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How micro-credentials can promote lifelong learning

How do we actually show what we know? In a few years' time, we will be able to talk about our competences as pieces of Lego that are constantly being added to, rather than pointing to the courses we have taken. A lot of work is now being done to systematise so-called micro-credentials. 

There is a plethora of different documents and evidence to prove what we know. Most of them are linked to higher education programmes. But a degree certificate says very little about an individual's knowledge. But micro-credentials do.

"Micro-credentials are about breaking down skills into smaller pieces of Lego and looking at specific competences. One example of a Lego piece might be hair colouring for film and TV production, another might be personal interaction. Breaking it down in this way reflects the individual's real skill base," explains Björn Flintberg, researcher and digital strategist at RISE.  

Micromerits not visible today

Today, Ladok, a database of study records from the country's universities and colleges, is the only national register of qualifications. Grades from adult education programmes are not stored in common systems, but in separate databases under the auspices of the respective principals. Neither here nor in Ladok is it possible to zoom in on micro-credentials.  

And learning that takes place outside our traditional educational arenas – the professional Swedish course run by a study association or the leadership training organised by a scout association – is not visible at all.  

"This means that when you have to compile statistics and work with skills planning in a region, you are to some extent forced to guess at what skills base already exists and where you need to replenish it," says Björn Flintberg.  

We have put a lot of emphasis on the individual being able to own and manage their competence certificates

"There is a need to define knowledge at a narrower level"

In June 2022, the Council of Europe issued a recommendation on a strategy for micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability. The aim was to help institutions and companies in different countries and sectors to design, implement and recognise micro-credentials.

Already in 2021, RISE joined forces with the Swedish Agency for Higher Vocational Education and the Swedish Public Employment Service to develop a Swedish model. The project, funded by Vinnova, is called Kompetenspasset and will lead to a possible standard for micromerits in Sweden.  

"It is important to stress that what we are developing will not replace anything that already exists in our education system. But there is a need to be able to define knowledge at a narrower and smaller level," says Olle Nyman, project manager at RISE, and continues:  

"There is so much education in society today that is not standardised from a micromerit perspective. In many cases it is also not digitised and portable. This makes it difficult to validate and verify. This is something we looked at when we built this model – the importance of making sure who has a certificate or qualification, who issued it and how.

"For example, if you don't have 100% validation as required by law for university courses, you should show how validation and quality assurance has been done. With this transparency, an employer can decide for himself whether what is shown is a reasonable level of validation," says Björn Flintberg.  

The model covers informal learning 

An important part of the work on the model has been to include and recognise informal learning - something that can benefit people without higher education. It has also been important to make the model responsive to the changing needs of the labour market. Björn Flintberg gives a practical example.

"During the pandemic, the competency maps for flight attendants and nursing assistants were superimposed and it was clear that there was a large overlap in terms of behaviour and service. By adding specific and practical competencies in nursing, the exempted flight crew were ready for a new professional role in a relatively short time," he says.

A standard for the use of micro-credentials would make this kind of reorganisation and skills development easier to implement. And it would make it easier for individuals to reap the benefits of all kinds of knowledge acquisition – building a lifelong legacy – in the labour market.  

"We have put a lot of emphasis on empowering individuals to own and manage their competences. Today, our competence portfolios are largely controlled by trainers. It is important to give individuals more autonomy and the ability to move and view their data," says Olle Nyman.  

HOW micro-credentials WORK  

Micro-credentials certify learning outcomes from shorter programmes, such as a short course.  It is a flexible and targeted way to help people develop the knowledge, skills and competences they need.  

Source: European Education Area

Olle Nyman

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Olle Nyman

Projektledare

+46 10 516 51 93

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Björn Flintberg

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Björn Flintberg

Forskare

+46 10 516 56 55

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