PLAYING CATCH UP: ALIGNING CREDIT RECOGNITION AND TRANSFER WITH MICRO-CREDENTIALS
Athabasca University (CANADA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:Micro-credentials, as short competency-focused credentials, are becoming recognized for the role they can play in supporting credit recognition and transfer (CRT) creating new and important pathways for employability or further education. In the higher education sector, the Covid19 pandemic revealed the dire need of opportunities for rapid upskilling in the workforce, which is increasingly digitized, and in need of new skills and competencies to enable industries to be productive, innovative, and competitive. There are also the issues of costly tuition, and excessive duration to attain conventional degrees, diplomas or certificates. These external and internal pressures on the academy have been catalysts for institutions and credentialing agencies to rethink the credentials continuum. Employers want entry-level or existing employees who possess the requisite skills and capacity for continuous learning. Individuals - as students or employees - desire more options at lower costs to combine their education and/or training for employment.
Many colleges and universities are now actively engaged in granting and/or recognising micro-credentials. Micro-credentials have the potential to be important cogs in the institutional wheel if they can ensure cross-institutional recognition, stackability, and legitimacy. If a micro-credential is quality assured, with the main outcome of a verifiable competency and credibility (e.g., immutable digital record), institutions will be incentivized to accept their holders to bolster enrolment. Employers as well, will view such learning favourably if it carries institutional backing and is a legitimate reflection of what a given individual can do in a given profession.
The degree of interoperability of micro-credentials, however, does not come easily.
Three important factors are intensifying the need for higher education institutions and government to develop micro-credential policies and regulations: First, the mainstreaming and differentiation of lifelong learning; second, widening access to networked technologies particularly through handheld devices; and third, increased time (i.e., cognitive surplus) on the part of individuals to pursue new learning opportunities. Wider approvals of micro-credentials, and other forms of non-formal digital learning by governments can expedite and streamline credit transfer, supporting individuals seeking continuous learning or employment opportunities. This research contributes knowledge for the improvement of public and institutional policy by providing an alternative for more efficient credit transfer and articulation of qualifications.
At present, it is apparent that advanced economies will lead the charge into advancing policy and regulation in CRT. All things considered, there is much work to be done and all signs suggest that the complexity of micro-credentials and non-formal digital learning will grow. As it does, it will be imperative to have greater representation, discussions and decision making in domestic and international contexts. These moves should not start from ground zero, but instead begin from previous and existing experiences with MOOCs, and other non-formal digital credentials. This will level the playing field and give all stakeholders a voice to consider how to move forward in maturing the development, delivery and transferability of digital learning.
Keywords: Micro-credentials, credit transfer, non-formal education, stackability.