Micro-Credentials - Global Panel Results.

320 Higher Education leaders shared their insights on Micro-Credentials in our recent research. These findings contribute to our evolving insights into the current state and future possibilities for alternative and micro-credentials globally.

Education Intelligence Unit

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March 15, 2021

Education leaders representing universities and other higher education institutions, along with industry and EdTech stakeholders provided their insights and experiences about micro and alternative credentials in research conducted with HolonIQ’s Global Higher Education Panel in February-March 2021.

The Global Higher Education Executive Panel includes experienced higher education professionals engaged in strategy, innovation, academic leadership, technology and digital roles in institutions spanning more than 80 countries. Respondents in this research included 55% from North America, 18% from East Asia and Pacific, 12% Europe/ Central Asia and 7% Latin America. Middle East, South Asia and Africa made up the remaining 8% of respondents.

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Institutions see alternative and micro-credentials as an important strategy.

“In the future, learners will achieve certification from a mosaic of many micro-credentials certifications from many institutions and not just one.” (Respondent, Chile)

The vast majority of institutional leaders surveyed identified micro-credentials as an important future strategy for their institution, with many seeing micro-credentials as a way for higher education to bridge the gap between education and workforce needs. However, most view micro-credentials as an addition, rather than an alternative to degrees in the market, with many expecting micro-credentials to be embedded within degree programs.

Micro-credentials are non-existent at 1 in 5 institutions.

“There is little evidence that employers are willing to accept micro-credentials as a replacement for the college degree. As a result, they will likely remain ‘backed in’ to degree pathways instead of stand-alone options.”

While a majority of institutional leaders recognize the potential importance of micro-credentials as part of future strategy, adoption of micro-credentials is only just emerging, with 1 in 5 respondents indicating that microcredentials are non-existent at their institution. A number of barriers to broader adoption were identified by respondents including a lack of agreed standards and trust in micro-credentials, inability of the institution to keep up with the pace of change, internal resistance and lack of employer demand.

Short courses the focus as institutional policies are developed.

“Universities have built their business models, reward structures and cultures around the degree programme. They are significantly invested in the status quo. Changing this to adopt new forms of credentials is not an easy task”.

Currently, the application of micro-credentials within institutions appear to be mostly focused on short-courses, with only one third of universities using micro-credentials as part of degree programs. The short-course space represents a low barrier entry point for micro-credentials in institutions, and a more natural ‘fit’ to their non-accredited offerings. The application of micro-credentials to degree programs remains more controversial for many.

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Agreed standards and trust are the greatest barriers to micro-credential adoption.

“The quality of Micro-Credentials is my concern. Most offers in the market don’t need a test or a knowledge check.”

Constraints around the recognition and quality assurance of micro-credentials are cited as the largest barrier to adoption at scale, followed by a lack of understanding about what micro-credentials are and a lack of trust in some micro-credentials. These three barriers broadly represent a lack of ‘agreed standards’ and, while this is some way off for micro-credentials, there are a number of national and regional initiatives underway to build common frameworks and standards for microcredentials.

University Leaders expect micro-credentials to be integrated within degree programs.

“Micro credentials would be a great support in the advancement of higher education and can effectively bridge the gap between HE and the industry but not an alternative to it”.

Most university leaders expect that industry credentials will become a credible alternative to degree programs, highlighting awareness among university leaders of the importance of industry and job relevant higher education. At the same time, respondents identify that it’s not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, and that co-leadership between academic and industry partnerships would lead to better outcomes.

Download Micro-Credentials Report

If you’d like to discover more about Micro and Alternative Credentials, you can download the report for the full results or read a summary of the recent webinar on micro and alternative credentials, the second in our ongoing Higher Education Digital Transformation series.

Download the Report

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Webinar 2 - Micro and Alternative Credentials.

Alternative and micro-credentials is an emerging market, still in a formative state with no universally agreed format or definition, and with many participating actors and emerging models. This session provides an overview of HolonIQ’s comprehensive analysis of the alternative and micro credentials market globally, including definition and market segmentation and analysis of the likely future role of micro-credentials in the post-secondary landscape.

Watch the recording

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