In June 2020, then Education Minister Dan Tehan and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash announced AU $ 4.3 million for a micro-accreditation “bargain”. According to them, this would provide a nationally consistent platform to compare course results, duration, mode of delivery and credit value.
The announcement came when universities were losing money to COVID border closures that were blocking international students. It showed the importance that the federal government placed on funding micro-degrees rather than offering other forms of financial support to the higher education sector, such as ensuring that staff were eligible. at JobSeeker.
When announcing the deal, Tehan said:
Micro-degrees address the barriers most frequently cited by adult workers who do not intend to pursue further formal training or education: time and cost.
More recently, Universities Australia released a new guidance document to make micro-accreditations portable across Australia. This was done to help “universities and other educational institutions to develop short-term qualifications which are easily recognized and developed between institutions”.
So what are micro-accreditations, and why are they considered so important by governments and the higher education sector?
What are micro-identifiers?
In Australia, the term microcredential describes different types of small learning bites offered by universities, TAFEs and private education providers.
The term is often used interchangeably with “short courses” and may contribute to “micro-degrees”, which are sets of learning drawn from programs leading to a full degree.
When the micro-certificates contain an assessment task scored by a qualified professional, they can be “stacked” together to provide credits for the macro-qualifications (or diplomas).
In Australia, micro-accreditations in business, management and leadership are popular. But one can also study topics as diverse as social media generation, space technology, Yolnu language and culture, and sports coaching and leadership.
A student who successfully completes a microcredit typically earns a digital badge that they can display on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Badges are a digital verification of learning and contain metadata that describes what the course covered and what a badge recipient should have earned during the learning process.
Although the volume of learning varies from course to course, with a microcredit it is usually more than an hour of study and less than the time required to obtain a formal qualification.
For this reason, there is not an agreed definition of what a micro-certificate is. Earlier this month, UNESCO released a discussion paper that describes micro-degrees as “a promising way to improve the skills of workers” and as “a force for good” that can “complement and complement formal education systems “.
There is a common European Union definition, the guidance document recently released by Universities Australia and an Australian national micro-accreditation framework under development.
These documents are oriented towards a shared understanding of micro-accreditations by establishing three prerequisites:
micro-accreditations must be assessed
they must be of guaranteed quality
they should offer a transparent and understandable unit of exchange for credit.
What are the advantages of micro-identifiers?
The higher education micro-accreditation reform movement stems from the need for people to have high employment prospects and lifelong learning opportunities.
The vision is that students will be able to access smaller learning bites that meet their immediate professional needs or future career paths.
Global interest in and investment in microcredit is often based on its ability to provide a more equitable, socially just and prosperous learning society for all.
Micro-degrees allow people to enter and exit education, at an affordable cost, to meet their imminent learning and employment needs. Often, micro-degrees focus on developing skills and reducing skills gaps.
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Micro-accreditations also have a lifecycle aspect. It is possible to access short and less demanding courses to improve arithmetic or literacy, better understand health and well-being, fulfill creative aspirations such as writing a novel or producing a an album, or engage more effectively in activism and democratic processes.
Micro-accreditations are often available online. But they can also be offered face to face. Online learning is usually done at your own pace, while face-to-face learning can take place over a specified period of time.
The Australian Government’s Upcoming Micro-Accreditation Marketplace is an online platform that will allow users to compare short courses and understand how they can be used to earn credits towards a qualification.
In 2020, 36 of Australia’s 42 universities were already developing or offering micro-degrees.
What are the problems with micro-accreditations?
As the space for micro-accreditation expands, it is not without criticism. Internationally, there is a plethora of credentials, vendors, and platforms. The type of organization or institution providing microcredit has a profound impact on the objectives and goals of education. Some micro-degrees offer skills based on industry recognized skills. Others may not have strong industry ties or higher education support.
Some academics fear that universities will offer microloans to increase their income. There are also arguments such as small courses do not improve conditions for workers and focus on ‘learning to win’ rather than ‘learning to learn’.
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Other emerging concerns relate to micro-accreditations as benchmarks for the concert economy. They thus contribute to the privatization of education and potentially shift the cost of training from the employer to the employee.
Some education researchers do not see micro-degrees as a new innovation in education, but rather point out that training packages smaller than the qualification have been around for a long time, especially in vocational education and training.
There is also growing concern that micro-degrees may not revolutionize education, as students already have flexible study options, such as studying part-time, online or in intensive time blocks – and micro- Most popular degrees are only at the introductory level.
A change in education
The massive national and international investment in this mode of education signals a change in the way institutions and students perceive the future of lifelong learning.
It remains to be seen whether micro-accreditations can achieve lofty goals, such as advancing education for all. However, it seems clear that micro-degrees will be an important part of the higher education landscape in the near future.