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A Micro-Credential Roadmap – Online Launch

New research reveals awareness building and pilot programmes are vital steps for micro-credential success.

On Tuesday, March 23rd, Skillnet Ireland published the research report – ‘A Micro-Credential Roadmap: Currency, Cohesion and Consistency’ – which examines how micro-credentials can contribute to upskilling and re-skilling demands from both industry and employees. The research was conducted in partnership with the National Institute of Digital Learning (NIDL) and the Irish Institute of Digital Business in Dublin City University (DCU), and in collaboration with five Skillnet Business Networks: Aviation SkillnetICBE Advanced Productivity SkillnetICBE Business Excellence SkillnetGalway Executive Skillnet, and Taste4Success Skillnet.

Micro-credentials are smaller units of assessed learning recognised by higher education institutions and other trusted credential-bearing agencies or professional bodies. An emerging area, they offer many benefits such as short lead-in times to certification, flexibility in learning, and skill provision in new and expanding areas.

The report includes insights from the first National Micro-Credential Survey conducted among Irish employers and employees to investigate understanding and perceptions of the potential of micro-credentials to support development and learning. The research indicated a strong appetite for more information about micro-credentials with 64 percent of employers wanting more information, as well as uncovering the most common constraints for businesses considering micro-credentials to be time and cost. The report findings also show the top three motivators for employees in undertaking CPD with micro-credentials is to improve their skills relevant to their current job, keep up to date with developments in their sector, and enhance their broader career development and progression.

The report outlined a roadmap of recommendations to establish Ireland as an international hub of excellence in the micro-credentials space including:

  • Advancing stakeholder understanding of micro-credentials and increasing collaboration across sectors to advance micro-credential development and delivery.
  • Completion of capability mapping of current continuing professional development (CPD) provision within Skillnet organisations to identify where micro-credentials might support a more agile, flexible and stackable approach to training and development.
  • National funding to support further and in-depth research on sector-wide pilots in Skillnet Networks to develop and implement processes to validate and assess work-based learning.
  • Piloting models of co-design, co-development, and co-delivery of micro-credentials with trusted educational providers and Skillnet Networks and members.

Tracey Donnery, Executive Director, Policy and Communications at Skillnet Ireland, said: “As the world of work changes, embracing new and creative approaches to workforce development and accreditation is vital. Micro-credentials and the adoption of digital badge technology offer potential to make continuing professional development more accessible and engaging for workers. From the delivery of Ireland’s very first digital badge for the food sector in collaboration with Taste4Success Skillnet and University College Cork, Skillnet Ireland has been focused on driving the development of the micro-credentials within industry-focused applied learning. The roadmap in this report sets out a clear pathway to achieve that.”

Eamonn Murphy, Managing Director at Irish Centre for Business Excellence, said: “Paradoxically, while the COVID pandemic has forced us into individual isolation, it equally has reinforced the need for us to collaborate with and learn from each other. This important report on micro-credentials, is an excellent example of the benefits of collaboration between Industry, Academia and Skillnet Business Networks. This collaboration is indicative of the approach that will be needed to make micro-credentials a reality for every Irish business.”

Mark Brown, Ireland’s first Chair in Digital Learning and Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) at DCU, said: “Opening up new flexible pathways for learning and continuous professional development through micro-credentials provides Ireland with an opportunity to become a learning society. A thriving society which shapes its own future where everyone prospers is built on the pillars of lifelong learning.”

Dublin City University (DCU) is currently the only higher education provider in Ireland to offer credit-bearing micro-credentials. Commenting on the report, Professor Lisa Looney, Vice-President Academic Affairs (Registrar) at Dublin City University, said: “DCU is keen to continue to work in collaboration with Skillnet Ireland, industry and other education partners to ensure the development of an effective micro-credential landscape which will address future skills needs, the changing nature of work and lifelong learning as set out in this roadmap.”

The benefits of collaborating with a diverse group of networks has been of optimum value to the outcome of the micro-credentials research. Developing the future workforce and continuing to build on lifelong learning is at a critical stage, and micro-credentials should be a key component moving forward.

The research report aligns with The European Commission’s new ‘Skills Agenda for Europe’ and the Skillnet Ireland Statement of Strategy 2021-2025, which identifies micro-credentials and the adoption of digital badge technology as key building blocks to develop transversal skills and promote new life-long and life-wide learning pathways.

Further Resources:

Insights Paper: Micro-Credentials An Evolving Eco System https://icbe.ie/micro-credentials-an-evolving-eco-system/