ArticlePDF Available

A Strategic Institutional Response to Micro-Credentials: Key Questions for Educational Leaders


Abstract and Figures

This article responds to the rise of the micro-credential movement. It evidences the heightened attention politicians, policy-makers and educational leaders are giving to micro-credentials by framing the discussion in several recent high-level policy developments, an exponential growth in the number of academic publications and the increasing level of interest shown by popular media. It follows that micro-credentials appear to be high on the change agenda for many higher education institutions (HEIs), especially in the post-COVID-19 environment. However, the emergence of the micro-credential raises several crucial questions for educational leaders, set against fear of missing out. Importantly, the paper identifies a significant gap in the literature regarding leadership and strategic institutional responses to micro-credentials. Indeed, there is a dearth of literature. Leadership is crucial to the success of any educational change or innovation, so five key questions are presented for institutional leaders. They challenge institutions to make strategic decisions around how they engage with and position micro-credentials. If micro-credentials are part of an HEI’s change agenda, then serious consideration needs to be given to the type of leadership and internal structures required to develop and execute a successful micro-credential strategy. Consideration must also be given to fit-for-purpose business models and how to mitigate potential risks. We hope to bring these strategic questions to the table as institutions plan, envision and develop their micro-credential strategies.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Mark Brown
Dublin City University, IE
Micro-credentials; Higher
Education Leadership;
Educational Change
Brown, M, McGreal, R and
Peters, M. 2023. A Strategic
Institutional Response
to Micro-Credentials: Key
Questions for Educational
Leaders. Journal of Interactive
Media in Education, 2023(1):
7, pp. 1–17. DOI: https://doi.
A Strategic Institutional
Response to Micro-
Credentials: Key Questions
for Educational Leaders
*Author affiliations can be found in the back matter of this article
This article responds to the rise of the micro-credential movement. It evidences the
heightened attention politicians, policy-makers and educational leaders are giving
to micro-credentials by framing the discussion in several recent high-level policy
developments, an exponential growth in the number of academic publications and the
increasing level of interest shown by popular media. It follows that micro-credentials
appear to be high on the change agenda for many higher education institutions (HEIs),
especially in the post-COVID-19 environment.
However, the emergence of the micro-credential raises several crucial questions for
educational leaders, set against fear of missing out. Importantly, the paper identifies
a significant gap in the literature regarding leadership and strategic institutional
responses to micro-credentials. Indeed, there is a dearth of literature. Leadership is
crucial to the success of any educational change or innovation, so five key questions
are presented for institutional leaders. They challenge institutions to make strategic
decisions around how they engage with and position micro-credentials. If micro-
credentials are part of an HEI’s change agenda, then serious consideration needs
to be given to the type of leadership and internal structures required to develop and
execute a successful micro-credential strategy. Consideration must also be given to
fit-for-purpose business models and how to mitigate potential risks. We hope to bring
these strategic questions to the table as institutions plan, envision and develop their
micro-credential strategies.
2Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
Micro-credentials are ‘the latest shiny new thing’ attracting the interest of educational leaders,
policy-makers and politicians (Brown & Nic Giolla Mhichil 2022: 1). Indeed, Usher (2021) claims
that micro-credentials are like ‘catnip to politicians’. Hardly a week goes by without news of a
micro-credential initiative in some part of the world. Brown et al. (2021) reveal through a major
literature review of the field undertaken for the European Commission that 54% of the micro-
credential literature, including major reports and academic journal articles, was published
in the last two years. Notably, of the 78 publications produced since the beginning of 2020
and up until the beginning of September 2021, 34 (45%) relate to European developments.
North America contributed 33 (42%) of the publications, with 16 from Canada and 17 from
the United States. The proliferation of micro-credential literature has continued in 2022, with
48 publications on the Micro-credential Observatory website at the beginning of November
(National Institute for Digital Learning 2022).
Similarly, the number of articles on micro-credentialing published in newspapers around the
world in the English language has grown exponentially. Of the 1,538 articles appearing in the
Nexis newspaper database that refer to ‘micro-credentials’ since the first piece was published in
2011, 1,285 (82%) were produced since the start of 2020. Table 1 shows that to date the most
articles in any given year appeared in 2021, with 483 entries listed in Nexis. As of November 15th
2022, 476 newspaper articles have been published, the majority originating in North American
publications (55%).
The year 2022 was a significant year for discourses around micro-credential development,
as several major new policy initiatives have been launched in the past year. In Australia, for
example, the Government released in March a National Micro-credential Framework (Australian
Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment 2022). Also, this year, UNESCO
published a seminal report as part of its effort to develop a common global understanding and
definition of micro-credentials following a consultation process involving 47 experts working
in the area representing diverse regions and sectors (Oliver 2022). Following an extensive
consultation process over two years in Europe, in June 2022, a Council Recommendation on
a European Approach to Micro-credentials for Lifelong Learning and Employability was formally
approved (European Commission 2022). The significance of this development is that all EU
Member States agreed to work to adopt a common European approach to micro-credentials
with a well-articulated definition. The definition states:
‘Micro-credential’ means the record of the learning outcomes that a learner has
acquired following a small volume of learning. These learning outcomes will have
been assessed against transparent and clearly defined criteria. Learning experiences
leading to micro-credentials are designed to provide the learner with specific
Table 1 Newspaper items
featuring micro-credentials in
English publications.
2011 2 0 2 0 0
2012 1 0 0 1 0
2013 1 0 1 0 0
2014 0 0 0 0 0
2015 9 0 6 0 3
2016 11 1 7 1 2
2017 32 1 12 1 18
2018 78 3 21 5 48
2019 119 1 44 5 68
2020 326 18 96 28 133
2021 483 22 239 43 92
2022 476 32 261 69 104
Total 1538 78 689 153 468
3Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
knowledge, skills and competences that respond to societal, personal, cultural or
labour market needs. Micro-credentials are owned by the learner, can be shared and
are portable. They may be stand-alone or combined into larger credentials. They are
underpinned by quality assurance following agreed standards in the relevant sector
or area of activity (European Commission 2022: 5a).
Set against this backdrop, the purpose of this article is to consider what is required to develop
a strategic institutional response to micro-credentials. After all, micro-credentials provide an
opportunity for a strategic reset (McGreal & Olcott 2022). Importantly, educational leaders
have choices and should be intentional about their plans. However, the micro-credential
movement is not benign, and institutions must be aware of the risks and rewards of unbundling
traditional credentials. Brown and Nic Giolla Mhichil (2021) caution there is a danger of the
micro-credential being a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. Indeed, Ralston (2021) goes further in a
strong critique suggesting that micro-credentials are imbued in the laissez-faire market-driven
language of the new learning economy. He claims:
The craze represents a betrayal of higher education’s higher purpose and a loss for
students and faculty who continue to see university learning as more than vocational
training (Ralston 2021: 92).
This critique illustrates that micro-credentials evoke bigger questions requiring educational
leaders to critically distinguish between hype and hope. As micro-credentials come in many
different forms, educational leaders must identify and critically weigh up their strategic drivers
as part of any institutional response. However, the leadership literature on developing and
implementing micro-credentials is sparse. A title and abstract search of the Scopus database
using the terms ‘micro-credential’ and ‘microcredential’, and ‘leadership’ reveals only six
articles. Four of the six were published in the last two years. A similar title and abstract search of
the Web of Science database using the terms ‘leadership’, and ‘leaders’, and ‘micro-credential’
found only four publications.
The key point is that a significant gap exists in the literature. This gap also extends at the
institutional level as a Canadian survey found that less than half of the responding institutions
have a framework or strategy to guide their micro-credential development (Pichette, Rizk,
& Brumwell 2021). If micro-credentials are deemed a strategic fit for an institution, then
educational leaders should consider:
• How do you strategically position them?
• What type of institutional leadership is required?
• What type of internal structures are required?
• What type of business model(s) are required?
• What could possibly go wrong?
These key questions build on those raised by Olcott (2022a) for US educators. The paper is
designed to address each question to help institutions and educational leaders craft their
strategic responses to micro-credentials. We hope the paper makes a useful contribution to
the burgeoning field from a strategic leadership perspective and enables institutions to plan,
develop and effectively execute successful micro-credential strategies aligned with their wider
vision, mission, and values.
If micro-credentials are on your institutional change agenda, then how do you strategically
position them? The answer to this question depends to a large extent on why an HEI chooses
to embark on a micro-credential strategy. The fear of missing out (FOMO) or efforts to conquer
them because they exist, a variation of the Everest Syndrome (Maddux 1988), are not strong
foundations for a successful micro-credential strategy.
Having a clear sense of purpose is crucial to an institution’s strategic thinking about micro-
credentials. As Figure 1 illustrates, there are many different drivers and attractors promoting
micro-credentials. The above-mentioned Council Recommendation provides a synthesis of
4Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
the conglomerate of factors that have merged to add weight to the importance of micro-
credentials. While many of these factors are not unique to micro-credentials and there is a
complex interplay between them, broadly they fall into two categories.
From a Knowledge Economy perspective, micro-credentials are seen as a means of recruiting
people for the fast-changing labour market through reskilling or upskilling. Brown et al. (2021)
report from their analysis of the literature that ‘increasing employability’ is the most dominant
driver, with 63% of publications referring to this factor as underlying the micro-credential
movement. In a similar vein, micro-credentials have been part of government responses to
foster a job-rich recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, although this issue features in only 15% of
publications (Brown et al. 2021). More pragmatically, an increasing interest in micro-credentials
across different business and education sectors may be fuelled by the financial attraction of
generating new revenue by opening access to new markets. After all, HolonIQ (2021) estimate
the global online degree and micro-credential market will total US $117 billion by 2025. As
Olcott (2022a) observes, at the heart of the current interest in micro-credentials is economics
and competition.
HEIs are beginning to understand that there could be a new untapped market of potential
learners including alumni, an ever larger group, who have already earned credits through
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and other online offerings from different providers.
This presents an opportunity for HEIs to increase enrolment and revenue, while better aligning
learning in the academy with the skills needed by industry (Sjöö & Hellström 2019).
From a Knowledge Society perspective, micro-credentials are a vehicle for creating a more
inclusive culture of lifelong learning where everyone can thrive. Brown et al. (2021) found
that the aim of ‘promoting lifelong learner’ featured as a driver or attractor in 48% of the
published literature. Notably, in the EU context, micro-credentials are central to implementing
targeted initiatives in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan to reduce poverty and
promote inclusion and accessibility to training and educational opportunities for a wider
range of learners (European Commission 2021). They are also seen to play a valuable role in
delivering on EU policy targets to advance both the digital and green agenda. However, these
societal goals do not feature prominently in the international literature. For example, the aim
of ‘increasing equity for underrepresented groups’ appears in only 8% of publications (Brown et
al. 2021). The key point is that a broad spectrum of multifaceted drivers and attractors underly
the micro-credential movement. Jansen and Schuwer (2015) note that HEIs have different
motivations for entering the micro-credential market, such as visibility, reputation, innovation,
responsiveness to learners, generating income, or reducing costs (cited in Kato, Galán-Muros &
Weko 2020: 21).
The question for educational leaders is what weight do you place on these Knowledge Economy
and Knowledge Society drivers and attractors in your micro-credential strategy? What is the
main driver and what explicit deliverables underpin your decision to invest in micro-credentials?
Figure 1 Driver and attractors
for the growth of micro-
credentials (Brown 2022b).
5Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
Importantly, these drivers are not always inherently aligned to deliver common outcomes
(Brown et al. 2021). While at risk of over theorising the choices facing educational leaders,
the underlying drivers often reflect quite different worldviews. The current language of crisis,
disruption, and re-imagination in the age of the micro-credential offers a kaleidoscope of
competing perspectives with different images of the future. A type of multifocal vision is
required to critically read and untangle these images (Brown 2022a). Figure 2 attempts to
illustrate through the dual lenses of the Knowledge Economy and the Learning Society how
competing languages of persuasion imbued in the open badges, alternative credentials and
micro-credentials movements promote very different social, economic, and educational
On the one hand, the concept of unbundling inhabits the contested terrain of globalisation,
fast capitalism, and neo-liberalism. Arguably, the micro-credential symbolises laissez-faire
principles of individual choice, education as a personal commodity and the goal of creating an
unrestricted global higher education market.
On the other hand, they provide a real opportunity to challenge the status of traditional
qualifications, democratise access to higher education and deliver a more equitable and
inclusive culture of lifelong learning. Brown’s (2022b) kaleidoscope metaphor reminds us
that the education system is the outcome of a rich colour palette with conflicting political,
ideological, and philosophical assumptions. Extending the metaphor, the rotations of the
kaleidoscope reveal key differences between competing and co-existing micro-credential
discourses, with four distinct viewpoints.
The Reproduction discourse reflects the view that HEIs are major agents of social and cultural
reproduction. Accordingly, the discourse places strong emphasis upon mass education, social
cohesion, and preparation for future employment through upskilling and reskilling. Formal
education is the shifting agent and producer of human capital needed by the economy in the
form of a trained and skilled workforce.
The Reschooling discourse responds to the call to reform the traditional education system
by promoting the language of unbundling, learner choice and digital transformation. An
inherent contradiction in this discourse is that micro-credentials promote new learning
pathways and credential marketplaces—yet supplementary short course offerings do little to
challenge the status of traditional degrees. While micro-credentials are framed in the language
of learner choice, they reinforce the message that education is a personal commodity, which
has a currency measured against employability, career advancement and the accumulation
of wealth.
The Deschooling discourse reflects a constellation of perspectives that argue traditional
degrees are losing their ‘sheepskin effect’ (Technológico de Monterrey 2019) in providing
life advantages. The discourse supports both the rewilding and unbundling of learning to
Figure 2 Competing languages
of persuasion underlying the
micro-credential movement
(Brown 2022b).
6Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
help break down the walls of the academic Ivory Tower. While the language of openness,
personalisation, and democratising access is infused throughout this perspective, the discourse
also unintentionally supports the goals of deregulation, libertarianism, and the laissez-faire
free market. For this reason, ‘deschooling’ is a double-edged sword as it can promote a set of
values quite different from education as a public good.
The Reconceptualist discourse promotes a counter-narrative arguing that new lifelong
learning pathways support active citizenry and greater participation in all aspects of society.
It also positions the micro-credential movement as a powerful lever to achieve the United
Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 4: Education for all as well
as SDGs 5 and 10, reducing gender and other inequalities (UNESCO n. d.). The underlying
assumption is that the problems facing humanity cannot be solved by continuing to do what
we have always done. There is a basic need to reconceptualise the higher education system to
challenge an inherently unjust knowledge economy to deliver a more equitable, socially just,
and sustainable future.
In summary, the above discourses reveal how different interest groups and stakeholders
borrow the same language of micro-credentials to legitimise their agenda. In so doing they
seek to influence and take ownership of the micro-credential movement to serve their own
intentions. Thus, the concept of hegemony is central to understanding how micro-credentials
are entangled in these perspectives (Brown 2022b). The risk is that educational leaders seeking
to harness the transformative potential of micro-credentials may end up collaborating with
the enemy by diminishing the quality and impact of higher education or playing into the
hands of neo-liberalists. In less binary language, what this means is that micro-credentials
are enmeshed within the politics of digital transformation, which is far more complex than is
typically understood.
A fundamental question arising from this line of analysis is what type of higher education
system do we want new and emerging micro-credentials to serve? The answer to this question
is inextricably linked to broader social imaginaries; our ideas about what constitutes the good
society (Brown 2016). The important takeaway is that micro-credentials invite us to ask deeper
questions about the future of higher education. Educational leaders have an opportunity to
shape this future. Importantly, not all micro-credentials are equally created by design. Figure 3
shows that HEIs have choices in the language they use to position them within their recognition
frameworks. A supplementary approach does not have to be the default model. After all, this
conception of micro-credentials is hardly disruptive. While this positioning is safe for many
HEIs, arguably, it suggests that a micro-credential is subordinate to a traditional degree.
That said, are we expecting too much of the micro-credential to challenge traditional cultural
mores? Notably, Brown et al. (2021) found that only 2% of the published literature positioned
micro-credentials as a means to ‘disrupt traditional 19th Century recognition models’. Similarly,
less than 1% of the literature positioned the micro-credential as a means of ‘reimagining new
Figure 3 How language
positions micro-credentials
differently in the credential
7Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
partnership models’ for higher education. On a more optimistic note, 24% of publications
advocated to ‘embed micro-credentials in mainstream education’ to create a more inclusive
credential ecology. Also, there is an important distinction between a supplementary model of
micro-credentials that offers no credit or stackability, as opposed to one that provides credit
and a bridge to the completion of a macro-credential. Although it should be clarified that in
many institutional contexts there is currently a lot more credit on offer than stackability. While
the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, the question is whether you want to maintain
a clear distinction between micro-credentials and macro-credentials or rather design a more
integrated credential framework?
In the United States (US), the State University of New York (SUNY) provides a mature example
of the integrated positioning of micro-credentials on a large scale. SUNY is the largest
comprehensive university system in the US. It brings together 64 institutions serving nearly
1.3 million students. With over 500 micro-credentials in more than 60 discipline areas it
demonstrates how a consortium of institutions has been successful in developing stackable,
credit-bearing micro-credentials to provide career and academic pathways for adult learners.
This success is no doubt due to the definitions, guiding principles and implementation plans
arising from the work and recommendations of the SUNY Micro-credentialing Task Force (2018).
The composition of the Task Force and its recommendations illustrate the types of questions
and crucial decisions that institutions need to consider in a micro-credential strategy.
Another important strategic consideration centres around the size, mode, and diversity of
offerings in your micro-credential portfolio. How small is small? What load, study hours or credit
value will you set for micro-credentials? Will they be available across all delivery modes? How
many micro-credentials does your institution envisage it will offer? What will give your micro-
credential portfolio coherence? Are they just a collection of short courses cobbled together
across faculties, or will you develop a unique selling point (USP) which tells your institution’s
story? For example, some of the European university alliances are framing micro-credential
developments around the SDGs. The ECIU University, known as a leading pioneer in micro-
credentials, has a common commitment to SDG 11, with a signature pedagogy of Challenge-
based Learning (CBL) (ECIU 2022).
In contrast, the University of Western Australia offers scholarships for the completion of micro-
credentials as part of its commitment to international development. This example raises the
question of what types of learners are you targeting and where are they likely to reside? Will
you focus on bridging courses for secondary school students or second chance adult learners?
Alternatively, are the target market undergraduate students or do you wish to position micro-
credentials for the wider ‘learn as you earn’ market at the postgraduate level? Is there an
opportunity to attract cohorts of students working with industry partners or target international
students through online delivery to reach new markets? These questions reiterate the point
that a clear sense of purpose is crucial to an institutional micro-credential strategy.
This section assumes that your micro-credential strategy sets the general direction of travel, but
its success depends heavily on the right leadership. It asks what type of institutional leadership
is required? Who will drive the strategy? Do you need a senior academic or an experienced
administrative leader? Do you look within your institution or recruit someone from outside
with the type of leadership experience and toolkit required for establishing a new business
operation? What specific leadership qualities are you wanting from your leader? While the
current leadership literature on micro-credentials is little help in answering these questions,
there is a wealth of literature on educational leadership and what it takes to successfully lead
and execute major teaching and learning projects. This literature should inform your planning
and decision-making as appointing the right leader for your institutional context is essential.
Figure 4 synthesises some of the leadership models and personal qualities identified in the
literature. A laissez-faire approach to leadership is understood to be the least effective and
unlikely to engage key stakeholders. If your micro-credential strategy is modest and positions
them as supplementary offerings, then a transactional leader may be all your institution
requires. However, transactional leaders can be autocratic, bureaucratic, democratic and/or
8Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
charismatic, so consideration must be given to the type of behavioural traits and qualities that
best fit your requirements. Transformative leaders are typically characterised as being highly
ethical, adopting a coaching and affirmative approach where colleagues perceive them as
trustworthy with a pacesetting work ethic and growth mindset.
Fullan and Scott (2009: 97) in their seminal book on turnaround leadership for higher education
conclude that the common quality of effective leaders is they ‘listen, link, leverage and then
lead, in that order’. Contemporary leadership models raise red flags about the ‘lone ranger’
leader as they recognise the importance of fostering micro-leaders throughout the institution.
More specifically, Complex Leadership Theory (CLT) refers to this as enabling leadership, which
rejects the top-down style of command and control by leaders, as sustainable educational
innovations depend on harnessing diffused power across coupled systems (Schophuizen, et al.
2022). The basic lesson is straightforward, transformative leadership requires a whole team.
As Christensen and Eyring (2011: 381) put it, you must “get the right people on the bus and
in the right seats”. As three male authors from distinct cultural backgrounds—we would be
remiss not to emphasise the importance of ensuring diversity in deciding who sits in these
seats. Transformative leaders value competing viewpoints as debate, disagreement and even
resistance can be a valuable source of insight.
Figure 5 outlines the range of people to be included in an effective micro-credential leadership
team. It presents the core team proposed by Bigelow et al. (2022) and identifies many other
key interfaces through the institution and beyond. While the importance of the initiative
lead cannot be underestimated, the development of a suite of micro-credentials requires
employer engagement, subject matter experts, and specialist pedagogical, learning design and
educational technology support. The role of the leadership champion who ideally is a member
of the senior executive team is also crucial.
Figure 4 Transformative
qualities for leading a micro-
credential strategy (Brown
Figure 5 Internal stakeholders
who should be included in
an effective micro-credential
team (adapted from Bigelow
et al. 2022).
9Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
But a successful micro-credential strategy depends on many stakeholders, so institutional silos
should be avoided at all costs. An effective strategy should have strong interfaces across the
institution, such as a micro-credential advisory board or active community of practice. Crucially,
a transformative micro-credential strategy must engage faculty staff as there is likely to be
indirect resistance to the unbundling of traditional degrees. As Olcott (2022b: 7) writes, “Why
would anyone get aboard the change train if there are no potential benefits for supporting that
change?” Also, students registering for micro-credentials should not be left without learning
support and development opportunities. Instructional considerations are just one part of an
institutional micro-credential ecosystem. The literature shows that support should exist beyond
the classroom as student success can depend on academic coaching, development of library
skills, career planning, access to disability support services, and so on. This point underscores
the utility of thinking about the wider systems and infrastructures required to support new
students in a rich micro-credential ecology. In the context of online learning, these systems
and infrastructures are usually institutional markers of excellence (Moore & Piety 2022).
Importantly, the Chief Financial Officer should be around the table and your micro-credential
strategy should remain high on the agenda of the institution’s senior leadership team. This
raises the question of who provides overarching governance? Do you establish a management
board or use an existing committee to provide this strategic oversight? Also, there is merit
in establishing a wider Micro-credential Advisory Group with representatives from across the
institution to ensure as many stakeholders as possible are engaged in the initiative. Additionally,
the role of your Information Technology Services Unit should not be forgotten as somewhere in
your strategy you will need to consider procurement and support for a technology solution to
issue digital badges for your micro-credentials.
Figure 6 presents 12 principles for enabling a culture of micro-credential leadership in HEIs.
Such a culture sets priorities, is outcome focused, evidenced based and makes it clear who
is responsible. Such a culture is accountable, transparent and shares ownership across the
organisation. People are well-networked, understand the importance of strategic partnerships
and can zoom in and out from the small detail to the bigger picture. Most of all they are
strongly team-focused, pacesetting and transformative. While none of these principles are
particularly unique to micro-credentials, they bring the late Peter Drucker’s famous words to
mind that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (cited in European Universities Association 2022:
4). Therefore, particular attention needs to be given to the climate, atmosphere and practices
that develop around your micro-credential strategy. It can be the ‘secret sauce’ that influences
the way new innovations mesh with longstanding values, beliefs, and educational practices.
When it comes to strategy development, there is a crucial question of whether educational
leaders should develop a new standalone micro-credential strategy or rather embed the
strategy in an existing plan or initiative that already promotes adult lifelong learning and/or
continuous professional development. This choice depends to a large extent on the institutional
context. To date, there is no evidence of whether one approach is more effective than the other,
although building on a previous strategy using existing teams and structures may help during
a pilot phase.
Figure 6 Supporting an
enabling culture of leadership
for micro-credentials (adapted
from Fullan & Scott 2009).
10Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
This section builds on the last point concerning the question of structures. It asks what type
of internal structures are required? The answer to this question depends on your short-and
longer-term ambitions for micro-credentials. A supplementary model of micro-credentials is
probably better suited to adapting current structures, whereas a more ambitious strategy may
require completely new internal structures. While there is evidence that a growing number of
HEIs around the world have established new micro-credential departments, there is hardly any
publicly available information on how these units were formed, where they morphed from and
what was considered during their establishment. Figure 7 addresses this gap in the literature
by making explicit some of the options for educational leaders. It presents four scenarios to
support a micro-credential strategy.
In Scenario 1, the responsibility for micro-credential design, development and delivery is
incorporated in normal faculty structures. This helps to mainstream micro-credentials as part
of normal work and ensures stronger alignment with existing macro-credentials. However, the
additional workload placed on academic and support staff in faculties is not insignificant and
should be understood in terms of opportunity costs. Put another way, more time engaged
in teaching activities is less time for research and publishing in prestigious journals. There is
also less flexibility as micro-credential offerings should fit the normal lifecycle for student
administration and course delivery within the academic year. Although Scenario 1 structures
do require strategic planning and added workload across design and implementation teams,
there is less room for disruptive or transformative innovation, as business-as-usual operations
sustain only incremental innovation.
In Scenario 2, the responsibility for managing micro-credentials is given to an existing central
unit that already supports online learning across the institution. This scenario assumes that
most of your micro-credentials will be offered online. It has the advantage of building on
existing capabilities and expertise and offers greater central coordination and quality assurance
of micro-credential development. While this structure helps to reduce the workload placed on
subject matter experts by using central services, it adds to the work of this team. Also, it risks
pushing micro-credentials to the margins of core faculty activities with little or no impact on
normal business.
In Scenario 3, a new Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) Unit is established to
manage the development of micro-credentials across the institution. The role of this unit is
to coordinate business development and faculty engagement as well as branding, marketing,
and recruitment for all the institution’s short course offerings, including both credit-bearing
and non-credit bearing micro-credentials. In the past, many institutions supported extension
activities through continuing education offices, but their offerings were usually non-credit
bearing (McGreal et al. 2022). This scenario offers clear business ownership for all manner of
Figure 7 Example of different
internal structures for
managing micro-credentials
(Brown 2022b).
11Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
short courses and specialist services designed to support the growing continuing professional
development market. There is also a transparent resource allocation model to share income
and monitor the return on investment. However, business development opportunities remain
dependent on industry links, which usually reside in faculties, and the research teaching nexus
does not feature prominently in this model.
In Scenario 4, the ownership for micro-credentials is placed in a separate new commercial unit
that operates outside of normal institutional structures. This structure offers greater flexibility
regarding mode, pace and place of learning and makes it easier to manage and monitor the
performance of individual courses along with the overall financial return on investment. While
there are many advantages to adopting a commercial model outside of the normal business,
cross subsidisation of micro-credential offerings is less likely as each short course is normally
expected to pay its own way. Moreover, the link to faculties and traditional macro-credentials
is relatively weak, risking the loss of academic ownership.
Mapping these different structures for supporting micro-credentials to the Three Horizons
Framework (Baghai, Coley & White 2000) for planning and fostering an innovation culture
within your organisation offers further insights into the advantages and disadvantages of
each scenario. This seminal innovation framework provides a structure for businesses and
organisations to assess potential growth opportunities without neglecting their core business.
Figure 8 illustrates the differences between the three horizons.
Horizon 1 is the dominant system at present. It represents ‘business as usual’ where the focus
is on sustaining minor innovations as part of continuous improvement in a planned and orderly
manner thereby ensuring that uncertainties and risks are minimised. Of the four scenarios
described above, Scenarios 1 and 2 fall within the category of H1 innovation.
Horizon 2 seeks to expand the organisation’s core model, improving its main capabilities to
achieve new targets or reach new customers. It paves the way for a more disruptive state where
people are encouraged to adopt entrepreneurial mindsets to try things out in response to the
way in which the landscape is changing. This horizon is all about harnessing new opportunities.
The establishment of PACE in Scenario 3, has the potential to advance H2 innovation fostering
a more entrepreneurial approach to micro-credentials. In Canada, for example, the launch of
the ‘PowerEd’ hub at Athabasca University can be seen as an attempt to harness H2 innovation.
In addition, MOOCs can now be considered as part of the core model of many HEIs. Class
Central, a portal that aggregates offerings of MOOCs and micro-credentials, has reported that,
excluding China, since 2011 there have been some 220 million learners enrolling in courses
from 950 universities (Shah 2021).
Horizon 3 creates a new business. It challenges organisations to think outside of the box
and what they would do if they could start again without restrictions. Efforts are focused on
developing new ways of doing things that may become the future model when the current model
is no longer fit for purpose. This horizon is about transformative innovation and revolutionary
change. It follows Scenario 4 is the closest to meeting the criteria of H3 innovation.
Figure 8 The Three Horizon
Framework for planning
innovation (adapted from
Baghai, Coley & White 2000).
12Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
Australia provides an interesting example of H3 innovation. In 2022, the University of New
South Wales launched ‘Mentem by UNSW’ to work directly with business and government
agencies to provide ‘contextualised learning’ for cohorts of employees. CEO, Arvind Sampath
reported that Mentem aims to provide a mix of formal and on-the-job learning designed to fit
into employees’ daily lives (Menezes 2022). Rather than designing a suite of micro-credentials
and pre-packaged small volumes of learning to deliver to individual employees, Mentem takes
a different approach. The assumption is that no two businesses are the same. Therefore, the
organisation’s subject matter experts are embedded in the professional development from
end to end to ensure any upskilling aligns with its strategic objectives. By also including
employees in the design of the upskilling, Mentem hopes to support self-sustaining learning
organisations. This new venture ‘has set itself the ambitious goal of upskilling 500,000 workers
by 2030’ (Hare 2022).
In summary, the Three Horizons Framework offers a lens for looking to the future without losing
sight of the present. The basic idea of the framework is that a transformative organisation
needs to work simultaneously on the vectors of innovation across all three horizons (Cawood &
Vasques 2022). In this way an organisation can position itself for continuous, long-term growth
and development. The horizons help educational leaders to visualize what an ambidextrous
micro-credential strategy could look like. Through the lens of H2 and H3 innovation, visionary
leaders are challenged to consider ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’ (BHAGs) that might on first
impression be seen as ridiculous.
This section picks up on the theme of business models. It asks what type of business model(s)
are required? There is already literature on business models for online delivery. Orr, Weller and
Farrow (2018) provide a global comparison of these models in which they identify the five
business strategies:
• Fixed core model
• Outreach model
• Service-provider model
• Entrepreneurial model
• Entrepreneurial model with fixed core
Presant (2020) was the first to differentiate between different business models for micro-
credentials. Table 2 expands on this useful work by outlining the various business models
available to institutions. While Brown et al. (2021) show that the sole institution model is
the dominant approach in the literature, with 72% of publications reporting business models
adopting this model, it does not have to be this way. Again, the SUNY example and European
universities alliances show how a consortium can accelerate micro-credential development.
Another example of a peer consortium is the OER universitas (OERu), “an international network
of over 40 partner institutions across five continents… who collaborate to assemble freely
accessible, high quality, accredited online courses from OER” (McGreal et al. 2022: 294).
The opportunity for industry-led initiatives or co-construction of micro-credentials with business
and government agencies is illustrated through the Mentem example. In Ireland, the Irish
Universities Association (IUA) is coordinating a national micro-credential project funded by the
government where active industry engagement is being sought, but member institutions are
still free to pursue their own initiatives. For example, a recent partnership between Dublin City
University (DCU) and Skillnet Ireland, a government agency dedicated to promoting workforce
learning, has resulted in the development of four micro-credentials aimed at aviation managers.
They can be taken individually or stacked together to achieve a Graduate Certificate.
Another business model is partnering with professional bodies or non-government organisations
(NGOs). While non-credit bearing, Athabasca University has partnered with the Commonwealth
of Learning to offer several short courses in the practice of blended learning. Also at Athabasca
University, PowerEd, its enterprise unit to promote micro-credentials, has partnered with the
Institute of Health Economics (IHE) to develop a new four-course micro-credential in health
Description College or university-
Commercial unit or
Strategic alliance Major company or
Discipline or sector
body or association
organisation or
charitable trust
MOOC platform Commercial supplier
or partner
Example PowerEd Mentem ECIU University Skillnet Ireland British Mental Health
Institute of Health
Coursera, EdX,
Horizon H1 H2/H3 H2/H3 H1/H2 H1 H1 H2 H2/H3
Strengths Centralised approach
with high autonomy
over brand, product
suite and design and
development model
Potential for
fast, flexible and
“agile” response
to changing
market needs and
Bigger footprint,
safety in numbers,
with shared values
and goals driving a
vibrant community
of practice
Packaged, tested
solution with proven
brand recognition
and cohorts of
More agility due to
one decision-maker
and leverages
existing community
of practice
More agility due to
working with just one
partner and potential
for external funding
Proven online
platform and
existing market of
learners around
the globe
Strong industry
connections and
business model for
course development
Weaknesses Constrained
by traditional
structures, core
business model and
organisational culture
Disconnection with
faculties, weaker
nexus and potential
for mission creep
Governance can
be cumbersome
and hard to sustain
over time without
external funding
Loss of autonomy
and potential
conflicting goals
with more of a
vocational focus
Loss of autonomy
and potentially
reputation if you fail
to deliver
Loss of autonomy and
need signoff for each
step of the process
Loss of brand
recognition and
limited system
Loss of autonomy
and high percentage
of revenue is shared
with partner
Table 2 Summary matrix of micro-credential business models (adapted from Presant, 2020).
14Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
economics. IHE is an independent, not-for-profit organisation with key expertise in the health
sector. Partnerships with professional bodies can be shaped in different ways. For example, the
UK Open University’s micro-credential on ‘Embedding Mental Health in the Curriculum’ offered
through FutureLearn is endorsed by the British Mental Health Foundation.
This example reveals two business models missing from Presant’s (2020) original analysis.
First, micro-credentials offered through MOOC platforms and second the growing range of
developments occurring in partnership with the OPX sector, which is a term that refers to the
entire spectrum of commercial service models supporting higher education (HolonIQ 2019).
In the UK, for example, FourthRev specialises in partnering with industry leaders to develop
career-focused education for working professionals, with the added value of a micro-credential
from one of the world’s best universities.
Regarding MOOCs, an OECD (2021) report shows that the number of micro-credentials offered
on some of the most popular platforms increased by as much as 80% between May 2020
and May 2021. Micro-credentials delivered through MOOC platforms offer institutions some
advantages. They allow greater flexibility in delivery, add a valuable layer of external quality
assurance, and provide a market of learners predisposed to undertaking online professional
This section demonstrates that the decision of which business model is the best fit for your
institution depends on many factors, including your ambitions and how you choose to position
micro-credentials. Also, the preferred business model(s) is likely to influence your thinking about
appropriate internal structures, which further emphasises the number of crucial dependencies
that educational leaders should consider when developing an institutional micro-credential
This last point raises the question, what could possibly go wrong? What would be the nightmare
scenario for a failed micro-credential strategy? The answer to this question conjures up the 3Rs:
Reputation, Recruitment and Revenue. A nightmare scenario might lead to loss of reputation
due to a failed new business venture. Moreover, poor recruitment of new students due to
insufficient attention to the demand-side of micro-credentials is another risk. There is also a
risk that micro-credentials attract students who might normally pursue a macro-credential,
with a resulting loss of income as they fail to continue their studies. This risk has implications
for the price HEIs decide to charge students for micro-credentials as the wrong revenue model
could easily undermine and potentially dismantle traditional macro-credentials. Importantly,
failure to meet your financial targets and high costs associated with developing short online
courses compared to larger ones generating more income should also be of concern, even
when they assemble and adapt lower-cost OER. These worst-case scenarios, and others,
highlight the importance of ensuring that educational leaders follow best practice in terms of
risk management. Most large HEIs have a risk management framework, which is your friend
in terms of further identifying and mitigating risks. At the core of this paper are many of the
strategies required to minimise risk and to enhance the chances of a successful institutional
micro-credential strategy. However, as part of prudent strategic planning, it would be advisable
for your institution to have a ‘plan B’ or exit strategy should your micro-credentials fail to
achieve the income and recruitment targets you have set for them. After all, micro-credentials
would not be the first educational innovation that fails to live up to the hype and without the
right leadership some institutions may need to walk away from them.
This article sought to help educational leaders to craft a strategic response to the burgeoning
micro-credential movement. It reveals a lack of literature around leadership and raises several
key questions. In so doing the paper addresses a lack of knowledge and common understanding
that “has been recognised as a central challenge to the coherent implementation of micro-
credentials across higher education systems” (OECD 2021: 5). Our challenge to educational
leaders and the institutions they serve is to make better informed and more strategic decisions
in the way they engage with micro-credentials. The micro-credential is not necessarily benign.
15Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
Indeed, investing in micro-credentials may be a risky venture without vision, strategic leadership
and alignment with your institutional mission. How you position the micro-credential from the
outset is crucial as this influences the type of leadership, structures and business model(s)
that best serve your strategy. Another key takeaway is that micro-credentials have many
faces. Accordingly, there is no simple blueprint to the development and successful execution
of a micro-credential strategy. For instance, educational leaders may need to consider when
a strategy is needed as initially a more organic approach driven by practice may help to seed
bottom-up pilots, which can in turn influence strategy development through agile iterations.
Above all, we have shown that educational leaders should be weighing up many different
considerations, while offering a compelling strategy and business case for how their institution
can benefit from micro-credentials. A serious investment in micro-credentials is not for the
faint hearted and can require a long-term commitment.
The current research was partially supported by the Erasmus + programme Microcredentials
Exchange (MicroCredX) project under the KA220-HED – Cooperation Partnerships in Higher
Education Action Plan.
The authors have no competing interests to declare.
Mark Brown
Dublin City University, IE
Rory McGreal
Athabasca University, CA
Mitchell Peters
Open University of Catalonia, ES
Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment. 2022. National
microcredentials framework.
Baghai, M, Coley, S and White, D. 2000. The alchemy of growth. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Bigelow, A, Booth, C, Brockerhoff-Macdonald, B, Cormier, D, Dinsmore, C, Grey, S, Harrison, L, Hobbs,
A, Lee, S, Maher, P and McArthur, F. 2022. eCampusOntario’s micro-credential toolkit. Toronto:
e-Campus Ontario. Available at
Brown, M. 2016. MOOCs as social practice: A kaleidoscope of perspectives. In: De Corte, E, Enwall, L
and Teichler, U (eds.), From books to MOOCs? Emerging models of learning and teaching in higher
education, 31–41. Wenner-Gren International Series, 88. London: Portland Press.
Brown, M. 2022a. Leading in changing times: Building a transformative culture. In Zawacki-Richter,
O and Jung, I (eds.), Handbook of open, distance and digital education. Springer. DOI: https://doi.
Brown, M. 2022b. The next big thing: Is this the year of the micro-credential? Invited keynote presentation
at the 5th International Conference on Open and Distance Education, Eskişehir, Turkey, 28th
Brown, M and Nic Giolla Mhichíl, M. 2021. Micro-credentials untethered: A wolf in sheep’s clothing?
Ireland’s education yearbook 2021. Ireland: Education Matters.
Brown, M and Nic-Giolla-Mhichil, M. 2022. Unboxing micro-credentials: An inside, upside and downside
view. Culture and Education. DOI:
Brown, M, Nic Giolla Mhichíl, M, Beirne, E and Mac Lochlainn, C. 2021. State-of-the-art literature
review on micro-credentials: A report for the European Commission. National Institute for Digital
Learning, Dublin City University.
Cawood, R and Vasques, C. 24 January 2022. Are universities of the past still the future? EY [online].
16Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
Christensen, C and Eyring, H. 2011. The innovative university: Changing the DNA of higher education from
the inside out. San-Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
European Commission. 2021. European pillar of social rights action plan. Brussels: European Commission.
European Commission. 2022. Council recommendation on a European approach to micro-credentials for
lifelong learning and employability 2022/C243/02. Brussels: European Commission. https://eur-lex.
European Consortium for Innovative Universities. 2022. ECIU. (Last accessed 21
November 2022).
European Universities Association. 2022. Learning and teaching paper #17. Strategy and organisational
culture.Thematic peer group report. Brussels: European Universities Association.
Fullan, M and Scott, G. 2009. Turnaround leadership for higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Hare, J. 28 August 2022. How the learning curve just veered into corporate education. Financial Review
HolonIQ. 8 September 2019. OPM, meet OPX. New models & the $3.5B global online higher education
services. HolonIQ [online].
HolonIQ. 3 March 2021. Global online degree and micro-credential market to reach $117B by 2025.
HolonIQ [online].
Jansen, D and Schuwer, R. 2015. Institutional MOOC strategies in Europe. Maastricht: European
Association of Distance Teaching Universities
Kato, S, Galán-Muros, V and Weko, T. 2020. The emergence of alternative credentials. Paris: OECD
Publishing. (OECD Education Working Papers, No. 216). DOI:
Maddux, C. 1988. Preface to a special issue on assessing the impact of computer-based instruction.
Computers in the Schools, 5(3/4): 1–10. DOI:
McGreal, R, Mackintosh, W, Cox, G and Olcott, D. 2022. Bridging the gap: Micro-credentials for
development UNESCO Chairs policy brief form – Under the III World Higher Education Conference
(WHEC 2021) Type: Collective X. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed
Learning, 23(3): 288–302. DOI:
McGreal, R and Olcott, D. 2022. A strategic reset: Micro-credentials for higher education leaders. Smart
Learning Environments, 9(9): 1–23. DOI:
Menezes, S. 29 August 2022. UNSW launches workplace learning business to meet future skills gaps.
Medianet [online].
Moore, S and Piety, P. 2022. Online learning ecosystems: Comprehensive planning and support for dis-
tance learners. Distance Education, 42(2): 179–203 DOI:
National Institute for Digital Learning. 2022. Micro-credential observatory. Dublin City University. https://
OECD. 2021. Micro-credential innovations in higher education: Who, What and Why? Paris: OECD Publishing.
(Education Policy Perspectives No 39).
Olcott, D. 2022a. Micro-credentials: A catalyst for strategic reset and change in U.S. higher education.
American Journal of Distance Education, 36(1): 19–35. DOI:
Olcott, D. 2022b. In search of Zorba: Are you fit to lead an online distance education organisation? Open
Education – The Journal for Open and Distance Education and Educational Technology, 16(2): 1–19.
Oliver, B. 2022. Towards a common definition of micro-credentials. Paris: UNESCO. https://unesdoc.unesco.
Orr, D, Weller, M and Farrow, R. 2018. Models for online, open, flexible and technology enhanced higher
education across the globe – a comparative analysis. Oslo: International Council for Open and
Distance Education.
Pichette, J, Rizk, J and Brumwell, S. 2021. Making sense of the micro: Building an evidence base for
Ontario’s microcredentials. Journal of Innovation in Polytechnic Education, 3(1): 10–14.
17Brown et al.
Journal of Interactive
Media in Education
DOI: 10.5334/jime.801
Brown, M, McGreal, R and
Peters, M. 2023. A Strategic
Institutional Response
to Micro-Credentials: Key
Questions for Educational
Leaders. Journal of Interactive
Media in Education, 2023(1):
7, pp. 1–17. DOI: https://doi.
Submitted: 29 November 2022
Accepted: 17 February 2023
Published: 24 May 2023
© 2023 The Author(s). This is an
open-access article distributed
under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution 4.0
International License (CC-BY
4.0), which permits unrestricted
use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium,
provided the original author
and source are credited. See
Journal of Interactive Media in
Education is a peer-reviewed
open access journal published
by Ubiquity Press.
Presant, D. 2020. Micro-certification business models in higher education. Ontario: Learning Agents.
Ralston, SJ. 2021. Higher education’s microcredentialing craze: A postdigital-Deweyan critique.
Postdigittal Science and Education, 3: 83–101. DOI:
Schophuizen, M, Kelly, A, Utama, C, Specht, M and Kalz, M. 2022. Enabling educational innovation
through complexity leadership? Perspectives from four Dutch universities. Tertiary Education and
Management, 1–20. DOI:
Shah, DS. 1 December 2021. By the numbers: MOOCS in 2021. The Report [online]. https://www.classcen-
Sjöö, K and Hellström, T. 2019. University–industry collaboration: A literature review and synthesis.
Industry and Higher Education 33(1): 275–285. DOI:
SUNY. 2018. SUNY micro-credentialing task force: Report and recommendations. New York, NY: The State
University of New York.
Technológico de Monterrey. 2019. Edu trends: Alternative credentials. Monterrey: Observatory of
Educational Innovation.
UNESCO. n. d. Strategic development goals. Paris, France: United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization.
Usher, A. 2021. Micro-credentials in Ontario. Toronto: Higher Education Strategy Associates. https://high-
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Leadership in higher can influence the structurally embedding of educational technologies in higher education institutions. However, HEIs are complex pluralistic organizational environments with loosely coupled systems, diffused power and goal ambiguity which makes governance of educational innovations a wicked problem in which they have to balance dynamic complex interactions while also setting out a clear vision and enacting this vision towards organizational goals. This paper analyses four qualitative case studies with a focus on the choices made by leaders in four Dutch universities that aim to contribute to organisational educational innovation. We investigated the data through the lens of complexity leadership theory in which three types of leadership play an important role: administrative leadership (i.e. top-down oriented), adaptive leadership (i.e. bottom-up oriented) and enabling leadership that emerges as a leadership type between administrative and adaptive leadership and contributes to governing innovation in complex environments. This study sheds light on how, in the case of HEIs as complex environments, leaders made strategic choices and followed up on them to enable the innovative potential of the organisation.
Full-text available
Micro-credentials are the latest shiny new thing attracting the attention of politicians, policy-makers and educational leaders. This paper endeavours to ‘unbox’ the micro-credential by peeling away inherent tensions in competing definitions and underlying drivers. It reports the tripartite methodology adopted for a state-of-the-art literature review which offers an inside, upside and downside view on the micro-credential. Selected findings illustrate how the growth of the micro-credential needs to be understood in a wider socio-cultural context. The micro-credential movement is part of a complex credential ecology steeped in history, politics and cultural norms. In response to major societal and technological change forces, the paper invites debate on what counts as valued skill and knowledge in today’s rapidly changing digital society. It challenges existing business models for higher and further education and the traditional status of the university degree. Therefore, the micro-credential is not just another passing educational fad, as it brings into question much bigger issues concerning employability, the changing nature of work and new models of life-long learning.
Full-text available
This paper describes current trends and issues in implementing micro-credentials. The Covid19 epidemic, combined with the increasing cost of higher education; employer concerns about graduate skills and competencies; increasing inequities in access; and student frustrations about lack of job opportunities have all been a catalyst for universities, colleges, independent credentialing agencies, and leaders of national qualification frameworks to rethink the broader credentials continuum in terms of open education and micro-credentials. Students desire more options at lower costs to combine their education and training for jobs. Employers want entry-level employees with better skills and capacity to learn. As a result, major colleges and universities are now actively engaged in granting and/or recognising micro-credentials. Standardising qualifications based on time competencies is an essential requirement for credit transfer among institutions. Micro-credentials are important in ensuring the acceptance and stackability of credentials from different institutions, while providing employers with a secure and unalterable permanent digital record of applicants' abilities to perform skills of high value in the workplace. The OERu (Open Educational Resources universitas) provides an example of how one international consortium is supporting SDG4: Education for All by implementing micro-credentials allowing for maximum transferability among institutions in different countries. The lesson for strategic leaders is simplicity. Micro-credentials should be well Integrated into current institutional programs, rendered easy-to-use with clear validation metrics, providing a value-added benefit for all stakeholders. A list of recommendations to institutions, governments, UNESCO and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) is provided.
Full-text available
This article provides university leaders an introduction to the emerging micro-credentials field, including a snapshot of the global landscape. Despite the accelerated interest in micro-credentials, this article also raises a fundamental strategic question for leaders at the outset: Are micro-credentials right for our university? Part I discusses the basic elements of mcro-credentials, definitions, types of micro-credentials, and affordances and barriers and various providers of micro-credentials. Part II presents a snapshot of what is happening on the global playing field and the challenges inherent in trying to standardise micro-credentials globally. The final section of the article provides some general observations by the authors, lessons from practice, and brief example of how institutions may implement a strategic reset using micro-credentials. The authors close by emphasising micro-credentials are not a panacea for resolving institutional challenges and they are unlikely to become a major revenue enhancement. They may provide strategic value in their integration with other major institutional initiatives.
Full-text available
As the value of a university degree plummets, the popularity of the digital microcredential has soared. Similar to recent calls for the early adoption of Blockchain technology, the so-called ‘microcredentialing craze’ could be no more than a fad, marketing hype, or another case of ‘learning innovation theater.’ Alternatively, the introduction of these compact skills- and competency-based online certificate programs might augur the arrival of a legitimate successor to the four-year university diploma. The thesis of this article is that the craze for microcredentialing reflects (1) administrative urgency to unbundle higher education curricula and degree programs for greater efficiency and profitability and (2) a renascent movement among industry and higher education leaders to reorient the university curriculum towards vocational training.
Although designing and developing courses curricula are often the primary foci for online learning, instructional considerations are just one part of an educational ecosystem contributing to the online educational quality and success for online learners. In this paper, we explore systemic planning for online learning organized around the idea of an educational ecosystem. Just as in-person learners benefit from an educational system, online learners similarly benefit from carefully planned educational systems. We draw on systemic theories and frameworks with examples from successful programs, discussing features from each of these that inform the design of online learning ecosystems, arguing that rather than an either-or approach to online and face-to-face learning, institutions adopt a both-and approach that fosters robust learning ecosystems. The paper concludes with institutional resilience and how careful systemic planning that strategically integrates online planning is key to the success of online programs essential for institutions’ future resilience.
Micro-credentials vis a vis competency-based certifications of skill domains have existed for decades across vocational-technical education and the professions. What appears to be changing is the priority ascribed to different micro-credentials along a credentials continuum that has focused on formal degrees and certificates. This paper will provide a descriptive analysis of the emerging trend toward micro-credentials by colleges, universities, and other public-private providers in the United States. A major question that emerges for institutional leaders is: Can micro-credentials help position the institution’s academic, public service, and economic and workforce development market positions for the future? Driven by student graduates unable to find good jobs, by employers who cannot find the skill-based workforce they need, by increasing competition, by insurmountable student debt, and by a need for faster pathways from school to work, this aggregate ‘credentials rethink” is forcing colleges and universities to consider reframing their traditional credentials arsenal. The paper will conclude with some observations and key considerations for leaders to navigate their institutions during this period of “strategic reset” for potentially shifting institutional directions to adapt and compete in this new higher education landscape.
This study applies a systematic literature review and qualitative content analysis to identify and synthesize key factors that enable collaborative innovation between industry and universities. Using a keyword search in the Web of Science database, the review identified 40 papers that were frequently cited on the topic. Results were summarized into seven main themes or central factors stimulating collaborative innovation: resources, university organization, boundary-spanning functions, collaborative experience, culture, status centrality and environmental context. This article elaborates on these ‘enabling factors’ and uses them to summarize a number of results from the reviewed studies regarding facilitators of collaborative innovation. The discussion focuses on how these factors relate and the extent to which they are amenable to policy intervention.
Este documento explora las perspectivas del desarrollo de la educación, analizando tendencias y factores que afectan dicho desarrollo y planteando hipótesis a nivel de prioridades en materia de cooperación internacional en la educación.