Micro-credentials prepare students for digital, multicultural future

Victoria University of Wellington has developed two new micro-credentials—bite-sized qualifications that students and people in the workforce can complete to better prepare themselves for the future of work.

In 2020, the University’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS) will offer two of these short, online certification courses, which are designed to complement the breadth of knowledge gained through a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree.

Wellington is the first university in New Zealand to provide micro-credentials, which were introduced by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in August 2018.

“The future of work is digital and our workforce is growing in diversity,” Associate Dean (Academic Programmes) Dr Joost de Bruin says. “While there is a fantastic range of transferable skills in a BA that can be used for any job that students may apply for, we could see the opportunity for micro-credentials to provide more targeted practical skills.

“Our digital fluency micro-credential pilot was very successful. Our second micro-credential is about intercultural communication. Each of these is helpful in any current and future job.”

FHSS Dean Professor Sarah Leggott says, “We are also reaching out to connect to audiences beyond the students completing their degrees with us. We know digital fluency and intercultural communication will be of interest to a range of people who wish to do a quick, online course to give them useful tools for the workplace.”

Both micro-credentials are being provided with support from industry partners. Origin Security, figure.nz, Microsoft, Loomio, and Empathy have provided input and content to the current digital fluency course, while Kiwa Digital, and ABLE, are both intending to do so with future iterations of the course. The intercultural communication micro-credential has support from the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters, Interpreting New Zealand, the Department of Internal Affairs, and ABLE.

While micro-credentials don’t currently count towards a degree, the five-point qualifications will be included on students’ transcripts, giving employers confidence in their knowledge in these areas.

Both courses are provided entirely online, and take 50 hours to complete, enabling students to do them from home, work, or while on holiday. The pilot of the digital fluency course was offered in Trimester 3 of 2018–2019. “We had several students during the pilot that were doing the course from outside of New Zealand. They did them during their holiday, it was very flexible,” says Dr de Bruin.

“Micro-credentials are gaining international momentum as a mechanism for formal recognition of competence in targeted skills,” he adds. “Leaps in digital technology mean that, more than ever before, graduates need to have a variety of skills that will allow them to be agile in the workplace.”