“One of our roles as academic community members is to serve society. It includes the development of an attractive, diversified offer of high-quality educational provision and promotion to attract as many people to education, especially to higher education, as possible. I’m convinced that micro-credentials will provide many groups of potential learners, both traditional students, and non-traditional learners, with new opportunities.” Mahdi Kleibo
Please visit: https://www.uni-med.net/en/uw2021_etf/
As we can see, history is being written with great speed, and we are faced with choices and decisions that will define the future of our Home Institution. We do not yet know the full impact of the pandemic on us. However, we know that the emerging economic crises lead to the loss of jobs and livelihoods. This will have drastic consequences on the ability of youth to advance with their education. The pandemic has the power to undermine education for years to come, particularly in the most vulnerable communities, regions, and countries, especially underdeveloped countries. However, we still have the power to stop what could be the most severe disruption of Higher Educational opportunities in a century, where essential gains in educational expansion and efforts to achieve educational equity could be erased. Therefore, each institute must coordinate efforts to ensure continuity of learning and protect domestic and international financing.
To defend this claim under the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic and to facilitate the levels of trust necessary for global collaboration in mobilizing resources to support online education, there must be a response from all educators, educational institutions, and stakeholders to confirm that education caters and empower the capabilities of learners at Higher Education. Therefore, there is a need to work with policymakers to receive support for evidence-based policy development and better regulation to move towards the modernization of the framework conditions at HEIs. Developing policies that address real internal problems at the institutional level will ultimately benefit the entire academic pyramid.
This quest for maintaining a priority for financing and greater international cooperation is to help to ensure the continuation of education in what is likely to be very challenging times, as it comes coupled with a request for greater efficiency and accountability so we can continue to add value to national efforts to advance education for all that is relevant to a changing world. We have to learn from the feedback from teachers, students, parents, and employers, for in them lies the potential for transforming education during and after the present crisis. Their responses to the pandemic will differ from one university to another and from one context to another.
In conclusion, the pandemic has forced a massive shift away from learning and teaching in traditional settings with physical interactions and replaced it with technology, mainly digital technology that enables communication, collaboration, and learning across distances. Educators cannot deny that the digital shift is a complex tool, and it does not solve all our institutional problems, but we cannot deny that it remains a source of innovation and expanded potential. It truly brought much existing internationalization and micro-credentials need to apply the best patterns and trends to the surface. By strengthening micro-credentials, opportunities will become a part of transitioning from in-person to future virtual employing opportunities by creating a new perspective of managing the transition from university to the world of work using a holistic approach.
Emerging jobs will require new skills, and for such a transition, we need to collaborate to keep up-to-date and make learning more adapted to individual needs. There is a significant concern that we have already started receiving signs about the current online teaching and learning situation developing into lasting (fixed) reform. We also need to recognize that many recruiters have concerns and doubts about online teaching performance and measurements as value-added, bridge opportunities with reliable job creation that can contribute to job needs, demands, and foreseen expectations. Therefore, we must work forward to assure and ensure that digitalization and applying micro-credentials do not undermine the role of teaching and education. Micro-credentials can be part of the solution. For this reason, to have the proper mindset to work with micro-credentials, there is an urgent need to create a research initiative on HEIs in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA Region) by collecting information on the evolving topic. This collected data will be required in designing the HEIs future framework.
The purpose of drafting this paper is to strengthen HEIs institutional capacities in delivering quality education and training by applying micro-credentials, as part of the academic paradigm, that enhances information and knowledge exchanges on themes linked to entrepreneurship and employability, entrepreneurial learning, career guidance, vocational training, promoting policy dialogue and mutual exchanges between schools and academia and other stakeholders, including enterprises, labor market stakeholders and national, regional and international labor authorities, in order to contribute to improve social cohesion and achieve more sustainable economic growth through the reform of education, training, and labor market systems.
The goal is to create a common ground of need and acceptance of the use of micro-credentials by different types of stakeholders (learners, education and training providers, professional associations, civil society organizations, social partners, and other business membership organizations) and their recognition by the Ministry of Higher Education authorities and representatives.
Micro-credentials complement traditional, formal qualifications universities and other higher education institutions offer. They can be viewed as a means to make the educational offer of universities more flexible and attractive, not only to traditional students pursuing Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. programs but also to various groups of lifelong learners. These non-traditional learners seek to change or update their skills portfolio and actively engage with new technologies to improve their position in the labor market. They also would like to develop their general personal or social competencies.
Offering micro-credentials can expand the universities’ role in providing continuous and lifelong learning and help further improve the responsiveness of higher education institutions to the needs of the labor market and expand the outreach and societal relevance of higher education overall. Short learning experiences resulting in micro-credentials support flexible life-long learning models in which periods of education and work intertwine, or education and career go in parallel. Such flexible education models are becoming increasingly popular among the new generation of learners and will likely become an integral part of the future of the Middle East Education Area.
It is an efficient and effective tool that secures expanding the horizons of non-traditional learners. It helps people attain knowledge and skills useful for their professional and personal development. They are offered to all, regardless of age, education level, and employment status. In particular, micro-credentials support inclusion and access to higher education. They also address the needs of various groups of young people with fewer opportunities. Unlike traditional degree programs, a lot of micro-credentials are offered online. Young people are online, regardless of their socio-economic status.
By offering micro-credentials, universities create opportunities for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. These might include, for example, prospective students living in rural areas, far away from big academic centers, who cannot enroll in regular degree programs because of the high costs of living in those big cities. Micro-credentials also address the needs of various groups of older people. A significant part of the working force aged 50+ or 55+ might need up-skilling in digital technology. These adults will unlikely apply for admission to degree programs. Micro-credentials might, however, be a viable option for them. Also, offering micro-credentials to senior citizens, and participating in activities provided by the University of the Third Age can help overcome some psychological problems typical for this age group, like feeling lonely, old, and without purpose.
To ensure that the results of such short training courses are portable and that all learning achievements can be recognized to allow learners to mix and match their school and work experiences and to move flexibly between different sectors of education.
In the higher education field, micro-credentials may carry credits provided to fit units of formal education programs. Quality assurance of micro-credentials is seen either under existing institutional or program accreditation arrangements as part of the certification and assessment process, and the relationship with a qualification is seen as essential for the recognition of micro-credentials.
Receiving micro-credentials recognized through credit recognition and accumulation schemes, so that they count towards a qualification, or through their inclusion where possible. In addition, most stakeholders link micro-credentials with the assessment of prior learning. They can be issued to recognize learning experiences that are smaller than a regular qualification and make them visible, allowing for certification of a small or very small set of skills and facilitating upskilling pathways.
There is always a need to keep up-to-date and ensure academia is more adapted to individual needs. Therefore, we aim to support HEIs policymakers embedding micro-credentials into the education paradigm to ensure being recognized through empowering policy documents and regulations in practice.
-Micro-credentials is a shared tool, alongside other lifelong learning instruments. It must be presented in a timely short but comprehensive learning experience (upskilling and reskilling short courses) in formal and non-formal settings, and later on be inserted as parts of formal education programs.
-Micro-credential interactions form of training courses are increasingly becoming shorter and more targeted. They may be offered by a variety of providers, including providers outside the formal education system. It demonstrates competence in the form of professional certificates, certificates of competence awarded by professional or other authorized bodies, and awards certifying validation of non-formal and informal learning. This dual-faceted vision of micro-credentials is supported by the respondents’ views on the most important features.
-Micro-credentials reflect both an individual learning experience and the result of an assessment of knowledge, skills, and competencies. Another key feature of micro-credentials is the relationship to existing qualifications. It articulates with recognized qualification or part of a recognized qualification so that learners and employers are able to see a path from micro-credentials to qualifications. This underlines the importance of assessment in designing micro-credentials, and the importance of their interaction with traditional qualifications with a focus on specific skills and competencies.
Micro-credentials are important for stakeholders primarily because they can be used to address a specific work need and can also be used to recognize learning outcomes acquired outside formal education. It is an instrumental asset that works hand-in-hand with supporting upskilling and reskilling in response to transformations in labor markets.
List of measurable benefits of applying micro-credentials:
- Immediate relevance to labor market demand
- Support individual learning
- Have stand-alone value
- Facilitate recognition of an individual’s skills, knowledge, and competences
- Facilitate the design of flexible training
- Cost and time saving
The credential is not considered micro-credential if they:
- Do not include an assessment of skills or competences
- Is a full formal education qualification
- Have no stand-alone value
- Is not subject to a quality assurance
- Do not represent a small volume of learning outcomes
- Represent a learning achievement that corresponds to a short period of learning
Micro-credentials integrate into lifelong learning policies
-Seen as beneficial in promoting lifelong learning opportunities. They are a tool for both a more tailored and flexible learning provision and for step-by-step skills assessments and certification
–Strengthen the design of qualifications and educational programs that are divided into self-standing units of assessment and flexible modules which can be shared across qualifications and courses
-Create additional opportunities for individual learning achievements obtained in different contexts to be recognized and can facilitate recognition of prior learning
-Tool to bring short courses and credentials into the qualification system
–Support flexibility and opportunities for progression
-Bridge the gap between traditional qualifications and flexible learning pathways;
-Related to further education and adult learning
-Contribute to the adaptation of education and training to labor market changes
–Address emerging needs for new skills and competencies in the labor market and help to accelerate their integration into existing or new qualifications and training programs.
Seven Basic principles to apply micro-credentials
- The European principles for micro-credentials are universal and not system-specific. Making the best use of the European Union principles for the design and issuance of micro-credentials is a good starting point for the implementation of micro-credentials. Micro-credentials are a new concept, but not a new phenomenon.
- Stakeholders may adopt micro-credentials as a new way of understanding current practice. There is a need to invest in raising awareness and promoting a common understanding of the use of micro-credentials. Work on the translation and internalization of the concept in national and local contexts also needs to be done.
- The regulatory frameworks for the uptake and use of micro-credentials should be enabling and avoid prescribing and overregulating micro-credentials, as this may cause to loss of flexibility. The right balance of quality assurance to enable the development and implementation of micro-credentials and recognition by others should build on the experience of producing small sets of skills, units of learning, and modularization in education and training programs rather than a priori regulation.
- Micro-credentials need to be relevant for individuals supporting upskilling and reskilling and allowing for combining validation with training opportunities to build more flexible pathways. Maximizing synergies with other policy areas – skills intelligence, active labor market policies, validation of non-formal and informal learning, upskilling pathways – with a view to promoting the use of micro-credentials and a stronger focus on inclusion, adult learning and lifelong learning can improve their effectiveness.
- New partnerships and collaborations between formal and non-formal education and training providers, national authorities and agencies, and labor market stakeholders can ensure the relevance of micro-credentials for the labor market. There should be a special focus on supporting innovative sectors, including those linked to sustainability and the digital transition.
- In order to make micro-credentials more stackable, it is important to connect them and allow them to be compared. This can be done by developing digital systems for skills, qualifications, and credentials that make the best use of existing transparency tools such as qualification and competency frameworks (for example US credit hours, ECTS, Europass, and ESCO).
- Micro-credentials can make qualification systems more responsive to the needs of individuals and to dynamic and increasingly globalized labor markets. Recognizing their value and integrating them into qualification systems will increase mutual trust, recognition, and the portability of competencies and individual qualifications. This requires an exchange of international experiences and close cooperation between countries and public and private international initiatives involving micro-credentials.
From 2019 to the present, Bethlehem University has offered short forms of virtual educational provision that conceptually resemble micro-credentials. The common micro-credentials framework transformed some of these forms into micro-credentials and developed many new ones. We have already experienced a milestone in creating an excellent mindset of how to offer micro-credentials jointly with suppliers.
The micro-credentials were sponsored by Erasmus+ and delivered with a certificate confirming the learning outcomes of the “CONNECT” Program, organized and presented by Soliya www.soliya.net, and with the “Climate Movements” Program, organized and presented by Sharing Perspectives Foundation sharingperspectivesfoundation.com/. It was awarded to over 250 students from different academic disciplines. It was included in their portfolio (cover letter and resume) as a benchmark, documenting the student’s virtual international experience and exposure. Several micro-credentials are now under development for the upcoming academic year 2022-23. We are working not only on micro-credentials intended for undergrads but also for postgraduates and staff. Offered programs raise students’ awareness of global socioeconomic concerns.
These certificates and badges easily reach anyone who wishes to advance their social, academic, educational, and career path. It created an opportunity to achieve additional competencies, frequently beyond the significant field of study, and have them formally certified as a valuable educational experience. In our case, credentials were transferred in the form of US academic credit hours. They involved rigid quality assurance, which includes a thorough formal assessment of learning outcomes based on presenting certificates and badges awarded by external evaluators as measurable learning outcomes based on participation in learning activities. Still, to create a complete micro-credentials cycle, we must jointly develop with partners from industry, local governments, and non-profit organizations or micro-credentials awarded for service to society-based learning activities, which we haven’t yet reached this level of integration.
Promotion is therefore necessary. It should address the academic community but go far beyond that group. There is a need for a massive campaign specifically designed to increase access to higher education, customized to youngsters with fewer opportunities. The program’s alumni can play an essential role in developing and implementing such a campaign, reflecting their experience through word of mouth, learning a lot in this process, and being awarded micro-credentials for this form of service to society.
The overall objective is to strengthen the human capital specifically at HEIs via:
- Outline each Home University’s internationalization landscape and identify international and intercultural dimensions (formal and informal curriculum)
- Improve each Home University’s capability for internationalization through staff training and by translating general awareness on applying micro-credentials concept into streamlined university strategy and action plan
- Build each Home University student’s intercultural knowledge and sensitivity to external educational digitalized settings and cultural diversity by transforming the Academic Office into a vibrant multicultural focal point
The long-term outcome will be to create a civilized and globalized generation that understands local and global issues with self-motivated lifelong learner skills, empowered to enhance professional and leadership skills. The short outcome is to work on capacity building program for academics, administrators, students on internationalization (education, research/projects), and the intercultural environment through applying the following outputs:
- Data collection and publishing of university profile reports
- Consolidation of the university integrative function, webinars, university strategy, and action plan
- Enhancement of the university’s capacity for virtual international and regional collaborations, study visits, and training
- University Intercultural environment, digital storytelling, friends’ teahouses
The output is defined once applying the micro-credentials framework is the micro-credentials template – a precisely defined list of critical information elements that describe a particular micro-credential. This list includes learning outcomes, the workload needed to achieve these learning outcomes, the participation in the learning activity, the type of assessment, and several other obligatory and optional information that characterizes a particular micro-credential.
The results will support each Home University’s reporting, sharing, and giving information on the Home University’s position on an intentional level. The analysis and statistics will be available (accessible) on the Home University website. The profound impact of applying micro-credentials is developing cross-cultural communication skills and can engage in constructive dialogue across divides. It will further enable us to connect educators to accelerate the speed and spread of sharing experience and knowledge as it is able HEIs to get a broader panoramic understanding of the future labor market needs and demands.
Applying micro-credentials will improve HEIs’ general performance, starting with management skills and the quality in the preparation, implementation, monitoring, and follow-up with technical skills, all part of applying globalization best practices. It will further contribute for graduates to transition to the world of work by strengthening their human capital by acquiring knowledge, skills, and competencies to generate competent professionals able to face global challenges. Therefore, we must start working on applying the new integrated paradigm to increase the competencies of individual graduates to become qualified, proactive members of the local and global labor force able to meet the demands of the 21st-century. We must target to enhance and reinforce the potential of alumni’s outcomes in developing their mindset.
In conclusion, to improve the quality of HEIs and professional management and strengthen the importance of education for future labor market challenges, strengthening the interaction between HEIs, companies, and local, national, and regional authorities is required. HEIs need to take into consideration modernization, virtual accessibility, and best practices of internationalization by applying micro-credentials as a tool to improve employability in the region, a collaboration to set a plan to improve and strengthen the role and potential of the development of employability by adopting a transversal entrepreneurial dialogue between local and international universities, companies and decision-makers are required.
We share and guide principles in areas where high-stakes decisions made today will have significant long-term consequences. Therefore, HEIs have to apply the best that we know about internationalization in these moments of crisis and uncertainty. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of the idea of the week or illusory ready-made “solutions.” We need now to decide about what we want to become. Each Faculty needs to consider creating a database of experts and trainers/facilitators with a pool of best practices for engaging academic staff in micro-credentials with further insights into the related skills and training topics most important for academic staff to focus on.
Therefore, each institution needs to consider:
- Reduction in time/workloads
- Mechanisms to recognize participation
- Develop more and better communication
Academic Administration needs to consider:
- Connect with incentives
- Engage in training opportunities
- Dedicate to Human Resources and developed a plan
Each entity (faculty/department) can create its approach based on a clear understanding of the Home University’s culture, familiarity with the academic staff dynamics, and the timeframe to achieve specific results from a theoretical approach, and the following steps can deliver speedy results:
- Develop clear incentives for participants to secure engagement and involvement in the process
- Define a clear understanding of commonly used terminologies to set a common ground for understanding
- Prioritize micro-credentials scheme from institutional perception and academic staff perspective
- Establish a common ground of understanding between each Faculty and academic staff
- Enable a transparent atmosphere to engage academic staff with the foreseen drafted strategy
- Integrate the future needs, demands, and scope of the labor force scheme into the planning
- Respect each Faculty culture and main core issues before accrediting the final draft
- Attend and conduct tailor-made micro-credentials training and developmental courses
- Refresh the strategic activities from time to time to match with the most up-to-date demands
- Keep active communication and information dissemination.
We urgently need to establish for the MENA Region micro-credentials which underline the importance of relevance, assessment, and stackability of learning outcomes as key components for designing and implementing micro-credentials by practitioners in the context of lifelong learning including validation, vocational education and training, adult learning and higher education. In order to facilitate the use and recognition of micro-credentials, we need to be embedded in a wider policy or regulatory framework.
Factors for Micro-credentials recognition check-list should be
- part of a National Qualifications Framework
- linked to existing qualifications
- follow a standardized digital format
- included in an online official register
- providers of micro-credentials accredited.
- developed with the involvement of relevant stakeholders and institutions.
- have clear added value, either in the labor market or adding value to existing qualifications.
*The main aim of the regulation is empowering their development, rather than prescribing how they should be formulated. Common standards can limit the flexibility, innovation, and relevance of micro-credentials.
To ensure the relevance of micro-credentials, we should:
-focus on skills and competencies that address industry needs/ gaps
-be focusing on personal and societal needs
-be developed in consultation with industries, employers, and professional bodies
-be aligned to industry standards or competency frameworks
-be regularly updated. Learners should be involved in their revision
-be validated/ endorsed by industry partners/ sectoral bodies
To ensure stack-ability of micro-credentials, we need to develop
ü the relationship with existing qualifications should be clearly defined
-education and training programs should be modularized
-a common format for micro-credential is needed
-collaboration between education and training organizations and other providers of micro-credentials in developing micro-credentials should be encouraged
To ensure assessment of learning outcomes
-micro-credentials should be awarded based on the assessment of learning outcomes
-providers of micro-credentials must ensure that appropriate assessment methods and criteria are used
-assessment should be based on standards
-obtaining micro-credentials should always be possible based on the assessment of learning outcomes resulting from non-formal and informal learning
-Credit systems facilitate stackability
|ETF-EVSW Event on Micro-credentials https://www.etf.europa.eu/en/news-and-events/events/event-micro-credentials-guidelines-be-organised-during-evsw
European Commission (2021). Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on Micro-credentials for
lifelong learning and employability
European Commission (2021). Staff Working Document accompanying the proposal on Micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability
European Commission (2021). Commission proposal for a Council Recommendation on Individual Learning
European Commission (2020). European skills agenda for sustainable competitiveness, social
fairness and resilience European Skills Agenda – Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion – European Commission (europa.eu)
European Commission (2020). The Council Recommendation on vocational education and training (VET) for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience
European Commission (2020). Commission Staff Working Document: Evaluation of the 2012 Council
Recommendation on validation of non-formal and informal learning.
European Commission (2016). Council Recommendation on Upskilling Pathways: New Opportunities for Adults.
▪ A European approach to micro-credentials | European Education Area (europa.eu)
▪ Micro-credentials – EDUBRIEF: EduBrief publications and resources on micro-credentials
▪ Conference on micro-credentials | CEDEFOP (europa.eu)
▪ MicroHE – Supporting Learning Excellence through Micro-Credentials in Higher Education
▪ Micro-credentials » NZQA
Shared by: Mahdi Kleibo - External Academic Relations Bethlehem University in Palestine. Bio-Mahdi Kleibo background is in private, public and academic sector development, institutional strengthening, and capacity building, with over twelve years of professional experience that ranges from advanced management to capacity development within the Palestinian context.Email firstname.lastname@example.org Concept note-Potential local and intentional recruiters must believe that the HEIs contribute to developing passionate HE graduates, know what they want, and know where they are heading next to their career path as highly qualified calibers and entrepreneurs. The most relevant marketing strategy is to address potential HEIs who have the proper mindset to seek to develop and create the image of self-motivated, energetic, passionate, and creative caliber in their field. The start-up point will be head-hunting lifelong learners who are empowered to enhance their professional, entrepreneurial, and leadership skills regardless of what stage of junior or senior studies/job/career hunters/between jobs/and or profession they are in now. The aim is to attract potential independent postgraduates capable of leading a meaningful life, making sound choices and decisions, interacting in an international environment, and responding creatively to various academic, research-based, and career challenges. Therefore, we need to highlight the most desirable programs chosen by current and future recruiters, specifically designed to ensure that they are viewed as 21st-century applicable skills with the most desirable mindset and link them with knowledgeable job opportunities on a local, regional, and international scale because it is essential to have the proper positioning.
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