Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Deci and Centi-credentials for Australian Professionals?

There is a lot of hype about badges and micro-credentials by Australian universities, amongst others, but little concrete action on implementing them. Also it is not clear how these small units fit with conventional qualifications, which I guess should now be called "macro-credentials". ;-)

Mewburn, Freund and Rutherford (2014) frankly discuss the difficulties with an open badge pilot at the Australian National University. There is little agreement on what such micro-credentials are. Existing conventional educational institutions are likely to use micro-credentials to describe parts of existing programs. As an example, UNSW describes its half semester on-line courses, such as "Systems Engineering Knowledge" (ZEIT8238), as "Micro‐credential Courses" (UNSW, 2016).

Vocational institutions may also follow a similar practice, describing what are formally called "Units of competency" as micro-credentials. As an example, the Diploma of Information Technology (ICT50115) requires 20 Units of competency, which is about the same granularity as the UNSW micro-credential (, 2016).

Deakin University's "DeakinCo"  commercial arm takes a slightly different approach with microcredentials, in "Growing workforce 4.0" (19 April 2017), describes a framework of core professional capabilities (such as "teamwork") and areas of specialist professional expertise (such as "Data-driven marketing").

DeakinCo is offering nineteen Professional Practice Credentials. Some of these micro-credentials are what would be usually considered graduate attributes, such as Self Management, Teamwork, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Emotional Judgement, Global Citizenship. Others might be aspects of courses, such as Digital Literacy, Communication, Innovation, Professional Ethics. Others would seem to be areas for whole qualifications, such as Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Data-Driven Marketing, Creative, Data Analytics. Others appear to be attributes sought in job applications, rather than something for a formal education process:  Lead and Develop People, Empower Others, Adapt and Change and Drive Strategic Results, but these are described as "credentials".

The DeakinCo credentials are offered at three levels:  Intermediate, Proficient and Advanced.The process for obtaining a credential can be illustrated with the "Self Management" credential. Here the applicant must have 5, 7, or 10 years experience for the Intermediate, Proficient and Advanced levels respectively. The applicant collects two or three pieces of evidence and writes a reflective testimony of 500 to 1000 words. The applicant is then interviewed by video conference. The process and forms used are similar to those used for some higher education qualifications (such as the Athabasca MEd) and membership of academic bodies (such as the Higher Education Academy (HEA) Professional Recognition Scheme).

Athabasca, HEA and DeakinCo all use the collection of evidence, related to specific competencies, and reflective portfolio. Athabacsa's MEd also uses a video-conferecne interview, the HEA does not. However, unlike Athabasca and HEA, DeakinCo are using the process at a much finer level of granularity. Assuming completion of all nineteen of the DeakinCo micro-credentials, at a cost of $9,405 ($495 each), the applicant would have completed nineteen evidence statements, reflective works and interviews. In comparison the Athabasca Med student, at a cost of about $19,000, completes one e-portfolio, in two stages, covering five artifacts and then has one interview.

One of the problems with such recognition schemes has been the daunting nature of the process. DeakinCo's approach may be useful, even where the applicant wants a macro-credential. Dividing the task into small manageable pieces could help the applicant.

Another problem are the conflicting priorities of vocational and university educational systems and those of employers. An interesting report which sought to bridge vocational and university education with "Recognition of Current Competency" (RCC) as distinct from "Recognition of Prior Learning" (RPL) was produced for Australia's vocational sector  (Mason, Perry & Radford, 2007).

ps: A micro-credential might be better termed a deci-credential or centi-credential, as they are tenths to hundredths of a full credential, not millionths. ;-)


Credit into UNSW Canberra Postgraduate Programs
for Attendance at Professional Education Courses, page 2, UNSW, 2016.

ICT50115 - Diploma of Information Technology: Qualification details
 (Release 2), Australian Government, 14 January 2016

Mason, J., Perry, W., & Radford, A. (2007, 3 December) Processes, systems and tools supporting recognition of prior learning survey: Final report, Australian Flexible Learning Framework, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Mewburn, I., Freund, K., & Rutherford, E. (2014). Badge trouble: piloting open badges at the Australian National University. Ascilite.

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