Micro-credentialing: Towards better integration of work and study

MARCH 11 ― Modern workplaces change at an unprecedented pace. The skills and knowledge acquired in a one-size-fits-all university degree obtained from higher education institutions become superseded by technological advances and new methodologies.  Employers are seeking for individuals with detailed competencies specific to their hiring needs. Similarly, students are expected to acquire additional competencies to meet employers’ needs.  As such, universities of the 21st century need to be responsive to the changing needs of employers and job seekers by creating a learning environment where new skills and credentials can quickly and conveniently be acquired, in an affordable manner.

A new model of learning, known as micro-credentialing, has emerged to fulfil the urgent need for upskilling and retraining in this day of digital economy.  There are two broad types of micro-credential. One is credit bearing, incorporating an assessment component and contributing to a formal qualification.  The other is a non-credit-bearing micro-credential in the form of an in-house credential in the form of a “digital badge” or a “massive open online course” (MOOC). These may still require assessment, but does not contribute to a formal qualification or necessarily adhere to a set academic standard. The non-credit bearing micro-credentials basically contribute to lifelong learning.

Offering micro-credentials is not about replacing or substituting the current traditional time-based academic programme, but rather the micro-credential offers a flexible option to those interested in earning a formal qualification through a flexible education system. Under this concept, learners will have the opportunity to earn these credentials by submitting evidence of the work that they have done or their achievement which will be evaluated at an agreed level and standard set by both the industry and the university involved.

In March 2019, the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) introduced a “Guideline on Micro-credentials” to share information on principles and good practices in the implementation of micro-credentials to HEIs and stakeholders in the country.  It is a matter of time when the guideline mentioned above be developed into a full “Guideline for Good Practices on Micro-Credentials”.  This will address the various issues related to micro-credentials and provider and ultimately integrate the micro-credentials into traditional awards and qualifications.

Genovasi University College (GUC) is a new dual mode institution with its  vision “To be a renowned University pioneering in industry-based education”. As a new institution, it will embark on this new concept of micro-credential by collaborating and forming partnership with industries in offering new kinds of credential that is specific and relevant to today’s job market. Among the type of micro-credential that it will focus on will be Nano-Degree and Micro-Master Program Credentials.

This bold initiative augurs well with GUC’s vision; it will enthusiastically forge links or connections with reputable industries in coming up with short and affordable Nano-Degree or Micro-Master program.  At the same time, this effort is also directed at paving the way towards better integration of work and study.

The value of nano-degrees and micro-master program offered is ultimately determined by the employees who take up the courses and potential employers who consider its weight when comparing candidates’ CVs.

Generally, micro-credentials, whether in the form of nano-degree or micro-master programs or other forms of certifications offers portability, simple proof of skills and motivation. Learners can:

  • Take accreditations anywhere, since learners can export micro-credentials and save them in the form of “digital badges,”
  • Showcase their learning beyond formal education;
  • Become inspired to seek new skills. A well-developed system of micro-credentials can galvanise employees to pursue new learning experiences, take part in diverse training opportunities, and define their own paths to career success.
  • Can immediately apply their new knowledge to further their career, or they can put their credentials toward completing a master’s degree.

To the employers, micro-credentialing offers skills development, engagement, productivity and retention. Employers/organisations can:

  • Take care of employees’ skills gaps at both the individual and the organizational levels;
  • Boost engagement and productivity;
  • Build a culture of lifelong learning or continuous learning in the organization.  With micro-credentials, organizations can give employees incremental ways to progress and improve and show that they genuinely care about enabling their career growth.

In conclusion, micro-credentialing can become one of the most important tools an institution can leverage as part of its larger learning strategy to forge skill connections and drive success in the future of work.  This calls for a strategic implementation plan to ensure learners view nano-degree and micro-master program as a way to promote their achievements to potential employers, as well as for the potential employers to truly understand and value these credentials as evidence of learners’ achievements.

* Prof Dr Latifah Abdol Latif is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) of Genovasi University College.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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