Will micro-credentials help with life-long learning?

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Usually, questions posed like this are rhetorical. The writer already knows the answer. So… yes. They will.

But there are other questions that need asking including Why and How? There’s a great article exploring some of this here.

In the writer’s view, we’ve fixed one problem:

At last, our system caters reasonably well for people’s initial tertiary education …

But now we have another problem:

The world has moved on. It’s time we talked about life-long learning, serious, high-value education beyond one’s initial post-secondary education.

What do we know about life-long learning in NZ?

He notes that the nature of work is changing and that further changes, perhaps significant changes are yet to come.

Automation, for example, is going to be a game changer. Around one-third of all jobs in our labour market are going to be automated.

Some jobs will likely disappear in rationalisation, but those that remain will be different, with workers operating machines to do some tasks that are now done by hand.

Tasks that involve creative or social intelligence, such as planning, influencing and advising, and complex problem solving …. will all require workers.  But many more routine tasks can be automated; that doesn’t mean that occupations will disappear (and others will arise).

Rather, workers will manage their work differently.  Fewer workers will be needed and some jobs will disappear.  This process isn’t actually new – for decades, occupations have changed as new technologies and new approaches to work have emerged.  But AI developments are likely to speed up the process of change and extend its reach.

What that means for training and education is what he calls “recurrent education”.

This means upskilling and re-skilling the existing workforce. This is not to replace initial qualifications. We still need that.

But this idea of reskilling, of recurrent education, is a different kind of problem to solve. And this means we need credentials that update people’s training and experience along the way.

And that’s the connection to micro-credentials and digital badging.

In the article, he congratulates the government for taking the first steps but points out a disconnect between NZQA and TEC policies.

This is that while both NZQA and TEC are endorsing micro-credentials each side has defined the terms in such a way that inhibits wide-scale adoption.

For example, NZQA has defined micro-credentials as requiring a minimum of NZQA credits – say 10 credits. But the TEC won’t (typically) fund such small credit value courses.

Under this arrangement, each side can point at how they are doing everything that they can to support micro-credentials but the reality is that early adopters may struggle to implement micro-credentials due to the NZQA controls on credits and the TEC restrictions on funding.

But there are several opportunities here.

One is to disrupt the NZQA and the TEC. Perhaps we no longer need these organisations in the same way that we did, say 10 years ago. What would quality assurance and funding look like if we could design these systems from the ground up now?

The other opportunity relates to what we can do ourselves.

Let’s not underestimate the abilities of individuals, organisations and industries to look beyond TEC funding and NZQA rules for alternatives to a system that is not serving many groups as well as it should.

And this includes nationally and internationally.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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