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.

 

 

 

NZQA is looking for consultation on micro-credentials


First (2)

Micro-credentials and digital badging are things that I’ve been thinking about for a while. There have been some great discussions over recent months about this.

I’m currently looking at learning more about how digital badging might work in a range of contexts including foundation learning.

NZQA is looking to join the conversation. They are asking for consultation about recognising micro-credentials within NZ’s regulated education and training system.

I have mixed thoughts about this.

On the one hand, it could be great if established tertiary education organisations could recognise and use high-quality micro-credentials from industry or business. For example, what if you could get credit for your Microsoft certificate as part of your degree in computer science or similar.

On the other hand, micro-credentials represent, to me at least qualities like staying agile, creating dynamic training, having systems that evolve and learn, and possibly leveraging cutting-edge tech like blockchain. And this all seems like the opposite of how NZQA operates historically.

In my experience, anyway.

Perhaps this is all changing. Excellent if it is.

However, if you’ve got something to say about micro-credentials, if you have any kind of skin in the training game, if you could see yourself benefiting or being harmed by NZQA regulation of micro-credentials you should read the white paper and do the survey.

Or at least chime in below with your opinion.

The link is here: http://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/consultations-and-reviews/recognising-micro-credentials/

Digital badges – Part 2: Earning your first badge


navigator-badge-supergirl

If you’ve set up a Mozilla Backpack account already (see my last post for instructions), then you can have a go at earning your first digital badge. This is what I did first.

Note: You won’t receive the badge if you don’t have the backpack account already set up. But that won’t stop you from doing the five challenges or activities.

Also, if you get stuck on one of the copy and paste challenges, it’s most probably because you did not copy and paste all of the text. Some of the text was hidden on my computer when I did challenge 3.

See how you get on. If you really get stuck, someone already made a video here.

 

Digital badges – Part 1: Getting started


One of my goals at the moment is to explore the world of digital badging and micro-credentials. Digital badges are:

a validated indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be earned in various learning environments.

If you’re interested you can follow along as well. Here is how I made a start:

  1. Checked out the home page of Open Badges, the platform that I’m exploring. This is a good jumping off point for more information about what digital badges involves and how you can get started.
  2. Watched the video above for an overview. The context in the video is the USA, but don’t let that put you off.
  3. Set up my Mozilla backpack here. This is one of the places where you can store digital badges that you earn.