The term “Micro-Credentials” is relatively new, described in the joint effort of researchers and practitioners, as well as policy makers. We suggest Erasmus+ program KA3 project MicroHE definition: Micro-Credentials are considered to be a smaller segment of credentials which can then be aggregated to create a macro-credential or to be considered as a segment of a portfolio. Examples of micro-credentials include the following: Digital Badges, MicroMasters, NanoDegrees, and Verified Certificates.
Micro-Credentials are often used for the purposes of recognition. Indeed, micro-credentials can be used to recognize competences, both soft and hard skills, as well as to acknowledge knowledge and experience in certain and/or specific subject areas. Thus, Micro-Credentials are versatile, as they can be used in diverse subject areas to recognize a wide range of skills and competences. However, Micro-Credentials are not yet commonly used for the purposes of certification and/or assessment of learning. Educational institutions and employers still hesitate to accept the value of micro-credentials for certification.
Digital infrastructures for micro-credentialization
Metadata standards for documenting qualifications and the handling of related information within computerized systems were developed through the European Qualifications Framework (EQF). MicroHE proposed a second metadata standard (based on the Qualifications metadata scheme as well as the ESCO data scheme) for the specific purpose of recording ECTS, which would include the following types of metadata: descriptive (e.g. identification information), structural (e.g. data that demonstrated the relationships between the constituents), and administrative (e.g. technical details that are needed for filing, storing, and administering copyrights).
One of the outcomes of the MicroHE project is the development of online services and digital infrastructure for micro-credentialization such as Credentify, which is used to expedite the recognition process of credentials. Credentify is a cloud-based service that allows educational institutions, as well as individual learners, to create and distribute micro-credentials. There are numerous benefits in using Credentify. For example, it is designed to ensure transparency by providing information on the acquired qualifications or credential. Also, it enables verification and identification at both institutional (i.e. educational institution) and individual (i.e. student) levels. Finally, the platform offers accumulation and portability as it holds a depository of all credentials awarded.
The ECCOE Project
ECCOE (European Credit Clearinghouse for Opening up Education) project aims at simplifying certification within the higher education sector as well as raise approval rates and appreciation of technology-enabled credentials within different stakeholders, i.e. students, higher education institutions, and employers.
Based on the outcomes of OEPass and MicroHE projects and a draft data model, created by the EU Commission, the ECCOE project offers an all-encompassing set of quality descriptors (e.g. type of studies, assessment methods, verification systems, grading mechanisms, etc.), which are frequently used by member countries.
A team of VMU researchers, in a joint effort with their international partners, have prepared both a set of Quality criteria for credential description as well as a Model of Digital Credential template for the purpose of delivering the relevant information in regard to the educational benefits a specific credential is awarded to identify. Currently, VMU and the partners, through the ECCOE, are involved in an Open public consultation wherein the response of all those who would benefit from such a program is being solicited. Observations and remarks should come from those participants who work with and for Higher Education Institutes, specifically those which are “open, online and flexible.” The hope is to gain information on the suitability of the digital credential system for the acceptable and effective progression towards credentialization as well as an identification of the educational outcomes. The Open public consultation is ongoing, starting October 19, 2020 and continuing through February 1, 2021.