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Micro-Credentials - the new model for learning on the job

Lifestyles and habits spanning over decades have been completely undone these past few months. Even the most practical of us have had to get creative in order to survive. Classrooms and boardrooms have found themselves adapting to new solutions in hopes of replicating desired outcomes of the past. One of the biggest concerns now with leaving people to their own devices (quite literally) is whether they have been given the right tools. If you’re looking for a job, the scarcity of opportunities and overwhelming competition during this new norm may overwhelm you. Perhaps what you need is a small push, a micro one, in the right direction.

Micro-credentials are bite-sized certifications in a proven skillset or subject. Many other online courses require extensive academic syllabus but with micro-credentials, your experiences and capabilities can be your syllabus. Professional learning has been re-energised into “just enough” learning for a better chance to upskill without extensive time and cost commitment. These mini-qualifications have been around for a while but with Covid-19 putting a lid on many opportunities, it’s become an easy way to either acquire or brush up on various skills from the comfort of home. Catering to certain competencies is not only the way for job seekers to stand out but for those looking to diversify within their roles.

Online courses are not a novel concept but global lockdowns have led to an accelerated growth in demand for such learning platforms. Closer to home, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar, has stated that upskilling of this form is the way forward to keep up with the transformation of education. Closer to home, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar, has stated that upskilling of this form is the way forward to keep up with the transformation of education. In July of this year, the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) released the Guidelines to Good Practices for Micro-credentials (GGP). The GGP highlights the fact that these courses must come in the form of a digital badge or credits from recognised service providers and “should be designed and delivered in response to demands of learners from employers or industries”. The digitalisation of this certification also means that there is a clear record of the timeline and body of work to kickstart upskilling and lifelong learning for participants. Given that certain institutions have started offering mini-certifications not only to tertiary level but also high school students, the digital wave of unconventional learning gives an edge to students who are unable to continue their studies. It is almost certain that micro-credentials will become a form of “traditional” education in the future as it becomes more widely-adopted today.

One of the major benefits of micro-credentials is that there is no limit to the depth and breadth of qualification you could get. There are very few certifications out there that reward soft skills the same way micro-credentials are structured. While an organisation’s core competencies are usually deemed to be their hard skills, the ones that contribute in the form of a necessary function towards a role, many tend to overlook soft skills. The interpersonal functions of soft skills are imperative to keeping an organisation competitive and profitable. Communicating online further poses the challenge of not minimising contact, rather transforming communication into meaningful, productive interactions. Micro-credentials help award transferable skills like communication, customer service and teamwork to drive significant business outcomes while solidifying ethical, professional conduct at work to create a more desirable work culture. Navigating micro-credentials for personal growth has become much easier as crediting bodies have simplified the process for both providers and recipients of these courses. So how to decide on which skill to pursue? Here are some pointers:

- Weigh your options

While many institutions now offer micro-credentials, it is important to keep in mind that these courses are mostly conducted online. Figuring out the institution with proper certification geared towards your desired skill is imperative to make the right decision.

- Understand the commitment

Certain courses allow you to use past experience as credits while others may require some level of examination or practical learning. Choose what you’re most comfortable with and understand what you are about to get involved in to achieve your digital badge or credits.

- Think of your long-term goals

You might have several skills that can be recognised, and they should be. However, it is important to consider the longevity of the skill and the future you want in it. These courses can be stackable with others within a specific subject area so picking the right ones can really diversify and expand your skillset.

Convenience aside, micro-credentials are seen as a gamechanger as they help to bridge the gap between education and practical knowledge. Shorter, comprehensive courses are now accessible to more people in a way that macro-credentials such as university certifications lacked. While tertiary education is still necessary, micro-qualifications means skills that were once overlooked are now recognised while convenience means better opportunities for all. From the classroom to Zoom, micro-credentials drives small yet significant development, giving recipients the autonomy to personalise their learning experience at their own pace.

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