Over 300 university accredited micro-credentials have been launched on a new platform called MicroCreds.ie which the Irish Universities’ Association (IUA) says is the first of its kind in Europe. More will be added as they are developed.
The launch by two government ministers on Tuesday is the result of research and planning by the association in cooperation with seven of its members and with enterprise stakeholders – all partners in the ambitious MicroCreds Project which started in 2020 at a cost of €12.3 million (US$13.8 million).
The courses, typically between four and 12 weeks in length, are delivered either fully or partially online and deal with key skill areas such as sustainability, digital transformation, aircraft leasing and fintech. Fees range from €250 to €2,000.
An example of the preparation that went into the platform was given by Professor Kerstin Mey, chair of the IUA Council, who said that the University of Limerick, which she heads, had developed micro-credentials in collaboration with enterprise in areas such as AI & machine learning, sustainable organisations and supply chain management.
“Our aim, through our involvement with the MicroCreds project, is to work as a collective with our fellow IUA partners to address both regionally specific and national priority skills needs,” she said.
’First national framework in Europe’
The IUA says that through the project, Ireland is the first European country to establish a coherent national framework for quality assured and accredited micro-credentials which are also aligned to the country’s National Framework of Qualifications.
It says that the universities involved are collaborating to develop, pilot and evaluate the ‘building blocks’ required for a transformation in lifelong and life-wide learning through micro-credentials.
They are assisted by an Enterprise Advisory Group composed of members from business representative organisations at the national level, enterprise agencies, private sector companies and state bodies with responsibility for skills.
The universities believe they have addressed some of the concerns about the rapid worldwide growth in micro-credentials. The OECD had identified a number of these concerns including the need for a framework for widespread understanding and recognition of micro-credentials and ensuring that the learners have the information they need to choose suitable courses.
In a recent issue of Education Policy Perspectives (Vol. 40) it noted that a growing number of large technology companies, other private companies and non-profit organisations are now offering micro-credentials. Many of these are outside national qualifications frameworks which can pose its own set of challenges.