University of Melbourne MicroCerts

In 2022, the University of Melbourne participated in a research study in collaboration with a group of cross-sector partners that included EdTech companies, education providers, researchers, and international organisations as part of a Global Victoria EdTech Innovation Alliance initiative.

After the success of the study, the University of Melbourne initiated a project to develop new microcredential courses, Melbourne MicroCerts, that integrated the use of rich skill descriptors (RSDs) stored in openRSD, skills or industry-based capability framework alignments and issued digital credentials with embedded Personal Evidence Records through Edalex’s Credentialate platform to those learners who successfully earned their microcredential.

In their own words

“Working with skills and industry-based capability frameworks in higher education curriculum may be contentious. However, in our work designing and delivering Continuing Professional Education, the connection to industry-based capability frameworks is highly relevant as we upskill the workforce. Therefore, we were looking at how to enhance presenting the fine granularity of evidence of learning within our digital microcredentials.

It’s been great working with Edalex because they build relational partnerships. In many ways, we are learning together how to represent skills meaningfully across diverse learning contexts. This collaborative approach has afforded us authentic opportunities to provide feedback on our use of Credentialate and openRSD platforms that then informs further improvement for platform efficacy. Such responsiveness is not always the case with other third-party providers.”

– Professor Josephine Lang, Academic Director, Educational Innovation, Melbourne School of Professional and Continuing Education (MSPACE), University of Melbourne

Objectives

As part of the research project, the University of Melbourne was interested in exploring the impact on their post-professional learners, to understand whether Credentialate’s Personal Evidence Records added value to the University’s digital microcredentials. While employer feedback was limited, the impact of the skills represented in the Personal Evidence Record associated with the microcredential was seen by learners as having value in workplace recognition of their upskilling.

Some of the key findings from the research project included:

  1. Digital microcredentials that are designed with authentic assessment and are work-focussed will have high relevance and value for students and working professionals
  2. Learners are generally more confident in communicating knowledge of their skills following receipt of a detailed Personal Evidence Record embedded into their digital credential
  3. Showing evidence of capabilities in a digital credential, particularly associated with microcredentials, is likely to highlight to employers that the (l)earner has the specialised skills the employer is seeking

Given the positive results of the research project, the University of Melbourne saw the benefits of developing new microcredentials that connected the curriculum to skills recognition, utilising a standardised representation of skills through rich skill descriptors (RSDs) and alignment to industry skills or capability frameworks. Also apparent, was that issuing a Personal Evidence Record, describing the skills achieved through learning and validated by robust, workplace-focused assessment, resulted in rich skills visibility with numerous benefits for learners in seeking workplace recognition of ongoing professional learning and development or employment.

Despite the obvious benefits that surfaced during the research project, existing education technology and traditional curriculum practices were disrupted in the process. The project recognised that human behaviour change would be required to maximise the benefits. This was achieved by the University of Melbourne using a skills-first approach, whereby rather than retrofitting skills into their existing courses, working with academics, their learning designers started developing new industry-led microcredentials that identified and integrated relevant skills into the learning outcomes and assessment from the beginning. This backwards-design methodology to curriculum design enabled closer alignment to an industry’s skill needs and provided, through Credentialate’s detailed evidence record, learners with targeted skills attainment information. Credentialate’s capability provides affordances that the University of Melbourne considers as it plans its future program development.

Solution

The Personal Evidence Record is how Credentialate represents skills from the learning outcomes to the learner, who can then digitally share them with employers and others. The question for the University of Melbourne, was what skills they wanted to recognise in their microcredentials, what standardised skill descriptions they would use, and what industry standards and frameworks their courses aligned to.

The pilot project where Credentialate was used in the new microcredentials designed by University of Melbourne, has facilitated:

  • Development of new Rich Skill Descriptors (RSDs) – creating RSDs that are specific to the context of the learning in a microcredential and stored in openRSD and referenced from there by Credentialate
  • Framework alignments – identification of relevant skills or industry-based capability frameworks to align with each microcredentials, which are stored in Credentialate
  • Personalised evidence records (including artefacts if required) – created in Credentialate for issue to those learners who have successfully earned their microcredential, including links to the RSDs and framework alignments.

A pilot project working group was established, led by Professor Lang within the University of Melbourne. As a consulting service, Edalex provided extensive training in the use of setting up Credentialate for developing the Personal Evidence Records and the creation of RSDs to the learning designers and the broader pilot project working group. Meanwhile, under the leadership of Professor Lang, the pilot project working group developed their in-house training for learning designers while working with academics about skills mapping – how to surface skills from a curriculum, how to align those skills to assessments to measure achievement, how to align skills to frameworks and other industry recognised data. Then, bringing all the elements together, Edalex led the training about how to use the Credentialate evidence matrix to tie the skills and assessments to recognition in a digital credential. This helped the working group to revise their internal processes that now incorporated issuing microcredentials with the additional ‘layer’ of metadata associated with the skills represented in the Personal Evidence Record. Using this approach across the selected microcredentials the group proceeded to review and update the metadata and digital certificate processes to align with the new practice.

The University of Melbourne is now enabled to connect learners and employers to a shared language for skills through RSDs, support the transferability of skills through skills visibility, foster trust and currency through transparency, provide alignment to industry standards, enable system interoperability and ensure quality assurance through alignment with skills or industry-based capability frameworks.

Outcome

In late 2023, the University of Melbourne began issuing the new digital credentials to the learners who successfully completed the microcredentials in the pilot project, with an embedded Personal Evidence Record that includes links to the University of Melbourne’s own RSD collections created specifically for the microcredentials.

The results to date have included empowering learners to clearly speak about and communicate their achievements and competitively differentiate themselves by highlighting their unique strengths attained through ongoing professional education. From the provider’s perspective, the act of designing curriculum to integrate the surfacing of skills and connecting them to skills and industry-based capability frameworks, has guided academics to engage with improving their curriculum design practices that achieves greater transformational impacts in the workplace.

The University of Melbourne has gained visibility over skills attainment, which supports evidence-based decision-making and provides actionable insights into the curriculum planning and management lifecycles. Through this process, the working group gained significantly greater understanding in skills identification, definition and mapping to industry frameworks.

Continued roll-out by the University of Melbourne is planned through 2024, with feedback from learners, reflections from academics and, where possible, employers to enable continuous improvement.

Browse openRSD sections

About

Learn more about the openRSD platform and rich skill descriptors (RSD)
More

How-to Resources

Access how-to video tutorials and links to further information
More

Use Cases

Read openRSD Use Cases to see how others are referencing the openRSD library
More

Account Levels

Choose from free and paid account levels (with greater functionality)
More

Go to openRSD

Search the openRSD rich skill descriptors (RSD) library and create your own collection(s)
More
Scroll to Top