By Prof Michael Sankey (Griffith University) and Dr Ratna Selvaratnam (Edith Cowan University)
In November last year (2019), ACODE published a White Paper titled ‘Micro-credentialing as a sustainable way forward for universities in Australia: Perceptions of the landscape’ which was written by the authors, and was made possible by our collaboration through the ASCILITE Community Mentoring Program. The paper reported on the outcomes of a survey conducted in July 2019, among the ACODE membership on the current state of readiness of Australasian HE institutions in relation to a coherent micro-credentialing strategy. As you may be aware, ACODE is a representative Council, not an Association (like ASCILITE), where institutions nominate who will represent them on the Council. ACODE currently has representation from 45 Australasian universities. Of these 37 responded to the survey, with 29 Australian institutions, 7 New Zealand institutions and 1 institution from Fiji.
Respondents were asked a series of questions to ascertain the level of micro-credentialing work being undertaken at their institutions.
When asked if their university had a micro-credentialing policy, 22% responded confidently that there was and 65% were confident there was not. Interestingly the rest (13%) were unsure. This is not unusual considering many universities are considering micro-credentialing but have not necessarily enacted a policy at this stage. In other words, it could still be at a formative stage.
Linked with a notion of a policy is also the need for some form of taxonomy, or matrix of what an institution is prepared to credential, that may or may not be aligned with the AQF. When asked if such a thing existed, most respondents (73%) were confident that their universities did not, with only 4 (11%) indicating that they did. This is not surprising as this is not an easy task and we are still pretty much in the early stages of all this. An example of the Taxonomy Griffith has developed may be found as an appendix to our policy found off our Griffith Credentials Resource page.
Seven institutions (19%) indicated that they had a credentialing engine in place, with 3 using Credly, 2 using Badgr, 1 using Acclaim and 1 using Accredible. A couple of other institutions were in the process of establishing which was the best way to go (and/or in the early stages of procurement). This was supported by the understanding gained from the institutions reporting on their status in relation to adoption, with 73% indicating that this was still developing, 27% that it was non-existent and 0% believing they were mature in this space.
Most respondents (81%) indicated their institution was planning to micro-credential short courses followed by postgraduate courses (49%). This is likely due to the fact that short courses are low-hanging fruit that can be credentialed into an award pathway. Undergraduate courses will need to consider the student experience transitioning into higher education and may explain why institutions may be reluctant to micro-credential these courses for now, with only 24% indicating they are considering this.
In relation to micro-credentialed professional development being offered at their institutions, 14 (38%) identified that this was the case or would be soon. However, the majority (60%) indicated that there was nothing happening in the space right now.
Of those using micro-credentials for student credit the main outcomes relate to the recognition of prior learning, graduate diplomas, as a pathway to an award, degree enhancement, undergraduate digital fluency and graduate attributes.
Importantly, at the title of this blog suggests, this is a point in time snapshot that is being presented here and as this space is evolving reasonably quickly, we will likely see different results as our research continues to evolve. In fact this rapidly evolving higher education landscape provides our universities with a great opportunity to reconsider how it offers education. In a time where knowledge and skills need to be updated constantly, and dare it be thinkable that a three- or four-year degree may not suit the currency required in many jobs and other emerging forms of work in the future.
A fuller version of this work is provided in the ACODE White Paper titled ‘Micro-credentialing as a sustainable way forward for universities in Australia: Perceptions of the landscape’ which may be accessed from the ACODE website. We look forward to progressing this work further with the sector over the next 12 months.