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Web3, Ed3 and microcredentialling - the learning renaissance and its impact on institutions

June 7, 2022

Tell me about yourself. The dreaded question that beckons an effective answer in order to enter employment, study, or even a romantic relationship. But how do you really capture a sense of who you are and communicate it? 

Some people begin by talking about work or study, but that is really only a fraction of the whole. Sure, your qualifications are an important part of your life story, but what about all the other learning experiences you've had, which don't fit on the page? Even describing the things you've done can be difficult in terms of how they connect to the skills which those experiences developed.

Our lives contain so many learning experiences, and shorter, focused learning episodes which we may have done in a variety of settings. How can we evidence these and present a more complete picture of who we are and the path we have taken?

The LinkedIn Profile structure has had a good attempt at helping us do this, but verifiability of these claims is also a challenge. How many times has someone endorsed you for a skill you are either not sure you really have, or would prefer not to be the one people remember you for? We need something a bit more developed, and micro-credentials are ready to take that role.

Micro what?

With the world of work changing so rapidly, it's increasingly important to be able to show employers that you have the skills they need. That's where micro-credentials come in. Micro-credentials are digital badges that indicate that you have completed a specific learning experience and possess a certain skill. They can be issued by educational institutions, companies, or even individual experts.

Because they're stored on the blockchain, they're tamper-proof and verifiable. That makes them much more trustworthy than traditional credentials like degrees or certificates, which can be forged or faked. A study showed 76% of employers assumed that any degree certificates presented to them were genuine, and did not perform any further checks.

It is unsurprising in an age of more sophisticated technology that the micro-credentialing movement is gaining momentum as a trusted and verifiable way to certify learning. Blockchain technologies are playing a pivotal role in this, with Ed3 leading the way in developing Web3 solutions for higher education. This is having a profound impact on institutions, which are now being forced to adapt or risk becoming irrelevant. So what is this all about?

Uses of micro-credentialing

First up, micro-credentialing can be a great way to evidence your skills and experience in the workforce. If you're looking to change careers or move into a new field, micro-credentialing can give you the edge by demonstrating your capabilities.

For example, let's say you're trying to break into the tech industry. You might use micro-credentialing to showcase your skills in coding, web development, or user experience design. Or, if you're aiming for a management role, you could use micro-credentialing to evidence your ability to lead and motivate teams.

Statistics show that micro-credentialing is on the rise, with the number of micro-credentials issued increasing by over 400% in the last year alone. And it's not just individuals who are benefitting from micro-credentialing - businesses are using it as a way to assess the skills and experience of job applicants.

Time for higher education to adapt

If you're a coder, for example, you might micro-certify your skills with the help of protocols like Ed3. This would allow you to show potential employers that you have the skills they're looking for, without having to go through the traditional education system. Why would this happen?

Well, HigherEd is not known for changing its learning content quickly to keep up with the changing demands of industry. Most universities nowadays have pathways for teachers to request curriculum changes, such as additional modules, usually done by a central development team such as this example here from the University of Sussex.

This process is not quick, and has ramifications. Changing something means updating learning resources, scheduling, communicating all of this with learners and sometimes even having to run it all by the accreditation boards and bodies. Phew!

But learners want to learn. Fundamentally, what they want are relevant skills and the space to pursue their own interests, which emerge and mature over time and cannot always be predicted at the moment of choosing course pathways. Higher education needs therefore to be more responsive and adaptive, and being able to provide learners with the solid foundation of a reputable degree, alongside the flexibility to stack and badge more personal learning, is an opportunity which institutions need to make much more of.

Building micro-credentialing into Higher Education

So how can Higher Ed actually build micro-credentialing into its learning offer? The possibilities are really quite endless – but here are a few examples to get you thinking.

If you're studying for a degree, micro-credentials could be used to evidence the additional skills and knowledge you've acquired outside of your main course modules. For example, if you're doing a business degree and take an online marketing course as part of your professional development, you could add this to your CV as a micro-credential.

Or, if you're studying for a teaching qualification, you might use micro-credentials to show that you've completed extra training in special needs education or classroom management techniques. These learning episodes may not be part of the core degree, but they will make you more marketable to potential employers. They can be verified very easily by the issuing institution, and they add value to your degree.

Ultimately, they allow learners to take the same core course of studies, but branch off into areas of learning that spark passion and support career aims. You can also study them online, in your own time, at your own pace. This means that you can fit them around your work or other commitments and adapt to the core course workload.

This may mean actually reducing the core course workload to allow space for adaptive learning at the edges, and requiring students to complete a certain amount of peripheral learning under their own steam.

Using existing content to complement your offer

As with so much in this Web3/Ed3 world, we do not have to reinvent the wheel. Universities do not have to suddenly create short courses for all the possible learning complements that students may which to pursue, but in a world where more and more learning is happening online, the question of how to certify academic levels for micro-credentials is becoming increasingly important.

One option is to use MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as a way of assessing academic levels. MOOCs can be a useful tool for certifying micro-credentials, as they provide a way to measure learners' progress and assess their understanding of the material. However, MOOCs also have their limitations. For example, they are not always well suited to measuring practical skills. They can also be vulnerable to cheating, though there are strategies to counter this.

Another option is to develop a qualification framework specifically for micro-credentials. This would provide a more comprehensive way of assessing academic levels, and would allow for the development of specific qualifications that are tailored to the needs of micro-credential holders. Ultimately, whichever approach is taken, the goal should be to ensure that micro-credentials are properly certified, so that employers can be confident in the academic levels of those who hold them.

This means that universities clearly have work to do in building these structures, but the opportunities are endless, and clearly the benefits outweigh the investment in resources. Having a fully adaptive personal learning offer is something institutions will want to work towards, as our future work environment becomes ever more fluid and unpredictable. Micro-credentialing, however, is a stepping stone towards this and can be a powerful hook for students considering your institution.

To talk more about how NEO Academy can connect you to a new generation of learners in a digital world, just reach out for a chat, or check us out here to see what we can do for you.

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