Micro-credentials – providing new professional development opportunities

The busy modern day professional prioritise their time towards potential opportunities for career growth. They consider updating knowledge and skills a prerequisite for a progressive career path.  The options for gaining skills and knowledge are endless, confusing and not always quality. So how does the creative professional firstly choose what skills and knowledge they require? Second, how can they be guaranteed return on investment to justify time away from potential earning? Third, what providers offer quality learning experiences with course content established for real world demands? And fourthly, digital technologies have impacted how professionals can engage with learning so quickly that educational providers are still catching up, making the professional accountable for their learning experience and preferred mode of learning. Micro-credentials have emerged as a viable option as professionals captain their own educational experiences and demand more relevant and flexible options, blurring the link between professional development and postgraduate study (James 2018).

Learning in a place or institution rather than online requires much more commitment on behalf of the learner. Investment is required by the professional by allocating time to travel and getting themselves to the classroom. The perception is that online learning requires less time investment and unusually only requires a learner to ensure they have their device to access online courses this is not true. Online learning requires the student to spend more time reading, writing and engaging with content than face-to-face learning. Although the time commitment between the two modes of learning are similar, online learning offers flexibility in time and place for learning. Technology is developing so quickly new modes of digital learning are being offered constantly.

Current trends point towards smaller online courses referred to as Micro-credentials and provide the learner with an opportunity to target specific learning goals or outcomes. They are usually competency based and are often more affordable, attainable and flexible. Also described as unbundling (McCowan 2017) micro-credentials have evolved through progressive technology improvements, workforce disruptions, high cost and loss of trust in university degrees. Milligan & Kennedy (2017) state “there are signs that trust is eroding in the utility of the degree”. Oliver (2019) argues that micro-credentials are emerging as a viable alternative to traditional educational institutions.  Several industry reports support this argument as a opportunity to improving Australia’s digital skills (Cunningham et al. 2016; Hajkowicz et al. 2016; Microsoft Australia 2018; Richardson and Milovidov 2017; deLaski 2019; Stewart, Katherine, Salil Gunashekar,…; Bridgstock 2014; Business Council of Australia 2016; Lucas and Smith 2018; Ferguson et al. 2019; Hasan Bakhshi Jonathan M. Downing Mic…; Siemens et al. 2015) .

In their working paper Gallagher and Maxwell (2019) argue that credentials need to respond to four growing trends and imperatives:

  • building competency and market-oriented programs,
  • structuring credentials to facilitate lifelong learning,
  • unbundling learning in traditional degrees, and
  • recognizing the need for quality assurance.

A report By Deakin University (Oliver 2019) adds to this argument and suggests that providers will achieve more by integrating with employers to offer on the job learning that is attached to internal recognition and incentive schemes (deLaski 2019).

 

This blog is the first in a series where I delve into the nuance application of micro-credentials for professional development as part of my Doctoral project at Queensland University of Technology.

Your feedback or contribution to the topic is very welcome. What is your experience with micro-credentials? Are you a course developer? or been a participant?

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