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The Rise of Micro-Credentials

Let us turn our attention to the rise of micro-credentials and to the following questions: What is a micro-credential, fundamentally? Are there different types of micro-credential? What use are they to me and my organisation?
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Hello, and welcome to Week 2 of Higher Education 4.0: Certifying your future. We hope that you enjoyed last week. And you’re looking forward to continuing with us, as we turn to the core pillar topic of discussion, micro-credentials. Despite what the name might suggest, micro-credentials might truly prove to be one of the biggest new developments in education this century, and this week, we will explore how to think about these new learning offerings, and the experiences they can represent. We will examine, and critique, the hype regarding micro-credentials, and assess the central building blocks which might be needed to bring them to fruition. Linking to our topic last Week, we’ll also ask what types of skills might be recognised through micro-credentials.
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We will also link to next weeks’ topic, and the authentic, learning-centred pedagogies that we will be considering. You can find all the details in the step below. Make sure to share any questions that you might have, and we will endeavour to answer them as we go through the course. Set aside some time to join our community of learners from all around the world. We can’t wait to meet you again! Now, let’s begin. [Music Playing]

Let us turn our attention to the rise of micro-credentials and to the following questions:

  • What is a micro-credential, fundamentally?
  • Are there different types of micro-credential?
  • What use are they to me and my organisation?

We will answer these questions through a series of activities, in which we will:

  • Learn about how micro-credentials are conceptualised by diverse stakeholders
  • Explore the critical questions regarding their adoption and the drivers that underpin this expansion
  • Consider the differing perspectives of students, employers, and educators, on these questions
  • Look at applied examples from around the world
  • Present a possible taxonomy for understanding micro-credentials as part of a wider learning ecology
  • Ask how relevant you feel these trends are in your own context.

What is a Micro-Credential?

Micro-credentials are a new and rapidly growing phenomenon, as you can see from the Google Trend data shown below. A singular definition of what a micro-credential is, however, has yet to emerge. Indeed, a study undertaken in the European funded MicroHE project found that most people have a “foggy” understanding of micro-credentials. The rise in the interest of micro-credentials over time. y-axis starts at 1 Jan 2019 to 1 Jan 2019. x-axis starts at 0 to 100. Interest is low during 2015 (under 25), gradually rising to 100 after January 2019, dropping slightly after.

The definition of micro-credentials may become clearer as your education continues, but it is worth noting that they can take many forms (e.g. nano-degrees, micromasters, expert tracks) and each has become increasingly popular. ClassCentral’s review published at the end of 2020 illustrates that there were almost 1,200 different micro-credentials on offer through the major MOOC platforms.

MOOCs in 2020 by class central. 180 million students, 950 universities. Under this there are 16.3k courses, 1180 microcredentials and 67 MOOC-based degrees.

By the numbers: MOOCs in 2020 (Shah, 2020)

Micro-Credentials: A Fad?

In the context of this growth, we need to consider whether or not micro-credentials are more than just another passing educational fad or simply the latest “shiny new toy” of policy makers. Critically, and perhaps more centrally, should universities be concerned about the growth of micro-credentials and their role in establishing and evolving a wider and more responsive credential ecology in order to address societal and industrial needs?

Changing digital societies and the evolving knowledge economy are placing greater emphasis on new types of skills. We encourage you to consider how these future skills and diverse competencies might be developed through utilising micro-credentials to create new learning pathways and as a means of recognition. As a white paper published in April 2020 by ECIU University has noted, however:

“Micro-credentials must be implemented in the service of big ideas, they are not the idea itself” (ECIU, 2020, p.1).

Micro-Credentials and Higher Education 4.0

This statement challenges us to identify and examine the value propositions that micro-credentials may hold for higher education, industry and learner stakeholders (to name but a few). Our ultimate aim though is to promote and engage in a critical discourse on micro-credentials in the context of Higher Education 4.0.

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Higher Education 4.0: Certifying Your Future

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