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Skills – Why are microcredentials important

‘Microcredentials are not objectives in themselves. They are tools.’ This was the key message highlighted at Cedefop’s conference on microcredentials last November. Over 200 participants joined the event, representing 40 countries in Europe and beyond, demonstrating that the topic of microcredentials and changing qualification landscapes is of global appeal and concern.

WHY ARE MICROCREDENTIALS IMPORTANT?

Microcredentials arose as a result of the digital age and the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs). They are a means of giving visibility and value to shorter learning courses and experiences, and are evidence of practical, flexible, on-demand and short learning experiences. Many see them
as a way to recognise learning outcomes acquired outside education institutions (for example at work), while others see them as an integrated way to recognise smaller modules or units of formal education and training.
The conference focus was the presentation of the interim findings of Cedefop’s project on ‘Microcredentials for labour market education and training’. Cedefop experts Anastasia Pouliou and Jens Bjørnåvold presented the project and its outcomes. Participants were given the opportunity to reflect on microcredentials’ broader uptake and function. Cedefop’s research is not taking place in isolation; it contributes to preparations for the forthcoming Council Recommendation on an EU approach to microcredentials.

Study interim findings show much uncertainty around the naming and function of microcredentials, with differing opinions on how they are being identified. In addition, microcredentials are emerging mostly in areas such as engineering, manufacturing and construction, as well as in sectors such as hospitality, human health and social work.

MICROCREDENTIALS ARE TOOLS

The main question that triggered discussions during the two-day event was: what kind of tools are microcredentials? According to participants, they can be tools:
• for making visible learning, skills and competences acquired through learning;
• to give value to such learning, knowledge, skills and competences;
• to encourage learning and motivate individuals to develop in a lifelong and life-wide perspective.

Visibility, value and learner encouragement are key objectives to consider when reflecting on microcredentials. They cannot be seen in isolation from the systems or other tools as they are not free- standing instruments. They need to be understood as elements in a broader system of qualifications and credentials.
Another key question that emerged was: how do microcredentials interact with existing qualification systems? What is the relationship between this emerging phenomenon and traditional qualifications and credentials? Do microcredentials, apart from digital delivery, represent a genuinely new form of recognition? Or are they a way to define better and standardise the already existing offer? Although this question remains the key focus of the current Cedefop study, microcredentials cannot take the place of formal qualifications; rather, they complement the current conventional learning opportunities.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @  Skillset and match (Cedefop’s magazine promoting learning for work) – January 2022 issue 24 | CEDEFOP

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