The OpenLearning Micro-credential Symposium 2020 was a fully virtual experience which focused on unpacking the potential of micro-credentials for lifelong learners across Australia and Malaysia. We were humbled to have received 1,200+ global registrations, with 800+ participants tuning in live during the two-day event.
As a platform for cross-sector conversations, industry showcases, and practical workshops, here is a recap of some of our favourite moments from the event. You can also access all of the free recordings, slideshow presentations, and other resources from #OLSymposium2020 at the Symposium Resource Hub.
Australia - Wednesday, 25th November
With micro-credentials being officially defined—yet kept separate from—the Australian Qualifications Framework in 2019, education providers still had many questions: how to get started, how their courses compare with others, and most importantly how to provide clear pathways for their learners.
The first day of the virtual symposium aimed to discuss these questions for the Australian context. Some of the highlights from the conversation:
What do learners need from micro-credentials?
Using the formula “Value = Benefits - Costs”, Prof. Beverley Oliver (watch here) zoomed in on the value that micro-credentials can provide to learners and industry alike, noting that the “benefits” that providers can offer include helping learners to thrive in a professional role or career; it could also include helping learners to survive in terms of their mental health and well-being.
In the afternoon, we heard from a panel of education providers (watch here) about the types of learners who are interested in the micro-credential experience offered by their respective institutions. The panel discussed the need for young people to transition into high-growth industries by identifying areas of job growth and in-demand skills, then mapping this information back to the current offerings in micro-credentials.
What does industry need from micro-credentials?
Two lively panel discussions with industry representatives (watch here) were able to shed light on the role of industry in providing pathways for lifelong learning, the shift from a cognitive achievement era to a skills economy, and the challenges associated with the delivery and measurement of liquid or soft skills training. It was also an opportunity to discuss how micro-credentials can strengthen the connection between education providers and industry, resulting in courses which truly meet industry needs.
How are some industries already using micro-credentials?
DeakinCo’s unique micro-credentialing model provides entry pathways for individuals seeking formal recognition of their professional skills. Dr Asheley Jones (watch here) explained how DeakinCo also provides corporate and not-for-profit clients a model to frame their transitioning workforce learning and development needs.
Professor Alan Bowen-James (watch here) from Le Cordon Bleu Australia explained why the institution is using micro-credentials to reimagine their business model. He mentioned how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a successful provider like themselves to overcome inertia and make preparations for the future of work and learning.
In the afternoon, OpenLearning CEO Adam Brimo spoke to a panel of representatives from Australian universities (watch here) about how they are embedding micro-credentials as part of their “business-as-usual” strategies. Among the complexities that emerged for these accredited institutions was how to determine what is accredited, assessable, or part of a stackable larger qualification; as well as which teaching models or approaches are sustainable in the micro-credential market.
Where are we heading from here?
At the end of the day, OpenLearning Managing Director (Australia) Cherie Diaz closed on a note of gratitude and optimism (watch here), eager to continue the conversation with the launch of OpenCreds, along with the OpenCreds Investment Fund (OIF) and Open Micro-credential Development Grant (OMDG).
OpenLearning is calling for Expressions of Interest for the OpenCreds Consortium, which is being established to facilitate best practices in micro-credentials across professional learning, vocational education and training, and higher education—regionally and globally.
Malaysia - Thursday, 26th November
With an audience of almost 500 online participants from across the Malaysian education sector, training, and industry, we were able to have important discussions on the way forward for a micro-credentialing ecosystem in Malaysia.
Here are a few of the themes that emerged throughout the day:
Are there standards and quality control for micro-credentials in Malaysia?
OpenLearning Founder and CEO Adam Brimo (watch this) opened the event with the launch of the OpenCreds for Malaysia Framework and the OpenCreds for Malaysia Investment Fund (OMIF), saying "Our goal is to help create a global standard for micro-credentials so that one day, your courses can attract students internationally, and potentially be recognised internationally as well."
Later, Dr. Malini Eliatamby (INCEIF) proposed that a national micro-credentialing system should not be too rigid, noting that micro-credentials are still in their infancy in Malaysia. “Early adopters need to be able to pivot over time. With a national standard that is not too rigid, micro-credentials can be responsive in fulfilling economic and societal needs.”
In the same session, Prof. Dr. Abdul Karim Alias (Universiti Sains Malaysia) advised institutions to conduct course mapping exercises to ensure that quality is not compromised. “There is the perception that online learning is of inferior quality, but we have the chance to make it right by introducing micro-credentials with equivalent or even better quality than face-to-face programmes—right from the very beginning.”
What effect can micro-credentials have on Malaysian jobs?
Jasmina Mokhtar, project manager for the LAKSANA initiative (Ministry of Finance), observed that Malaysia has seen a rise in unemployment and underemployment during the pandemic, having been a growing issue for the past few years. She hopes that micro-credentials will play a big role in the national effort to create nearly 500,000 new jobs.
These sentiments were echoed by symposium workshop leaders who shared practical advice for course creators: Dato’ Dr. Ho Sinn Chye recommended speaking with industry leaders in the strategy phase, to find out what kinds of expertise are expected and to anticipate the future skills that can be delivered via micro-credential courses. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Aishah Abu Bakar (Universiti Malaysia Pahang) encouraged participants to conduct market surveys and include “job-embedded characteristics” when unbundling university courses into micro-credentials.
Can micro-credential courses equip the Malaysian workforce with practical skills?
In his officiating address, Prof. Dato' Seri Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak (Director General of Higher Education) urged educators to “be ready to constantly learn, unlearn, relearn, think fast and outside the box, and deploy new models of teaching and training."
Many of our guests advocated a competency-based model for micro-credentials that will allow learners to demonstrate the skills needed by employers.
Speaking on the panel, Sophia Ang (Maybank) said, “At the end of the day, employers recognise that a 3.5 CGPA shows tenacity and discipline — but how does that translate to whether or not you can bring in, say, the next billion-dollar sale?"
Ts Dr. Chua Wen-Shyan (SHRDC) added: "Today, the industry wants to see what you have achieved in other projects and how you can add value beyond what can be learned in a university degree,” noting that this kind of evidence-based learning can be accomplished through on-the-job experience and hands-on programmes.
How can Malaysian education providers collaborate with industry to meet their needs?
With professional bodies realising the importance of micro-learning, Dr. Nurbiha A Shukor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and MEIPTA suggested that the time is right for partnerships across industry and academia to create micro-credentials which can help close the loop and offer pathways from enrolment to employment.
Noting the fast pace of change in the tech industry especially, Dato’ Eric Ku (iTrain Asia) urged course creators to co-create training programs in collaboration with industry players in areas such as financial technology and manufacturing.
Commenting on how education providers can offer micro-credentials that meet learners’ and industry needs, Cherie Diaz (OpenLearning) said "We know that the different kinds of learning undertaken throughout one's life can vary. The OpenCreds framework recognises the value of these different types of education, and where possible, aims to provide interoperability between micro-credentials in professional development, vocational education and training, and higher education."
It was humbling to see partners, educators, learners, and leaders from around the world gather online for OpenLearning’s first-ever virtual conference. Watch recaps of all the sessions during the OpenLearning Micro-credential Symposium 2020 at the Symposium Resource Hub.
If you would like further information about how OpenLearning can help with your organisation's micro-credential strategy, feel free to contact us directly.