Need to make sense of micro-credentials? Check out the fourth instalment of Stop, Improve, Start, a new series on what faculty, instructors and education & training providers need to stop doing, improve on and start doing to make micro-credentials fulfill their potential.
- Stop seeing micro-credential courses as equivalent to a three-credit college or university course. Instead, see them as focused on a small bundle of skills, competencies and capabilities. Too many of the offerings across Canada are existing courses that have been “re-bundled” as a micro-credential. Each should be focused on knowledge and 3-4 related skills, competencies and capabilities known to be in demand by employers.
- Stop seeing a micro-credential as a qualification that must ladder to a diploma or degree. They need to stand on their own as a demonstration that a student who has the credential has the skills that are in demand. While they can ladder, they do not need to.
- Stop assessing students with multiple choice exams only. Instead, examine their competencies using video-based review, demonstrations, performance evaluation or other skills-based assessment methods. Employers want to know what the holder of a micro-credential knows and can actually do.
- Improve searchability for micro-credentials, which can be difficult to find, register in and start. One of the reasons 660,000 Canadians registered for a massive open online course (MOOC) in 2020 with Coursera, EdX or FutureLearn is that their micro-credentials are easy to find. Work is in progress, but we need a national search engine.
- Improve the connection between a specific micro-credential and qualifications frameworks. Canada’s patchwork quilt for education, in which each province has different qualification frameworks and requirements, reduces our productivity and competitiveness. We need a national qualifications framework, which we have for some skill sets, and we need to connect qualifications and credentials to that framework.
- Improve the quality and integrity of competency-based assessment. The assessment models traditionally used in academic courses are not as robust as those required for a micro-credential. They need to be transparent and legally defensible assessment of whether or not a learner can demonstrate a competency and a statement of the level of their proficiency in that competency. Rigour is key.
- Start offering more micro-credentials on-demand, with 365 start dates a year or at the beginning of each month. A person seeking a set of skills for a new job or needing to upskill to keep their current job wants to be able to learn anytime, not at the convenience of a college, university or training provider. Skills development is not a semester-based activity. Given the growth of gig work, many people need new skills to secure their next gig and cannot wait weeks or months for a course to start.
- Start offering assessment-only micro-credentials. Some colleges, polytechnics and universities are offering either course + assessment or just assessment as a route to a micro-credential. They are also using “smart” assessment systems such as Valid-8, Criteria, GoReact or Vervoe to enable focused, transparent, competency-based assessment.
- Start offering apprenticeship through a set of modular micro-credentials, which the apprentice can stack to secure their “ticket.” Breaking apprenticeship down into modules that can be undertaken with different employers through online or in-person learning would increase completion rates and reduce the risks associated with becoming an apprentice with a particular employer. This may also improve the consistency and transparency of assessment for apprentices.