National Survey on Potential of Micro-credentials for Enhancing Employability and Access to Lifelong Learning

Last week, a NIDL research team launched the first National Survey seeking the views of employees, employers and other key Irish stakeholders on the current use and future potential of micro-credentials.

National Micro-Credential Survey - social and digital image.png

The National Survey was launched in partnership with five Skillnet networks: Aviation Skillnet, ICBE Advanced Productivity Skillnet, ICBE Business Excellence Skillnet, Galway Executive Skillnet and Taste4Success Skillnet. We are seeking to better understand how a strategic investment in micro-credentials in Ireland might be able to help address key skills gaps and be part of a national response to the rapidly changing nature of work, and growing recognition of the importance of supporting a culture of continuous professional development and lifelong learning, more generally.

Additionally, in the context of Covid-19 the development of quality assured, credit-bearing, online short courses leading to stackable micro-credentials may help to provide new career opportunities and play a valuable role in getting more people back to work.

MCs Evology

Although the term “micro-credential” currently lacks a common definition globally, which is a problem the study is also exploring, they typically refer to units of assessed learning that are significantly smaller than traditional forms of accredited learning (such as diplomas or degrees).  Under this definition, micro-credentials can be stacked into a degree, contribute to a degree, or stand alone, giving learners more flexibility and pathways into formal qualifications. Importantly, they differ from and have more currency than badges that may be issued for simply participating in a learning experience. In this respect, micro-credentials require formal assessment and the same quality assurance processes as existing credentials from trusted providers.

The findings from this survey will help inform work already underway at a European-level on developing a common definition, qualification framework and standardised platforms for recognising micro-credentials in the workplace, and beyond. Notably, micro-credentials are already a key action on the European Commission’s recently launched Skills Agenda for Europe. Last year, DCU contributed to the Common Micro-credential Framework developed by the European MOOC Consortium, and currently Professor Mark Brown is contributing to the European Commission’s Micro-credential Consultation Group.

cmf.jpg

DCU is also an active partner in the ECIU University initiative where a suite of micro-leaning experiences developed around a signature pedagogy of Challenged-based Education (CBE) may lead to formally recognised micro-credentials.  Earlier in the year, the NIDL helped to develop an ECIU position statement on the future of micro-credentials in the European context.

As part of the current study the NIDL research team has already produced an Insights Report looking at current global trends and developments. We plan to share the findings of this report and the national Irish survey at an international event on micro-credentials that DCU will be hosting later in the year. In the meantime, if you live in Ireland, then we encourage you to contribute to this study by completing the survey. You can also find out more information about the NIDL’s work in this growing area, and DCU’s first credit-bearing, stackable, micro-credential launched in February 2020 in the area of FinTech through the FutureLearn platform, by visiting our Micro-credential Observatory.

Three New NIDL Research Projects Investigating Online Education in Response to Covid-19

The NIDL team is looking forward to leading and contributing to three new research projects over the next few months investigating how the higher education sector has responded to the Covid-19 global health crisis. Two of the following projects come under the umbrella of Dublin City University’s new dedicated Covid-19 Research and Innovation Hub established in response to the global pandemic. The Hub is leveraging DCU’s research expertise, in collaboration with national and international stakeholders, with a view to developing solutions that can be implemented and deployed within a three to six months time frame.

photo-1516321497487-e288fb19713f

Beyond the Covid Pivot: Towards Transformative Online Learning

The first project led by the NIDL involving a team from the Ideas Lab and Open Education Unit, with the DCU Student Union as an Associate Partner, along with discussions underway with other stakeholders, focuses on the student online learning experience. The basic tenet of the research is that learning online is not the same as learning in a traditional classroom, it requires a different set of skills to master. With the recent pivot to online learning in response to Covid-19, the ability to learn effectively online has never been more important.

UNESCO Covid-19Looking forward we need to develop the capacity of students to become effective online learners. We also need to look back to understand and learn from the experience of students so far. This project will, therefore, develop and conduct research on a ‘Learning How to Learn Online’ MOOC on a major platform to support students as they adapt to a greater focus on learning online in higher education settings.

The study will research students’ experiences and perceptions of barriers to learning online in response to COVID-19. These insights from the key-face of the student learning experience will inform future institutional decision-making, help the sector to better harness the potential of online education, and most importantly provide improved online learning experiences for students.

Moving Large, Face-to-Face Classes Online 

This project led by Dr Ann Marie Farrel in DCU’s Institute of Education, with a significant NIDL contribution from members of the Teaching Enhancement Unit, investigates online teaching in large classes. Since March, teaching usually carried out in the face-to-face context has moved very suddenly online. This has been a particular challenge for those teaching large class cohorts and for the students comprising those cohorts.

photo-1566683777581-1a8051f226c9The overall aim of this project is to inform the practice of (i) academics teaching large groups and (ii) those supporting academics in the large class teaching/learning context as we move forward into the next phase of our response to the requirements for social distancing and more creative and innovation forms of teaching online. 

The move to the online environment since March will be evaluated; data from supports provided since March will be analysed (e.g. support requests, PD workshops and seminars since campus closure) and surveys will be used to gather data on the student and staff experience. The intended outcomes of this project will provide guidance for designing learning experiences in the online context, taking diversity of large classes into account.

An Investigation of Affect in Online Teaching during COVID-19

We Need Your HelpThis internationally focused NIDL project asks how have you been feeling while teaching online? It calls on all higher education educators in Ireland, Europe and globally to share their affective experiences of teaching online in response to the Covid-19 crisis. The research seeks to better understand affective and, in particular, educators’ emotions  during their experiences of teaching online in order to learn valuable lessons and help inform support strategies moving forward.  

As this study has already been approved by the DCU Ethics Committee, we would really value your participation and wider promotion of the research. We are aware that everyone is extremely busy at the moment but understanding educators’ experiences during these challenging times is more important than ever as we plan for the upcoming semester, and beyond. Therefore, please have your say by taking around 5 minutes to share your insights and valuable experiences through our anonymous survey.

You can read more about this research and complete the online survey after giving your informed consent by clicking on these embedded  links.