Microcredentials on MOOC platforms

Definitions: 

Micro-credential: certification of learning of a smaller set of courses or modules or units which are designed to provide learners with knowledge, skills, values and competencies in a narrow area of study and/or practice. 

MOOC: massive open online courses. a course of study that is made available over the internet and that can be followed by a large number of people. 

APEL: accreditation of prior experiential learning. identification, documentation and assessment of prior experiential learning to determine the extent to which an individual has achieved the desired learning outcomes, for access to a programme of study and/or award of credits 

Description: 

Micro-credentials are mini qualifications often gained by participating in short, free or low-cost online courses. These smaller blocks of learning can formalise soft and hard skills attained at work, such as teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving. They can also help fill skill gaps, such as working with big data.  

Employees may consider them more advantageous than unaccredited and inhouse training which, while popular with employers, fail to offer formal recognition of learning that can enhance an individual’s career development. 

MC can be characterised as a buffet of several courses that is short and specific on a number of topics that is relevant to each other. A compilation of these courses can be grouped to achieve a wider skillset or count towards a number of credits for a university course. 

As an example, a learner can enrol for several level of language course and at the end of the program will receive a mastery certification on the language. 

Micro-credential courses  A ‘program’ certification
Introduction to Malay language Mastery of Malay language
Malay language intermediate
Malay language advanced
Malay language writing for academic
purpose

Or, the transfer of 3 academic credits that can form part of a postgraduate degree at an HEI. The following example is a current micro-credentialling program that is running on the Futurelearn platform by Purdue University. 

Micro-credential courses  A ‘program’ certification 
Digital Media Analytics:
Introduction 
Digital Media Analytics https://www.futurelearn.com/programs/digital-media-analytics 
Digital Media Analytics:
Social Media Research Plans 
Digital Media Analytics:
Using Data from Owned Media 
Digital Media Analytics: Earned Media 
Digital Media Analytics: Paid Media 
Digital Media Analytics: Using ‘Listening Data’ 

A learner can enroll and study just relevant aspects from the MC course without completing the program. A learner can also opt to pay or not to pay for some or all of the certificates in the MC list.  

To achieve the credits required for the university course, an assessment element could be added at the end of all the programs certification framework.  

Nationally, MQA has issued a circular dated 6 May 2019 titled ‘Surat Makluman MQA Bil. 2/2019’ and with it an accompanying document ‘Panduan Pelaksanaan Program Micro-Credential (MC)’ that provides a guideline on the principles and good practices in the implementation of micro-credentials. 

The listed principles in the MQA guidelines are contained in section 5, and they are listed here:- 

  • Outcome-based 

Micro-credentials should articulate the overall MC and constituent module outcomes i.e., knowledge, skills, attitudes or competencies clearly and in a measurable manner. The attainment of the outcomes should be demonstrated through suitable assessment methods and reported in a user-friendly manner. 

  • Personalised 

To the extent possible, the providers must design MCs which allow the learners to select units/modules/courses that cater to their needs, interests and work within the context of the overall objectives and approval of the MC. The mode of delivery, the pace of learning and assessment methods should be appropriately personalised for optimal learning. 

  • On-demand/industry driven 

Micro-credentials should be designed and delivered in response to demands of the learners or employers or industries for shorter and focused skill-sets, knowledge and technologies which are required for upskilling and reskilling of the workforce to be ready for the 4th industrial revolution or personal development. Engagement with industries and employers is crucial to ensure currency, relevancy and value of the MC. 

  • Secure and shareable 

The MCs should ideally be based on technologies that preserve the identity of the learners and protect the certifications from misuse or alterations to ensure user trust. The MCs should be shareable across social media platforms via email, blogs and resumes. 

  • Transparent 

The providers of MCs should furnish complete information on the units/modules/courses in a readable and easily accessible form covering course objectives, outcomes (knowledge, skills and attitudes), mode of delivery, hours of learning (if applicable), content, assessments, credits etc. to the learners and other authorised users for purposes of evaluation and recognition. 

  • Naming the Micro-credentials 

MCs offered by any HEPs should be appropriately named based on the purpose, delivery, content, assessment and scope. The titles should not in any way conflict with any qualification titles stipulated in the Malaysian Qualifications Framework 

The recognition of MC under this guideline can be in the form of a) Credit Transfer or b) APEL.  

At the EU level, a Common Microcredential Framework (CMF) was launched during the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) Summit in April 2019. The five points framework detailed the requirement for microcredential courses so that its capable or earning academic credit. They are listed below:- 

  • Have a total study time of no less than 100 hours and no more than 150 hours, including revision for, and completion of, the Summative Assessment. 
  • Be levelled at Level 6 or Level 7 in the European Qualification Framework or the equivalent levels in the university’s national qualification framework. 
  • Provide a summative assessment that enables the award of academic credit, either directly following successful completion of a microcredential or via recognition of priorlearning upon enrolment as a student on the university’s course of study. 
  • Operate a reliable method of ID verification at the point of assessment that complies with the university’s policies and/or is widely adopted across the platforms authorisedto use the CMF. 
  • Provide a transcript that sets out the learning outcomes for a microcredential, total study hours required, EQF level and number of credit points earned. 

Australian AQF is seriously looking at the issue of MC in its review and the publication in September 2019 will likely mention MC as part of the framework going forward. 

Potential of MC for UM: 

An MC program can be designed as a feeder to entry for a specific postgraduate course at the university. This has been done before at FOM where the course Essentials in Public Health was designed to equip the incoming postgraduate students which comes from overseas settings on the context of Malaysian healthcare system prior to join the Master program.   

Another option is to team up with relevant institution and offer a program certificate on a topic. This idea was floated by ADeC during the early stages of MOOC development. The university becomes the academic centre with the credibility to offer certification needed by the partner institution for upskilling purpose.  

As an example, Faculty of Languages could collaborate with Institut Terjemahan Negara Malaysia and offer a micro-credential program with certification on TV subtitling. Another idea example is a collaboration with professional bodies for example Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia and Faculty of Built Environment, and to offer certification program that will form part of a CPD requirement for building professionals. 

CLOSING 

As part of the strategic move forward for the university, micro-credentialling will likely have a place in the offering of skills development that UM could be an active player in. The potential for collaboration is great, given our central location and our standings. The leveraging of existing MOAs will be key as well as opening up of new collaboration network. 

REFERENCES 

Letter from MQA dated 6 May 2019 titled ‘Surat Makluman MQA Bil. 2/2019’ And the accompanying document ‘Panduan Pelaksanaan Program Micro-Credential (MC)’ 

https://www.futurelearn.com/programs/digital-media-analytics

Digital Credentialing: Implications of Recognition Across Borders. UNESCO, 2018 

https://www.voced.edu.au/focus-micro-credentials

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