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Micro-credentials in today’s education

In addition, for today’s students and professionals constrained by job commitments or those seeking to acquire niche or specialised skills, micro-credentials (MCs) have emerged as a crucial innovation in online education.
Last Updated : 04 June 2024, 01:00 IST
Last Updated : 04 June 2024, 01:00 IST

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Among the various online learning options available, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) play a significant role. While the term “MOOC” was coined in 2008, it began gaining traction in 2011 and became prominent in India from 2014 onwards. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns further highlighted the importance of online learning on a global scale.

In addition, for today’s students and professionals constrained by job commitments or those seeking to acquire niche or specialised skills, micro-credentials (MCs) have emerged as a crucial innovation in online education. These focused courses offer a flexible and efficient way to gain relevant expertise, ensuring learners stay competitive in their fields. In an ever-evolving job market, MCs are viewed as a blessing as they help in reskilling and upskilling, which is paramount to bridge the gap between academia and industry.

What are MCs?

Micro-credentials are an innovative and disruptive technology and competency-based learning model. Generally short and distinct from conventional degrees, they are also called nano degrees as they deliver focused, bite-sized pieces of knowledge with limited modules focused on a narrow range of skills or competencies that can be acquired quickly.

Typically offered online, they are also available in hybrid, distance, and in-person formats. Micro-credentials cater to various proficiency levels—beginner, intermediate, and advanced. They target a wide audience, including students, working professionals, and unemployed youth, making them a versatile and accessible option for continuous learning and skill development. Usually, MCs are certified in the form of digital badges (DB) issued to learners upon completion of a credential.

According to the HolonIQ 2021 report, approximately $36 billion was spent on online degrees in 2019, with around $9.8 billion allocated to micro-credentials. By 2025, the report predicts the market will grow to about $74 billion, with MCs expected to hold a major share.

Advantages of MCs

Micro-credentials offer several important benefits compared to traditional degrees:

Personalised professional learning: MCs allow for tailored learning experiences that focus on specific competencies relevant to the learner’s career goals.

Flexibility and accessibility: MCs provide flexible learning options, enabling effective collaboration among learners and accommodating various schedules and locations.

Self-paced learning: Learners can progress at their own pace, maintaining control over their professional development.

Global access: One most notable advantage of MCs is the ability to learn from anywhere in the world. Unlike conventional courses, MCs are dynamic, competitive, demand-driven, shorter, and more affordable. They offer a low-cost alternative for acquiring the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to stay relevant in a rapidly changing job market.

Challenges in implementation

Implementing micro-credentials, however, presents several challenges, primarily related to learner perception. Studies have shown that learners have not entirely accepted MCs as effective learning and assessment tools, often perceiving them as less prestigious or inferior to traditional degrees.

To address this, it is crucial to ensure rigorous learning and assessment practices for MCs and to create awareness about their advantages. In India, MCs are still in their nascency. Many educational institutions and leaders are unfamiliar with them, underlining the need for training and capacity building in colleges and universities.

Many educational institutions will likely face challenges in adaptability, resources, and faculty readiness, while attempting to implement MCs. The questions that will inevitably arise: Are institutions ready to adapt and embrace the changes necessary to implement MCs? Do they have the financial and technological resources to support this change, and are they willing to invest in them? Are faculty members prepared for the shift, and can they handle the increased number of students in the online space requiring monitoring and assessment?

Addressing these issues may be worthwhile and beneficial for a fruitful and seamless adoption and implementation of MCs in institutions. For MCs to be effective and readily acceptable, developing high-quality, internationally recognised, and accepted modules is crucial. More importantly, there must be mutual understanding and collaboration among all stakeholders—students, teachers, educational institutions, faculty preparing the modules, and employers who need to recognise and validate these courses.

This cooperation is vital for the successful acceptance and effectiveness of MCs. The time is ripe for Indian higher education institutions to take the lead in experimenting and innovating to meet the growing needs of the student community and societal demands. By doing so, they can ensure that MCs become a valuable and widely accepted component of higher education.

(The author is the Professor and Dean, Christ (deemed to be) University, Bengaluru)

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Published 04 June 2024, 01:00 IST

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