The nature of the workplace has changed, with people acquiring skills that often are not recognised outside their employment.
To counteract this, education facilities have begun to add in new qualifications such as micro-credentials, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and nano-degrees.
Otago Polytechnic director of employability Andy Kilsby, who is in charge of EduBits, said these have not replaced the traditional degree but are shorter, sharper qualifications that meet specific needs.
EduBits are digital credentials offered by Otago Polytechnic that can be earned after a student submits evidence of their skills. They validate a person’s expertise without the need to take time off work for study – and they can be gained as and when needed.
They are particularly valuable for people who are acquiring their qualifications in the workplace.
“The nature of the workplace has changed, we have had to change parts of our education system to meet that need,” says Kilsby.
“One thing to note is they are in the very early days. What we want to do is meet a learner need and the needs of the industry and education sector.”
These credentials have become invaluable for employers, corporate entities, community groups and employees.
“These people have skills that have limited value outside their institution unless they get a qualification to say they have this particular set of skills.
“The feedback has been positive; previously unrecognised skills are being recognised and it’s making them transferable.”
Micro-credentials are evidence based and can only be given out after the skills have been proved.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) introduced micro-credentials into its framework in August last year.
NZQA acting chief executive Daryn Bean says micro-credentials were introduced to assist in maintaining the relevance of New Zealand’s regulated education and training system.
“As the nature of work continues to change, individuals will need new up-to-date skills across their lifetimes to future-proof their employability.
“Sometimes these skills will require a full and formal qualification.
“In other cases, employers have indicated that shorter modules of learning packaged as a micro-credential would be more appropriate.”
In New Zealand, approved micro-credentials are stand-alone education products intended to enable learners to access specific knowledge and skills in a cost-effective and time-efficient way, he says.
At five to 40 credits, they are smaller than qualifications and focus on skill development opportunities not currently catered for in the tertiary education system, and for which there is strong evidence of need by industry, employers, iwi and/or community.
“Micro-credentials are still in their infancy but are expected to play an important role in the future of education and training in New Zealand.”
NZQA has developed a register of 50 approved micro-credentials since their introduction in August 2018 and is receiving a steady number of applications from tertiary education providers and industry training organisations.
“The future employment market will be vastly different from today’s and the education system must change if it is to prepare learners for this,” says Bean.
“They can be recorded on a learner’s New Zealand Record of Achievement, enabling portability of learning, and support learners to participate in a way that suits their individual needs and circumstances.”
Another way the education sector has changed to meet demand is to offer free online courses.
In 2014 the University of Auckland partnered with UK social learning company FutureLearn to deliver its first free online courses.
MOOCs are growing in popularity around the world and registered students can study from home at their own pace and log in whenever it suits them.
MOOCs, micro-credentials and nano-degrees: A quick guide
MOOCs: Massive open online courses are free online courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to providing traditional course materials, many MOOCs provide interactive components.
Micro-credentials: Micro-credentials are a formal way of recognising the skills and knowledge that employers are looking for in a particular area. Micro-credentials cover a wide range of subjects, from electric vehicle battery diagnosis to kitchen installation.
Micro-credentials have different names, including:
- managed traineeships
- brand names, such as EduBits, offered by Otago Polytechnic.
Nano-degrees: A nano-degree is a fast-paced online credential that offers students a skill to learn and prove they have learnt in a short amount of time.