Do you have questions about micro-credentials and digital badges?


Micro Credentials 2

Further thoughts on micro-credentials and digital badges

A while back, NZQA were looking for consultation on micro-credentials. I wrote about my views here. These views haven’t changed drastically.

But they have continued to evolve and everywhere I go people seem to want to talk about micro-credentials.

Here are a few further thoughts.

What’s the difference between digital badges and micro-credentials?

At the moment I kinda use digital badges and micro-credentials in more or less the same way.

I see a badge as one element, perhaps of a series, that might go into a micro-credential. For me, a micro-credential is a kind of meta-badge that you get on completing the requisite badges.

Imagine a coffee card that gets stamped each time you get a coffee. And then when the card is full, you get the reward.

That’s how I use the words badges and micro-credentials.

What are the rules for badging and using micro-credentials?

One thing seems clear to me at the moment. And this is that micro-credentialing and digital badges are currently the wild west and people are still making up the rules.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the agency that handles quality assurance around qualifications – the NZQA – is likely to make up their own rules soon.

Others will make up their own rules too. You can follow others’ rules or you can make up your own as well.

I’d prefer to make up my own rules. Whether anyone pays any attention to anyone else’s will reflect the authority that sits behind the badging or credentialing body.

NZQA has had a monopoly on the old-fashioned kind of badging and credentialing when it comes to school-related training.

My prediction is that they will lose this monopoly and just become one of many players in the credentialing game. In other words, expect disruption and fragmentation here (as well as everywhere else).

In NZ, how should micro-credentials and digital badges interact with NZQA?

This is not advice. These are just my thoughts right now.

  • Badging and micro-credentials should be independent of NZQA unit standards and NZ qualifications.
  • Badging and micro-credentials should be aligned with relevant aspects of NZQA unit standards and NZ qualifications.

This arrangement would retain independence from government agency bureaucracy but allows for others to use badges as evidence towards NZQA accredited qualifications and standards if and when needed.

This shifts the burden of compliance to NZQA accredited providers whose core business is in assessing NZQA qualifications.

A good example would be with regards to cultural competency training and assessment.

Training and assessment by third-party providers such as iwi-based organisations could lead to digital badges and the award of a micro-credential backed by the tribe.

With some clever thinking, badges could also align with relevant aspects of key qualifications and or assessment standards.

For example, there are four adult teaching qualifications that all contain a cultural competency component of some kind. Currently, training related to this is generic and usually done badly.

An iwi-based model backed by a series of digital badges but aligned with NZQA requirements could provide a win-win-win solution.

How can we align digital badges and micro-credentials with NZQA requirements?

Again, not advice, but I would:

  1. Spend time mapping NZQA qualifications and relevant unit standards against the relevant outcomes. For example, the cultural competency outcomes relating to values, knowledge and practice.
  2. Spend money on graphic design for a smorgasbord of digital badges that look really great.
  3. Spend time finessing very clear and concise outcomes for the training that relates to each badge.
  4. Encode badge meta-data with these clear and concise outcomes.
  5. Trial all of this in real-time with non-expert but interested participants in a range of contexts including ITP, Wananga, ESOL as well as all the normal ones.
  6. Evaluate participant data and fine tune this for further iteration and roll out.

What are some good platforms for experimenting with micro-credentials and digital badges?

You can find a list here maintained by the Mozilla Badge Alliance. However, I like this one:

I’m using this at the moment to make a variety of “proof of concept” badges for a few different groups. I like it because it has blockchain integration.

Here’s a very basic example I made to illustrate how it works:

Awesome

How do I get started with digital badges?

You can have a look at how I got underway here:

  1. Digital Badges – Part 1: Getting Started.
  2. Digital Badges – Part 2: Earning Your First Badge.

What were your recommendations to the NZQA on micro-credentials?

Here’s my response in full to the NZQA survey on micro-credentials. The questions that follow are theirs but the answers are mine.

Views on Micro Credentials from the NZQA Paper

  1. Are the views expressed in this survey:|
    • My own personal views.
  2. Do you think that recognising micro­credentials within New Zealand’s regulated education and training system would be useful?
    • Yes, to a point. NZQA is historically slow to move from a provider perspective. Developing and using micro credentials is part of remaining agile in a very fast-paced business environment where training and/or recognition of competency is required. The danger of NZQA getting involved is that it puts the brakes on fast-paced innovation.

      Also, those involved in currently delivering (or wanting to deliver) the best, most well known or most useful micro credentials are unlikely to be interested in dealing with another layer of bureaucracy in the form of NZQA compliance. The best independent systems will have their own quality assurance processes already built in.

      However, there may be a legitimate place for micro credentials as part of RPL procedures in existing TEOs who which to use them as components or pathways inside larger credentials such as NZ Certificates, Diplomas and degrees.

  3. Is “micro­credentials” the most appropriate term to be used in New Zealand?
    • Yes. But it’s good to highlight the other terminology that is in use as you have in the white paper. People are confused easily.

      Digital badging is just another name for the same thing but points more clearly to the relevant platforms like the one run by Mozilla. These platforms, by the way, operate on their own rules outside of the educational regulatory compliance.

  4. How suitable are the characteristics of micro­credentials for the New Zealand education and training system?
    • Very suitable for some things. But it would be a mistake to apply some kind of blanket “across-the-board” rule for this. It needs to be case by case and fit for purpose-driven by business, industry, community, iwi or other groups who seek to create or leverage the benefits and opportunities.

      I think the burden of bureaucracy should be on the TEOs who want to use micro-credentials and digital badging as RPL or similar components of other qualifications.

      Then let business, industries, others and the market decide what is quality and what is not. Some will align with TEOs and others will not

      There could be discussions between the industries, businesses or community micro-credential deliverers and the TEO accredited providers… but it would be crazy to let increased regulation and compliance shut down an innovation like this.

      I’m in favour of an “unbundled” education model for this that would allow separation of information content, training delivery, assessment against standards and various forms of credentialing (both formal and informal). This allows individuals and groups to specialise.

  5. What additions and changes, if any, would you suggest to the characteristics of a micro­credential? Please explain the reasons for your suggestions.
    • Don’t let regulation and compliance shut down innovation and agility in business and industry contexts. Keep the rules to a minimum and keep the conversation going with providers who exist in the wider training ecosystem outside of NZQA.
  6. Do you agree that the recommended minimum credit limit of 10 credits is appropriate for micro­credentials?
    • I suppose. But only if you do away with the outdated requirement for 1 credit to equal 10 notional hours of training. This is old-fashioned thinking and a contradiction of any kind of standards-based approach to assessment and credentialing. If someone meets the standard for X with evidence, then they meet the standard X. They don’t need 10 or 100 hours of training if they already proved that they met the standard.
  7. What measures can you suggest to manage the possible proliferation and duplication of quality assured micro­credentials?
    • Learn from industry and business. This kind of learning is hard for government agencies because regulatory control allows for some courses, programmes and providers to succeed that should fail, and for others to fail that should succeed.

      There are already existing models that you could be looking at and trying to understand why they are successful. Microsoft is one but there are others. Are there a proliferation of providers delivering TESLA electric car repair certification?

      The test of a valid micro-credential should be whether it has a current or (guaranteed future) paying customer. No customers = no business model = failure = try something else as fast as possible that people actually need.

      Also, in the interests of staying agile, micro-credentials are unlikely to remain static. However, the effect of NZQA on a programme is to try and lock down how the information, training, assessment and credentialing works. This may have been useful in the past, and tools like the EER process force providers to examine if their services are still fit for purpose, but unless this is streamlined I think you’ll just get a micro-certificate rather than the kind of micro-credentials and digital badges that people are discussing internationally.

      For the existing successful micro-credentials at the moment, NZQA is actually irrelevant.

      But if you want to link these into larger NZ qualifications then the equivalency plans should work. In fact, why not just apply this same thinking to new or existing micro-credentials in NZ as well?

      As a business owner and entrepreneur, I cannot think of many good reasons creating an NZQA approved micro-credential if I already had access to a good market of people who would pay for it plus the backing of industry or other groups who would support a non-NZQA micro-credential.

      Perhaps accessing visa approval from immigration for overseas students could be one reason. But the nature of a micro-credential means that someone could most likely complete it within the timeframe of a tourist visa. Developing levers for NZ to bring in highly skilled labour in the high-tech industry could be a good use-case for involving NZQA if was going to result in work visas being approved.

      Another good reason for involving NZQA could also be in the interests of securing TEC funding for the micro-credential. However, TEC is already funding organisations outside of NZQA by working directly with employers (Employer-led workplace literacy) and some iwi (SAC funding).

      Extra NZQA compliance costs around “recognising” digitally badged training doesn’t add much real-world value that I can see. It just perpetuates the already entrenched “do-I-get-credit-for-that” mindset that so many learners have grown up with through the NCEA system.

  8. To what extent should micro­credentials be embedded into the New Zealand education and training system? Please explain the reasons for your view.
    • Here you’re referring to the system under the control of NZQA’s regulatory powers. Micro-credentials could be embedded to the extent already discussed above that TEOs can work to recognise them via RPL or other equivalency procedures in order for learners to use them as components bearing credit value in larger already established NZ credentials.
  9. Do you think that micro­credentials developed by organisations other than New Zealand tertiary education organisations should be recognised
    • Yes, of course. Some already are. But the burden of bureaucracy around recognition should be on the TEOs who want to use them as components inside their own courses. For example, if a university MBA programme is sending students to an iwi organisation for training purchased as part of the MBA, this training could take the form of digital badges or a micro-credential. But it should be the job of the university to enable the recognition to make the pathway work.

      In addition, given the nature of student debt resulting from university study and the fact that outside of key professions, many degrees are often irrelevant or become redundant once someone starts working, I think that we’ll see greater fragmentation of training and credentialing.

      I’d rather hire someone with the right attitude and a very focused skillset. This is a growing trend as the number of businesses signed here attest.

  10. Do you think that determining the equivalence to the NZQF of micro­credentials developed by organisations other than New Zealand tertiary education organisations would be useful?
    • Yes, but depends on what they are. Pick up the best and highest quality ones and weave those into our qualifications to create interesting pathways that better serve learners and at a lower cost.
  11. What challenges do you think recognising micro­-credentials as part of New Zealand’s regulated education and training system present? Please explain how you think these could be addressed.
    • We can’t even get people to understand how unit standards work. So people will misunderstand what micro-credentials are. They will also be confused about what digital badging is and other related processes and terminology.

      There needs to be discussion around digital badging platforms and how these operate differently to just creating smaller versions of things like the existing NZ certificates.

      There also needs to be a wider conversation about using micro-credentials outside of NZQA compliance and what the differences or advantages/disadvantages might look like.

      If you want to take micro-credentialing seriously, NZQA should also be part of the discussion around using blockchain technology in the creation of durable records of learning for things like digital badges and micro-credentials, especially where the ownership of the information sits with the learner rather than in a centralised database.

  12. Do you think that the proposed amendments to the Rules support the recognition of micro­credentials within the New Zealand education and training system?
    • Yes. Because this may open up new kinds of funded training for underserved groups of learners.
  13. Do you agree with the proposed amendments to the Rules?
    • Yes, but I can think of many examples where businesses, industries or communities may seek to set up their own micro-credentials outside of this system.

 

 

 

How Do I Give My Feedback On The New Adult Literacy & Numeracy Education Unit Standards?


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If you are involved in foundation focused tertiary education in New Zealand, we need you to give us your feedback on the new Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (ALNE) unit standards.

These new unit standards replace US21204 and many other unit standards used for the NCALNE (Voc) and related qualifications.

From my side, I’m biased… Full disclosure: I’m in the working party redesigning these standards. I’m only interested in the standards for the new NZCALNE (Voc) qualification. This is eventually going to replace the existing NCALNE (Voc).

And I’m more interested in the standards for the new NZCALNE (Voc) qualification. This is eventually going to replace the existing NCALNE (Voc).

This is the biggest upgrade to the qualification since it changed from the original NCALE.

I think the new standards are pretty good. But NZQA wants your feedback now. So here are the questions you should be asking yourself:

  • How do I give my feedback on the new standards?
  • What do I like about the new standards?
  • What improvements could we still make?
  • What challenges, if any, will these create for people delivering the training?

Here’s what to do in four simple steps:

1. Read the new standards

  • You can access all of the new standards online from this page.
  • Or you can access the links to the four new standards that that will get used for the 40 credits required in the NZCALNE (Voc) here on my blog.

2. Download the response form

3. Provide your comments and feedback

  • You have to do that yourself… If you think we can make them better please say so.
  • If you think they are OK, then please let NZQA know that as well.

4. Email to NZQA

How do I find the NCALNE course in Pathways Awarua?


Here’s a question that we get from time to time… Where are the NCALNE modules in Pathways Awarua?

You might already have an Educator login for Pathways Awarua. Or you might have just set one up (see here for instructions on how to create your login if you haven’t).

But, if you’re new to Pathways Awarua it might not be immediately obvious where the NCALNE course is located. Here’s how you find the course.

1. Go to PathwaysAwarua.com. The landing page should look something like this.

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2. Enter your Pathways Awarua username or email and password at the top of the screen and press Login

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3. Once you’re logged in you should see a new landing page like this. These modules on the right are not the NCALNE course. They are modules that teach you how to use Pathways Awarua.

Screenshot 2016-04-07 11.44.53.png

4. If you don’t see this screen, check that the following are in the left-hand sidebar:

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5. Click the hyperlink for NCALNE (Voc). This should take you here.

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6. Now you have access to the NCALNE course including introduction, enrolment form, study modules and assessment templates.

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7. Some things to remember:

  • If you haven’t been able to see any of these screens it might be because you’re registered as a learner, and not as an educator.
  • You can access all of the content, in other words, the NCALNE study modules 1 to 7 and the first two assessments for free.
  • If you want to join the course as an official enrolled NCALNE candidate you’ll need to complete the online Enrol module. It’s just a form to fill out with your details. After you’ve completed the form, you’ll need to share it with us. From there we’ll be in touch to complete your enrolment application.
  • Any questions? Email us here: assess@alec.ac.nz

 

 

 

Latest Research from John Benseman on the Value of a National Adult Literacy & Numeracy Qualification (the NCALNE) just published


John Benseman

I know we’ve been waiting a while for this to come out… perhaps nearly a year, but here it is finally and it’s all online and available for free.

John Benseman surveyed as many graduates as he could get to respond from across a range of providers in New Zealand. There were some negatives, but on the whole their response was very positive.

This is independent research that should validate the need to continue providing Adult Literacy and Numeracy Education (ALNE) qualifications in New Zealand. It’s timely, because these qualifications are in the middle of the ongoing Targeted Review of Qualifications (TRoQ).

Specific providers aren’t identified (so feel free to make your own assumptions).

You can read the entire piece of research online here. And I’ve reproduced the abstract below for quick reference and easy digesting.

The underlining is mine below.

Benseman, J. 2014. Practitioners’ Perspectives on the Value of a National Adult Literacy and Numeracy Qualification. New Zealand Journal of Teachers’ Work, Volume 11, Issue 1, 107-126, 2014

ABSTRACT

Adult literacy and numeracy practitioners are integral to the successful development of this emerging sector and yet there is little research about them as a professional group or their practices. This study of 217 enrollees in two
national adult literacy and numeracy certificates reviews their experiences undertaking these qualifications and explores the impact their participation has had on their practice. Overall, it shows that the respondents rate their
involvement in the certificates very positively and that they believe it has had a beneficial effect on their work.

Here’s a couple more excerpts:

Comments from the ‘highly influential group included:

Naming what they already do. Builds confidence and
professionalism. Using a wider range of literacy and numeracy strategies. Understanding the importance of research and how it contributes to good practice. More patience with learners, better targeted strategies. Knowing their learners better and the effects and challenges learners face including cultural diversity. Leads to more appropriate strategies and more flexible teaching and learning. Building their own understanding of basic maths. Building their own confidence to teach numeracy effectively. Wider ripples to helping their own children and Whānau.
Better understanding and use of the assessment tool and
other literacy and numeracy assessments. Using ILP’s
[Individual Learning Plans]. Knowing course demands,
knowing the learners and knowing how to bridge the gaps.
Connecting to the wider community of adult literacy and
numeracy. Many ex-students have moved on into other roles in the sector including research and development roles.

They are passing on the ‘torch’. Has built up the
professionalism in the sector. Knowing what to do next – using the Learning Progressions. I think it has really come of age in the last two years. I would point to [provider’s] work with [agency] as a case study in how trades tutors can change their practice in a large organisation.

Comments from the ‘moderately influential’ group included:

Trade tutors have adopted strategies learnt in the sessions and are using these in their classrooms: tutors using more hands-on activities to engage their learners, a greater emphasis on vocabulary, promotion and use of contextual language during practical sessions and developing understanding of underpinning knowledge and skill needing to be mastered by the learner –ultimately leading to success with course demands.

Staff have developed a better understanding of how to support their learners to improve their literacy and numeracy skills in order to meet the demands of the programme. Teaching practices have been enhanced as staff have been introduced to different strategies and approaches.

Great work… Thanks John.