Microcredentials guidance to benefit lifelong learners and employers
UOW supports Universities Australia guidance to improve the portability of microcredentials
New guidance from Universities Australia to improve the portability of microcredentials will enable universities to better support lifelong learners, and support employers to upskill their workforce, says University of Wollongong Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Theo Farrell.
Professor Farrell served on the Universities Australia working group that produced the guidance on microcredentials.
Universities recognise the growing importance of lifelong learning, and the need to produce new education offerings to support people to develop new knowledge and skills throughout their lives.
“COVID-related disruption to the Australian economy shone a light on the demand for shorter education offerings to support people to reskill for new employment opportunities,” Professor Farrell said.
“In the coming decade, new automation and AI technologies will profoundly reshape economies around the world, and create much greater need for universities to support learners to upskill across their entire working lives.”
The University of Wollongong is working to support the lifelong learning needs of its graduates and communities. The success of the Higher Education Certificate program launched in 2020, to support workers whose jobs were impacted by the COVID pandemic, underlines the demand for shorter forms of lifelong learning.
Microcredentials offer a new way that to support lifelong learning. They are shorter education offerings, usually just a few weeks in length, that enable learners to focus on acquiring specific knowledge or skills and to have this learning verified by the university.
Usually delivered online, microcredentials offer greater flexibility for learners, which is essential for those with work or care responsibilities, and in this way they support more inclusivity in lifelong learning.
Microcredentials also offer a versatile way for universities to design and deliver short courses for employers.
Universities across Australia and the world have been experimenting with microcredentials for a number of years. Vocational colleges and professional bodies have also been putting on microcredentials. However, all of this experimentation has happened in the absence of an agreed framework or even definition for microcredentials.
This has made it difficult for learners and employers to compare the value of microcredentials provided by different education providers. It has also stymied a key promise of microcredentials, which is that learners may acquire microcredentials from different universities over time and ‘stack’ these towards a degree award.
The purpose of Universities Australia’s new guidance on microcredentials is to improve the comparability of university microcredentials for learners and employers.
The guidance provides that microcredentials should have “clear evidence of achievement”, “an understandable unit of exchange”, and be “quality assured and verifiable”.
“This guidance provides a first and important step towards a more common approach to microcredentials in Australia,” Professor Farrell said.
“It is vital that we continue to work together to improve the clarity of what we offer to support lifelong learners and support employers to upskill their workforce.
“At UOW, we will use this guidance as we develop our new portfolio of microcredentials over 2022. Watch this space for some exciting new offerings from UOW!”