Measure Current State and Trends
While the term micro-credentials is widely used to describe any sub-degree learning experience, whether formal, non-formal or informal, our project aims at looking at credentialing within Higher Education. Thus, we focus on credentials which confer a minimum of 5 ECTS credits from accredited and/or recognised institutions (i.e. which are at a L4 level of recognition-formality, as proposed by the OpenCred Study commissioned by the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies within the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission).
We will survey senior leadership at 70 Higher Education Institutions in Europe, to understand (a) the scope of micro-credential provision within the context of their overall activities, (b) the drivers behind the increase in micro-credential provision, (c) changes in the HEIs to enable provision of micro-credentials, and (d) future plans for further provision.
Model Future Impacts
While there is a clear increase in the number of MOOCs and other forms of micro-credentials, the impacts of such radical unbundling in Higher Education are far from clear. Micro-credentials change everything from the structure of qualifications, to pedagogy, modes of provision, types of assessment, economic models and every other aspect of Higher Education. As such, simple trend-forecasting offers little insight into future models, or in how Higher Education Institutions may adapt and prepare for these futures.
To this end, with the help of a distinguished panel of European experts and thought-leaders, we will be deploying a battery of future-forecasting techniques to make sense of the trends. Our techniques will include a distinct combination of:
- DELPHI Surveying
Used together, this should allow us to create a menu of possible futures for Higher Education, together with micro-credentials’ effect on each of these, and possible modulating events/policies/activities.
Propose Instruments for Transparency
The OpenCred Study proposed that the highest level of transparency for credentials involves ones which are:
- ‘formally and clearly states on whose authority it was issued, provides information on the content, level and study load, states that the holder has achieved the desired learning objectives, provides information on the testing methods employed and lists the credits obtained, according to a standard international system or in some other acceptable format,
- are demonstrably and clearly based on authentication [i.e. student’s identity is verified] and
- state that the examinations have been administered under supervision and specifies the nature of this supervision’.
The ‘State of Digital Education Conference’ concluded that there is scope for a distinctly European solution to the following issues: The educational reforms in Europe arising out of the Bologna Process were designed to enable portability and transfer of qualifications, as well as to create trust between different educational institutions. These same methodologies apply excellently to digital education, with little change […] all that remains is for governments to deploy the policies necessary to bring digital education within existing quality and recognition frameworks.
To this end, we intend to:
- propose a standardised ‘credit supplement’ modelled on the European Diploma supplement, which can be used to document learning achievement for sub-degree qualifications
- clarify how the European Qualifications Framework can provide a recognition and translation framework for all types of documented achievements, in particular, including micro-credentials, without the need to create parallel systems of accreditation such as ‘badge’ systems
Facilitate Recognition and Portability
The push to give recognition for e-learning provides competition for degree granting global higher education.
Digital credentialing systems, “have been proposed to assess, recognize, and communicate knowledge acquisition”. Establishing a system of digital credentials allows recognition of learning “no longer bound by time or location, interest-driven, or, increasingly, by cost”. The Groningen Declaration recognises that digital student data portability will contribute to the free movement of students and skilled workers on a global scale in the years to come.
Issuing of digital educations need to solve issues of ownership of the credential (by owner and issuer), revocation, tracking and stackability. To build trust in the same credentials, issues of privacy, identity, validation and measures of competence need to be solved. Several countries, including France and Estonia, have addressed these issues by creating their own national systems for issuing and verifying credentials – however, differing national standards hinder the creation of a free market for services, one of the fundamental freedoms of the EU.
To solve this issue, we propose building a prototype for a European credential repository, which can accept both full degrees and micro-credentials, based already accepted standards in European Education, namely the diploma-supplement, ECTS, the European Qualifications Framework and accreditation of Institutions according to the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education.