The Open University offers employers a range of ways to support employees in developing their confidence in learning and set them on a path to work and career-related qualifications. The ‘Open up your learning’ podcast series explores the different options available to employers. In this episode we take a look at microcredentials.
Microcredentials are designed specifically to enhance professional skills, knowledge and experience in a particular subject area or capability. They are short, taking only 10-12 weeks to complete, with academic credit awarded on completion.
The Open University offers a range of microcredentials, such as, cyber security, online teaching and business management. It recently ran a podcast as part of its ‘Open up your Learning’ series, talking about what microcredentials are, how they work and why employers should consider using them as a part of their learning offering. Corporate learning journalist Martin Couzins chaired the podcast. He was joined by Dr Haider Ali, Lecturer in Strategic Marketing and academic lead for microcredentials at The Open University Business School, and Tim Plyming, Managing Director of Microcredentials at The Open University.
Microcredentials have been around as a concept for about ten years and have become increasingly popular in the last couple of years. The qualifications fit well with the trend for short, focused learning that targets a specific need. In the podcast, Tim says a growing number of employers and employees are now interested in microcredentials.
They have emerged out of a focus on having dedicated, skill-based short courses. They have a really broad audience and wide appeal.Tim Plyming
Managing Director of Microcredentials at The Open University
Employers are seizing the opportunity to provide new training opportunities at pace. As a result, rapidly growing industries or those sectors that have specific skills gaps are increasingly turning to microcredentials to upskill and reskill their workforce in key capabilities. Tim says this trend was already happening, but was greatly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, when it became imperative that organisations and individuals across all sectors were able to address skills needs quickly and effectively. “We see the pace of change in skills training and development increasing,” he says. “Therefore, being able to have short pieces of skills training delivered, with academic credit, at speed around skills gaps, is a key opportunity.” Tim recently spoke to a large, global organisation that had put its 360,000 workforce through an introduction to AI microcredential, for example.
However, microcredentials are not just for plugging emerging, urgent skills needs. They are also increasingly used by employers and L&D teams to map out the individual learning journey of employees and to provide personalised skills and career development that meet the needs of both the employer and the employee. “We know that learning and development teams across a wide range of sectors are really wanting to design tailor made learning interventions around the specific requirements of their organisation and microcredentials feel a perfect fit for that,” says Tim. “And they really suit anyone who is serious about a lifelong learning journey as part of their career.”
Research by The Open University shows that shorter courses, such as microcredentials, provide a really good bridge between informal and formal learning. They often lead on to more formal, in-depth learning and foster the spirit of lifelong learning on both an organisational and an individual level. As such, microcredentials fit really well with The Open University’s broader offering.
The Open University Business School is currently working on several new business management microcredentials.
Haider is the lead educator for the popular ‘Business Management: Marketing Principles and Practice’ microcredential, which is currently open for enrolment This is part of a suite of undergraduate-level Business Management microcredentials.
Students could take a single microcredential, or several. As with all Open University learning, the flexibility is there for individuals and organisations to choose what suits them best. And Haider says the course material is very closely aligned to actual business needs.
All the activities we do, all the assessments we do, involve the students taking the material that we’ve given them and applying it to their own organisation. The emphasis is very much on application.Dr Haider Ali, Lecturer in Strategic Marketing and academic lead for microcredentials at The Open University Business School