The HEA asked colleagues from Deakin University to write about their work in relation to employability. Here, Professor Beverley Oliver, Deputy Vice-Chaancellor Education, shares the University's experience in using micro-credentials:
Deakin University has been working in the micro-credentialing space for some time, including leading an Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching strategic project to explore the potential of micro-credentials. One of the artefacts from that project was a report, Better 21C Credentials, with 19 case studies showing how micro-credentialing has moved quickly from "giving badges" to warrant capabilities at a much more granular level, sometimes through MOOCs, open programmes or other means that lead to degrees.
Deakin's strategy is to "offer students a brilliant education - where they are and where they want to go - for the jobs and skills of the future". Like many institutions, Deakin ensures that a range of graduate attributes - including discipline knowledge, communication, critical thinking, teamwork and global citizenship - are evidenced and assessed in all our degree programmes. Adding micro-credentials is an opportunity to focus on those generic employability capabilities that will always be in demand: assessing and warranting graduate attributes and employability skills for mature learners with extensive work and life experience.
Our Professional Practice Credentials are stand-alone micro-credentials, aligned with the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and professional or industry accreditation frameworks, that warrant achievement of key employability outcomes. To achieve these credentials, experienced professionals bypass taught courses in areas in which they already have expertise, and present concise qualitative evidence - including video testimony - for personalised assessment through our digital platform. These credentials have proven attractive to companies looking for bespoke assessment and recognition of critical workplace capabilities, and many of these Credentials are awarded on a stand-alone basis to warrant workplace outcomes. All the Professional Practice Credentials bear the insignia of the University, are assessed by academic and industry leaders, and must be based on evidence of achievement, rather than participation.
More recently, we have incorporated the Credentials into postgraduate courses: in addition to achieving the designated Credentials, candidates complete traditional introductory and capstone units to achieve a Professional Practice degree, typically at Masters level, or in a nested Graduate Certificate. Employers and industry have been very positive about Credentials to warrant continuing professional development capabilities, with and their ‘stackability’ towards a degree means many can lead to a degree. Degrees of this nature have three important features: they are based on qualitative evidence of achievement as demonstrated in the workplace; the Credentials can be done as and when the candidate is ready. As Credentials do not include teaching costs, the overall cost of a Masters degree is significantly lower than a fully taught Masters. Two of our Master of Professional Practice degrees are currently available globally at FutureLearn.
The management of all Deakin Professional Practice Credentials is through our separate commercial entity, DeakinCo. While most of our credential candidates are currently in corporate cohorts, we plan to increase engagement with individual candidates, particularly our own students. For example, we envisage that some students may be interested in earning a stand-alone credential in, say, Innovation, Communication or Teamwork in addition to completing their traditional Bachelor or Masters degree as a way to differentiate themselves and stand out to employers.
Having invested considerably in establishing an academically robust and employment market relevant micro-credentialing business we are now starting to work with other higher education providers who would like to accelerate their participation in the micro-credential market. We see an opportunity to develop a mutually recognised new currency for entry and credit to degrees between likeminded Universities and which has recognised value for employers and candidates. DeakinCo. CEO, Simon Hann (firstname.lastname@example.org) is visiting the UK in late September to meet with interested parties around this collaboration model.