What Are Microcredentials and How Can They Be Used?
Microcredentials is the latest buzzword around the Zoom waiting rooms and education chat forums, but what is it and why is it relevant for your training programs? In this blog, we explore this approach to learning and why you might want to join in with this long-term global trend to meet unique skill gaps.
What Are Microcredentials?
Microcredentials, also known as short courses, nano degrees, mini degrees, digital-credentials, mini qualifications, or badges, are skill based qualifications that are broken down into small bite sized chunks of learning that are often earned through low-cost online courses.
They are predominately offered through Vocational Education and often focus on “employability skills”, adapting education and filling skills gaps in prior learning. They can also be created by breaking down a unit of competency into different micro-courses. These can be fully accredited and endorsed by an industry body.
Microcredential technology could be the next major force behind up-skilling jobs in the workplace. They are used at every level of training, making lifelong learning and keeping up-to-date with current trends more accessible.
Additionally, it opens up opportunities for the VET educated workers as well as allowing university students to meet skills gaps in their learning.
Microcredentials will be in high demand to meet the needs of the future workforce for a few reasons. So many skills, particularly in any industry related to tech and the digital space, are rapidly evolving. What may have been the most up-to-date learning or credential two years ago could now be out of date.
In study, rather than committing to the expensive and time-consuming process of earning a diploma or a university degree, students can pinpoint the specific skill they would like to focus on and earn. They may have already completed their education or training and are looking to fill the skills gap, or are simply looking to up-skill.
What Sort of Microcredentials Exist?
Some microcredentials tackle broad themes such as data analysis or design, for example, but most are focussed on one specific ability or skill. You can get micro-credentials for ‘hard skills’, like typing or bookkeeping or ‘soft skills’, like problem solving or time management.
Unlike some diplomas or university degrees, microcredentials are designed to meet very specific industry needs. They’re also usually quite short, taking anywhere from one hour to a few weeks to complete.
What Value Do Microcredentials Provide?
Microcredentials will be in high demand to meet the needs of the future workforce for a few reasons. So many skills, particularly in any industry related to tech and the digital space, are rapidly evolving. Workers need to stay relevant in order to remain competitive in the current job market.
More and more businesses are beginning to recognise and appreciate skill sets as they would diplomas and university degrees. This approach is beneficial to employers as it allows them to hire for specific skills and design their teams strategically and precisely.
There is also an avenue for businesses to utilise microcredentials for their employees’ professional development. Workplace accredited learning can be an excellent motivator for employees. These can be for soft or hard skills, renewed on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis, or as required for professional growth. This has the added benefit making businesses a more attractive employer for potential prospects.
What is a Digital Badge?
The digital badge is a visual representation that reveals achievements gained through microcredentials. Specifically, it contains a list of the learner, the issuer and a review of requirements for earning a badge along with proof they are met. Badges are highly popular and there are a few good reasons for this.
In 2005, Microsoft’s Xbox introduced digital badges for gamers on their platform. By 2015 a digital badge industry was appearing. Private businesses without links to approval bodies could create and sell their own badges. These satisfied the needs of an emerging army of learners who wanted to prove their worth on the job market. It allowed people to share their badges online to prove their skills and be recognised as a valuable candidate.
How Do I Earn Digital Badges?
Simply complete the microcredential course that is represented in the badges.
The attribution process depends on the character of digital badges. Simple badges can be acquired automatically as soon as the content is completed. For more complex badges, after completion of the required tests and demonstrations, along with the portfolio being certified by accredited assessors, the learner earns his or her digital badge.
Why Are Digital Badges Important in Today’s Job Market?
Micro-credentialing is appropriate for industries or sub-industries. It uses an informal learning style to form individual skills and knowledge quickly. Digital badges give an authentic, easy-to-use digital certificate of admission. They can even certify existing skills from experience.
This certificate of previous achievements accelerates the learning process. Young professionals will be much more well positioned when applying for jobs. This will dramatically change the pathway between learners and earners in society. This represents the most obvious effects on the main players in the labour market. The rewards could increase employee loyalty in the process, making the transition to different roles easier.
What Are the Advantages of Offering Professional Learning For Training Providers?
- Re-enrolment and improved completion rate for students;
- Generate more rich information on your students’ pathways by gathering data on each learning experience they select;
- The opportunity for you to build your training organisation’s brand organically with a far greater reach when digital badges are shared on professional network pages, like Facebook and LinkedIn. This creates a powerful endorsement for the issuer of the badge.
Bridging the Gap
Higher education organisations, such as universities, may use microcredentials that bridge complementary courses. International students also tend to study within accredited programmes and with the support of established institutions. They often use the universities’ offerings to develop soft skills or to improve skills in English Communication.
Employers, as industry experts, can work together to create effective skill development programs that meet industry specific needs. The training organisation gains a close working relationship with a client whose needs for services is obvious. In turn, the company can directly influence the captured talent pool and develop these job seekers to be able to rapidly recruit later.
How Can Training Providers Deliver Microcredentials?
The VET sector is well equipped to deliver microcredentials as there are many short courses or interchangeable skill sets, but how can it be executed?
Online Training and Assessment
Embrace the Flipped Classroom approach: this learning model moves instruction from a group learning space to a blended one, where students engage with interactive content outside the classroom individually, and then use the group time for analysis and assessment. You can support each student to navigate this process by:
- Providing learning resources such as online texts, videos, podcasts, etc. for students to use as study material for activities and assignments, in their own time;
- Create opportunities for individual learning such as research reports, essays, plans and demonstrating practical skills and knowledge;
- Stay connected by creating video tutorials and lessons. You can hold a live lecture using Zoom or record a lesson that can be shared with students to view in their own time.
Make it Easily Accessible For Students
Utilising a structured approach to online assessment allows students the flexibility to access their assessments and assessment records anywhere, at any time, even when travelling. The convenience of using a purpose built solution for training and assessing allows students the flexibility they are looking for when undertaking study for a microcredential.
Training providers also benefit by taking assessment online with the ability to communicate in a timely manner with all students throughout their journey.
How Do Microcredentials Work For Employers?
Most employers benefit from strategic decision making and micro-credentialing offers flexible and scalable development for training courses. The learning can be created from scratch by adding incremental components. This can be uniform for departments and teams or it can be given to individual staff as a requirement to satisfy certain need or supplement traditional credentials.
What Type of Training Should They Offer?
Organisations could seek ways to add to traditional skills or train staff in valuable soft skills or hard skills. They may plan on providing highly individualised programmes to fulfill unique skill gaps. The training may be personalised as well as a suitable, on-demand training for specific tasks and for major projects. Simon Tisdall of The Guardian tells the Telegraph that promoting the right quality talent also helps increase the value of an organisation, boost employee engagement and helps individuals meet their career goals.
Consultation With Industry
Educators need to be asking themselves, “how can we better prepare our learners for when they are looking for employment?” Training providers should be working closely with industries in microcredential development to determine exactly which skills are in demand, and then designing programs that can be readily consumed to fit those demands.
For education providers that are looking to offer microcredentials, consider the following:
- What is the particular learning problem you are trying to solve?
- Are courses consistent and repeatable and do they allow the learner to become competent?
- Do your digital-credentials look valuable and credible?
- Does the language used present evidence of competence?
- Does your framework for delivering courses advocate for the learner?
By offering microcredentials that have been carefully planned out taking into consideration industry wide trends, your training organisation not only provides learning pathways for more students, but also, students that have the theoretical knowledge with the right skills for real jobs.
You also create more opportunity for organic growth and you are set up to react in an agile way during times of disruption and rapid change.
The Way of the Future: NSW Education Passport
It was recently announced that the NSW government will be trialling an “education passport” next year to provide residents with a digital record of their education, skills and qualifications. This is in an effort to bridge the current gaps between how qualifications are translating to the current job market.
Since being drawn up, the NSW government has consulted with students, school leavers, education and training providers and industry as to what it might look like.
Like microcredentials, the passport will act as a verifiable record of all qualifications, containing the digital passport and a “Student Learner Profile”. These profiles could also store information such as HSC and ATAR results, work experience, caring responsibilities and hobbies.
NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello explained “one of the biggest challenges we’ve got is labour market mobility. That’s formed the idea of creating an education passport in NSW that we’re building out.”
Additionally, the passport could potentially assist employers in exposing CVs that list qualifications that were not obtained.
On top of offering an accessible and affordable opportunities for students to up-skill, microcredentials can be a fun, effective way of continuing to train and to recognise staff.
Be future ready and check out the following Resource Providers (who have content ready to go in the Cloud Assess Marketplace) and see what bite sized learning material they have to get you going.
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