Micro-credentials are small packets of learning and skills acquisition that may be recognised by a digital certificate or badge. They may be standalone qualifications or the starting point for degree-level study. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought such flexibility into sharper focus, as an increasing number of people are expected to seek opportunities for upskilling and career change using online platforms.
Building on previous work in Scotland and Australia, this project explored the potential development of micro-credentials in relation to Graduate Apprentice programmes and work-based learning, their understanding by stakeholders, and their increasing relevance in our current disrupted circumstances.
The project's outputs include the following recommendations. The key to these recommendations is a national and collaborative approach that clarifies the landscape and reduces barriers to implementation and accessibility for all stakeholder groups.
Watch our video to find out more
- Recommendation 1
Agree a clear and universal micro-credential language across providers to improve understanding, reduce uncertainty and promote collaboration amongst all stakeholders.
- Recommendation 2
Establish clear micro-credential standards, which are replicable over all providers. This includes provision for credit- and non-credit-bearing micro-credentials, stand-alone CPD opportunities and opportunities to use micro-credentials as a means to re-enter higher education and gather credit for degree-level studies.
- Recommendation 3
Create a central, accessible, and national micro-credentials hub, which offers quality assured micro-credentials.
- Recommendation 4
Develop robust ways of working between higher and further education institutions and employers.
The event for university staff was held online on 21 January 2021 and was organised by Anne Tierney and Robin Westacott (Heriot-Watt University), Morven Shearer (University of St. Andrews) and Sally Smith (Edinburgh Napier University). The event attracted academic, professional services and senior leadership staff from across the sector for a half-day discussion around micro-credentials and digital badges. The event opened with a presentation by Dr. Patrina Law, Head of OpenLearn at the Open University, who set the scene with the Open University experience of micro-credentials. There followed a facilitated discussion of what this means in the Scottish higher education context. Key learning from the event was the need for clear use of language, a greater understanding of micro-credentials themselves, and infrastructure to support institutions to develop and offer them internally and externally. The event was closed with a presentation on digital badges by Dr. Mary Pryor (University of Aberdeen).
Held on 5 Mar 2021, Dr Joy Perkins at the University of Aberdeen explored details of Scottish universities who are working collaboratively to research micro-credentials from various stakeholder perspectives. A key aspect of this collaborative research is to explore employer awareness and use of micro-credentials in the workplace, for example in continuing professional development (CPD) and recruitment activities. As part of this research, the project team is hosting an online, employer-facing event. Employers and employees involved in recruitment, HR recruiters and senior managers from business, industry and the third sector are welcome to attend.
The event for customers of micro-credentials took place on 27 April 2021 and was organised by Julie Strachan (Robert Gordon University), John Kerr (University of Glasgow) and Nicola Milton (University of St Andrews). Customers are defined as people to whom micro-credentials may be of interest in terms of upskilling and reskilling, but who may not have previous experience with higher education, and are, as such, distinct from students. Matt Jenner (FutureLearn) and Sophia Grant (Skills Development Scotland) gave the group their perspectives on the potential benefits of micro-credentials. The group then discussed what was important to them. Understanding what micro-credentials are, the language surrounding micro-credentials, accessing them from a reputable provider and their benefits in terms of potential employability were discussed.
The Rise of the Microcredential - What's in it for Students?
Held on 13 May 2021, this 90 minute interactive workshop led by Pete Evans, Senior Teaching Fellow from the University of Edinburgh explored how micro-credentials and digital badges might be best developed in Higher Education in Scotland.