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 RTO? In this blog, we explore the What, Why, and How of this approach to learning and why you might join in with this long-term global trend.
Microcredentials, also known as short courses, nano degrees, mini degrees, digital-credentials, or badges, are skill based qualifications that are broken down into small blocks 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.
David Kinsella of Everitas recently sat with Marc Washbourne, CEO of ReadyTech, to discuss microcredentials on WorkED - The Digital Credentials Explosion podcast, and he described them as the Spotify of learning because you can “build a skills playlist”. If you think of it like this, it becomes clear why it is so appealing to students and employers alike. Rather than buying an entire album, you can pick individual songs you like and make a personalised playlist from just the hits.
In study, rather than committing to the expensive and time-consuming process of earning a diploma or degree, students can pinpoint the exact skills 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.
Some digital-credential facts:
- Think of them like digital diplomas that have created a global system for the recognition of skills and achievement;
- They refer to an artefact that clearly displays information about the accomplishment;
- They are often awarded with micro-credentials;
- They are embedded with a a line of URL, digital image and identifier, that is portable and shareable on social media and online portfolios;
- For courses that require updating on a regular basis (ie. First Aid), they can also be expired.
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 What may have been the most up-to-date learning or credential two years ago could now be out of date. Workers need to stay relevant in order to remain competitive in the current job market.
Workplace Health and Safety, which is included as a component in the majority of skill sets, is likely to become increasingly sought after in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. This is especially true for Health Care workers, and will include short courses to up-skill them around specific areas such as use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).
While the Health Care sector may be the most obviously affected, there are many other industries that will need to follow suit. For instance, ASQA has already announced that it plans to support RTOs to deliver new infection control training skill sets in the retail, food and beverage, and transport and logistics sectors.
As stated by experts in the various podcasts about this mode of learning, more and more businesses are beginning to recognise and appreciate skill sets as they would diplomas and degrees. This approach is beneficial to employers as it allows them to hire for specific skills and design their teams strategically and precisely. It opens up opportunities for the VET educated workers as well as allowing university students to fill the skills gaps in their learning.
Employability for Students
While the VET industry is well set up to deliver microcredentials, there are some higher education providers that have also come on board to provide employability skills around degrees. RMIT University is a good example of this with RMIT Creds. They are offering digital credentials for RMIT students to improve employability through subjects like digital literacy, leadership, sustainability, innovation, collaboration, and communication.
Students seeking out microcredentials are looking for convenient, affordable and timely delivery of courses that will set them apart from the crowd.
Advantages for RTOs
There are major advantages for learning institutions that offer microcredentials:
- 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 RTO's brand organically with a far greater reach. When digital-credentials, sometimes called badges, are awarded with the microcredential, students often share them on their social and professional network pages, like Facebook and LinkedIn. This creates a powerful endorsement for the issuer of the badge.
In a world where skills quickly become redundant and new skills are needed, microcredentials seem to be a likely contender in finding the solution.
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.
Utilising 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.
RTOs also benefit by taking assessment online with the ability to communicate in a timely manner with all students throughout their journey.
Consultation With Industry
Educators need to be asking themselves, “how can we better prepare our learners for when they are looking for employment?” RTOs should be working closely with industries 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 with industry consultation, your RTO not only provides learning pathways for more students, but also, students 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.
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: Precision Group, Learning Vault, Aspire Learning, Compliant Learning Resources.
To read about more the top trends that will help you improve your Learner Experience, click here.