Monday, March 27, 2023

Microcredentials Plus™

The world of micro-credentials continues to progress. Following this year’s successful Micro-Credential Forum eCampusOntario continues to support the further development of micro-credentials as a core component of a modernized postsecondary education system. 

Last week’s Ontario Budget emphasized Ontario’s Micro-Credential Strategy with continued investment in the Micro-Credential Challenge Fund. And work is proceeding on a Micro-Credential Quality Assurance Framework here in Ontario. 

On the eCampusOntario Micro-Credentials Portal there are over 1800 OSAP-eligible micro-credentials. Some of these may stack into further certifications. We are continuing to develop the portal and for us, finding a way to denote where stackable micro-credentials ladder into other, more macro credentials, is important. 

These MCs should be called Micro-credentials Plus™ (MC+). 

Micro-credentials Plus™ would clearly signal to the learner that the micro-credentials they are considering ladder into further learning. The plus (+) means it is an additive learning experience; it builds on the learning path one is on; it adds up to helping to learn more in a given area. 

The stackability of micro-credentials is an important avenue for developing the full potential of microlearning. 

Stackability refers to the additive potential of micro-credentials when these are used to combine or stack into larger credentials (diplomas, certificates, degrees). As we outlined in our report with the Future Skills Centre and the Diversity Institute, “Micro-credentials are not intended to replace traditional forms of higher education; rather, they are often designed to be connected to or integrated into an established post-secondary education system. This describes the characteristic of stackability” (p 13). 

Currently not all micro-credentials are stackable. This makes sense as they are still relatively new. But there are many options currently that are changing the ways in which micro-credentials can fit into the wider educational toolbox. 

Here are some examples of stackable micro-credentials: 

  • eCampusOntario has a stackable suite of micro-credentials that support faculty professional learning for digital fluency. The Ontario Extend micro-credential gives people advanced standing in the Conestoga College Certificate in Post-Secondary Teaching. 
  • Humber College and the Future Skills Centre partnered on the development of Digital Fluency Stackable Micro-credentials for the Workforce 
  • Centennial College offers options for stackable micro-credentials – not all are stackable, but where feasible they are and this is a good way to frame the role of micro-credentials for learners  
  • Four of the eCampusOntario pilot micro-credentials are stackable:  
    • OCAD University and Myant, Inc developed the stackable Human Centred Design Micro-certification, funded by eCampusOntario, was featured at this year’s Forum 
    • Ontario Tech University and their partner Lakeridge Health created a stackable micro-certification program, “Interprofessional Practice in Healthcare on Care and Safety” 
    • Sault College and Project Learning Tree Canada developed a stackable micro-credential program for various competencies related to Indigenous rights and relationship-building in the forestry sector 
    • York University and Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada created stackable micro-credentials in patient navigation. 
And while stackability is important in the continued evolution of micro-credentials, this alone is not a defining feature. Turning once more to our report The Future is Micro

Overall, we heard that for micro-credentials to reach more learners, they need to have stand-alone value outside of stackability toward a larger credential. While the option of stackability may provide learners with more choice—for example, to continue or return to a learning pathway started through a microcredential—the message was that it should not come at the expense of a micro-credential that has value on its own.  (p28)

Finally, here’s a great overview by Kevin Weaver, president of Georgian College, on 6 Common Misconceptions About Microcredentials and Stackable Credentialing

Micro-credentials Plus™can be one way to signal the potential stackability of learning. Doing so empowers learners to continue in lifelong learning. 

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