery basis of non-traditional pathways could be a barrier to the groups who would benefit most from this mode of training. Micro-credentials have also been identified as recent developments to be taken into consideration in the Australian Qualifications Framework review and the TAFE SA Strategic Capability Review.
Research on implementing micro-credentials in Australian higher education includes:
- Implementing digital badges in Australia: the importance of institutional context, which considers the implementation of digital badges within the Australian context and presents a model which draws together contextual elements and more technical considerations for a badge system.
- 21C credentials: curate, credential and carry forward digital learning evidence presents the results of a two-year project proposed to deliver five outcomes: (1) connect Australian higher education providers with national and international networks of innovators and scholars in digital curation and credentialing; (2) research and publish analysis and commentary on the implications for emerging business models; (3) provide advice, in the form of case studies and a good practice guide to inform implementation; (4) offer professional development for higher education; and (5) host a national forum.
- To what degree?: alternative micro-credentialing in a digital age gives four examples of uses of micro-credentials but cautions a credential is only as trustworthy as the assessment on which it is based.
- Building Australia's future-ready workforce
- Can the universities of today lead learning for tomorrow?: the university of the future
- Developing the workforce for a digital future
- Higher education for a changing world: ensuring the 100-year life is a better life
- Industry 4.0: an opportunity for every Australian manufacturer
- Reimagining tertiary education: from binary system to ecosystem
- Vocational education for the twenty-first century
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) recently consulted on recognising micro-credentials alongside formal qualifications within the Government's regulated education and training system. The consultation paper explains the need for a training system that responds flexibly to the rapid technological, social and economic changes globally, and sees micro-credentials providing opportunities for workers to develop skills and knowledge throughout their working lives. The consultation sought feedback on the definition, recognition, and quality of assurance of micro-credential provision. The summary of consultation feedback and next steps can be found on NZQA's website.
International research examining the use of micro-credentials and digital badging to improve access to further education, professional development and employment includes:
- Realizing employment goals for youth through digital badges: lessons and opportunities from workforce development discusses the potential digital badges have in improving further education and employment opportunities for disadvantaged young people in the US. The authors provide examples of organisations and initiatives using digital badges and highlights the potential opportunities for using them to improve youth workforce programs, emphasising the importance of engaging employers and industry in this process.
- Alternative credentials: prior learning 2.0 examines the use and evaluation of alternative credentials (including Massive Open Online Courses and badges) by US higher education institutions in providing credits toward a degree program. Six case studies are presented analysing the differing practices of the six institutions. The report is a start in understanding how some higher education institutions evaluate and accept alternative credentials and recommends further evaluation to include a wider variety of institutions.
- Recognition, validation and accreditation of youth and adult basic education as a foundation of lifelong learning argues for the recognition of non-formal and informal learning for individuals to continue to acquire and develop skills and knowledge through-out their lives. National qualification systems in many countries limit their focus to formal learning institutions leading to some individuals' learning remaining unrecognised due to exclusion from formal education. While the report recognises the role of information and communication technology (ICT), such as Open Badges, in providing more opportunities to apply accreditation, it warns that the use of ICT could be problematic because of the unequal digital access across the globe. The report points out that some people without a basic education will be less likely to utilise ICT systems created for accreditation.
- Competence-based assessment and digital badging as guidance in vocational teacher education [Finland]
- Connecting credentials: a beta credentials framework: building a system for communicating about and connecting diverse credentials [US]
- Connecting credentials: making the case for reforming the US credentialing system
- Fragmented systems: connecting players in Canada's skills challenge
- Micro-credentials: a model for engineering education? [New Zealand]
- Strengthening America's economy by expanding educational opportunities for working adults: policy opportunities to connect the working adult to today's economy through education and credentials
Opinion pieces and news items
- Future-proofing higher education starts with reinventing the college degree [US]
(Source: Quartz, November 2018)
- As students flock to credentials other than degrees, quality-control concerns grow [US]
(Source: The Hechinger Report, November 2018)
- First micro-credential big step forward for construction [New Zealand]
(Source: BCITO, November 2018)
- Tell your complete educational story to potential employers [US]
(Source: FIU News, October 2018)
- The future of learning and work: making sure that all learning counts [US]
(Source: Lumina Foundation, September 2018)
- Are micro-credentials a way to go bro? [Australia, New Zealand]
(Source: VET Development Centre, September 2018)
- Lifelong learning and reskilling: the promise of microcredentials [Australia]
(Source: Foundation for Young Australians, September 2018)
- The seven deadly sins of digital badging in education [US]
(Source: Forbes, September 2018)
Published: December 2018