Micro-credentials: How Can They Benefit You as a Lifelong Learner?

The World Economic Forum predicts that 42% of the core skills within existing jobs on average are expected to change by 2022. Lifelong learning and continuous retraining can help meet these evolving skill demands.

Credentials of any kind are markers of achievement and potentially important signals to employers of a candidate's skills, capabilities, and fit, or an employee's capability to evolve with the needs of the business.

This pyramid demonstrates the credential ecosystem. At the top are macro-credentials, which are formal learning experiences from schools or universities in the early years of our lives. In the middle are micro-credentials, which are self-paced, non-formal learning experiences such as short courses and learning certificates. And at the widest section of the pyramid, there is informal learning which happens every day through channels such as podcasts, videos, books, and more.

While each type of learning is important, micro-credentials hold the key for lifelong learners to continuously learn and verify in-demand skills, with less time and financial obligation involved.

Micro-credentials are helping to meet the rapid pace of skill decay that requires working professionals to engage in learning at every age.





What are Micro-credentials?

Micro-credentials are certification-style qualifications that individuals choose to study to improve a skill found in a particular industry area.

They are short, low-cost online courses that provide learners with a digital certification or a ‘digital badge’ when complete.

This new learning concept continues to gain recognition and is highly sought after within the professional landscape.

What are OpenCreds?

The demand for up-to-date knowledge within the workforce is growing. In contrast, professionals are struggling with a lack of time.

The emergence of micro-credentials has caused great excitement for some and confusion for others. Subsequently, there is a need for definitions and quality assurance mechanisms that govern and protect micro-credentials. Enter OpenCreds.

OpenCreds are a distinct type of micro-credential, set out in this framework and designed to meet the needs of the Australian education sector, industry, and most importantly its lifelong learners. OpenCreds are an innovation that builds on this clarity about micro-credentials.

In keeping with the definition proposed in the Review of the AQF:

“An OpenCred is a certification of assessed learning that is additional, alternative, complementary to, or a component part of a formal qualification.”


How do OpenCreds work?

An OpenCred may be offered by different types of education providers, which are categorised according to the type of learning (Professional Learning, Vocational Education and Training, or Higher Education) to facilitate interoperability and improve clarity for learners.

An OpenCred may be a stand-alone credential, designed to provide value to a learner independently of a formal qualification, or it may interact with a formal qualification in one of the following ways:

  1. A Pathway OpenCred: Aligned to a formal qualification level to provide learners and employers with a clear understanding of their level of achievement; and/or successful completion leads to an offer of admission to a formal qualification.

  2. A Credit-bearing OpenCred: Successful completion earns credit for learning in a formal qualification, or component part of the body of a course that is part of a qualification.

  3. An Industry-recognised OpenCred: Recognised by an industry association or accrediting body as meeting the needs towards the maintenance of continuing professional development requirements. OpenCreds enable learners to make efficient use of their time to expand their skill set and increase their employability. 

What are stackable OpenCreds?

An OpenCred specifies indicative hours of learning, rounded to one of seven levels between 2.5 hours to 150 hours, to indicate the usual amount of time required for a new learner with little or no experience to develop the required competency or expected learning outcomes (as recommended in the AQF Review).



What is a Digital Badge?

Simply put, a digital badge is an indicator of accomplishment or skill that can be displayed, accessed, and verified online. These badges can be earned in a wide variety of environments, an increasing number of which are online.

In the context of OpenCreds and micro-credentials, there are two forms of learning-associated digital credentials:

  1. Digital Certificates: Issued for completion of a course or seminar, or might be the digital equivalent of a certificate of membership of a group or association.

  2. Digital Badges: Where digital certificates are designed to look similar to their physical counterparts, digital badges have a more unique look.

    In a paper titled “An Open Badge System Framework”, a badge was defined as “a symbol or indicator of an accomplishment, skill, quality or interest.” 

Visual example:

UNSW Certificate of Completion Aritifical Intelligence Machine Learning UNSW Digital Badge
Digital certificate Digital badge


Digital badges can have a significant impact and can be used to motivate learning, signify community, and signal achievement.

The paper does highlight one very important fact about badges - context is more important than design: “The information linked to or ‘behind’ each badge serves as justification and even validation of the badge.”

In short, it’s imperative that the badge includes information on who earned the badge, what the badge represents, how it was earned, when they earned it, who issued it, and whenever possible, evidence of learning that went into earning the badge.

OpenCreds supports professionals by making digital badges accessible as manageable modules of knowledge. The smaller courses are undertaken online, rather than in-person, and usually last weeks or months, rather than the years required for a full degree.

Take Alex for example, he’s been in his role for a while but would like to advance professionally. He has experience with AI and Machine Learning but has little to show for his knowledge. By taking a micro-credential focused AI and Machine Learning, he can:

  • Easily train around his work-life balance;

  • Show evidence of his learning artifact, knowledge and newly acquired skills; and

  • Achieve a verifiable skill within a few weeks or months.

Not only has Alex shown initiative to his employer, he’s gained some additional knowledge along the way. In addition to winning a promotion, Sam feels empowered to further his learning with additional micro-credentials.

LinkedIn Licences and Certifications


In partnership with Accredible, digital badges can be shared across social media platforms and are secured and verified through a blockchain, making them a portable, personal record of achievement.


Do micro-credentials demonstrate soft or hard skills?

Micro-credentials can be awarded for soft and hard skills. Examples of topic areas include leadership, UX, cloud computing, emotional intelligence, creative and critical thinking skills, data-driven marketing, etc. The subject areas are unlimited, and depending on the kind of professional or learner that you are, you could choose a micro-credential in anything ranging from effective collaboration to front-end web development.



Micro-credentials offer a myriad of benefits such as the ability for the learner to develop a personalised learning plan, recognition of soft and/or hard skill which can be showcased and verified to prospective employers, a structured approach to learning on the job, as well as, flexibility and the ability to learn at a time and place that suits them.

Specifically, with OpenCreds, learners can benefit from learning with a quality-assured micro-credential across any providers of OpenCreds. Each course are reviewed with a focus on learning outcomes, modules, content and resources, learning activities, look and feel, promotional page and assessment.

Furthermore, OpenCreds is an established framework for micro-credentials to build trust in their value (as a standalone) and exchangeable value in potential pathways. OpenCreds are advantageous to learners because it can lead to bigger qualifications or pathways depending on their individual goals— whether for a promotion or career change.



Looking for an OpenCred course to continue your lifelong learning journey? Try this one on OpenLearning.com:


Topics: Micro-credentials

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