Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Flipping the Microcredentialing Conversation

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 49 seconds

Yesterday, in an interview with someone asking about my expertise in online learning and Women’s empowerment, I found myself jumping from my online masters degree in eLearning (way back in 2003) to free online courses, way back when, before 2012, to connectivism and rhizomatic learning and Personal Learning Networks (PLN).

I recognize how difficult it is to explain to someone looking for something to pay attention to and invest in, to explain that the value of learning from open practices may be higher for adults than formal degrees. That many microcredential and MOOCs do not necessarily use the best pedagogy or nurture enough agency to be useful for learners in the ways that more open approaches to learning can. I am not saying the more open approaches work for everyone, but reminding us that the more structured approaches also don’t work for everyone and can be limiting.

The potential of online learning to promote access and to empower women is always going to be constrained by access to good internet/bandwidth/electricity, access to good dedicated devices (mobile or computer?), but also to digital literacies, ability to learn autonomously and manage time and balance online learning amid life’s more urgent responsibilities (esp for women with families).

Flexibility of online learning, something whose value is obvious versus in-person learning, is always going to be more for open learning experiences with less structure. They will have fewer deadlines, fewer restrictions on start and end times, so you can jump in when you can, where it interests you, and not be obliged to catch up or such. You can also focus where it matters and not waste time on what you already know or what you don’t personally need. As an adult, I do not want to slug through 4 weeks of content I don’t want or need, just because I want some stuff from weeks 2 and 3 of a course.

Connections and social capital. The emphasis on social connection and networking in more open learning experiences allows learners to build connections and emphasize relationships, all of which helps build digital social capital that can promote more learning in almost exponential ways. A structured learning experience starts and ends. Communities and relationships built in the open can last way longer than the moment they were created for originally. Many of my close virtual friends are people I met through a connectivist learning experience. Or on Twitter doing whatever! Or via Virtually Connecting.

Flipping Microcredentialing. So I never paid excessive attention to microcredentialing so I could be saying something others have been saying for years. But instead of focusing our attention on getting people to benefit from already existing opportunities for formal learning and giving those microcredentials, could we possibly consider offering microcredentials for informal learning experiences where people learn outside traditional boundaries.

This actually exists in higher education to an extent in places that recognize work experience for graduate credit for example. I guess that also portfolios can be used for assessment that allows someone to demonstrate learning itself, rather than certificates that formally attest to someone’s learning without really showcasing it, you know? I assume that ALT’s CMALT is one such thing, but I have never checked too closely.

Do you think it’s possible to convince folks that connectivist and community learning experiences, open and unstructured adult learning, should be recognized for work purposes? That the learning from them can be?

4 thoughts on “Flipping the Microcredentialing Conversation

  1. I’ve been fortunate enough to work at an institution that recognizes expertise whether developed in structured learning or open learning – or perhaps “understands expertise” might be the better term since the word “recognizes” implies it fits into a policy. My connectivist engagement resulted in being able to do helpful things for coworkers, and supervisors started sending me to cool PD events “because you are probably the only one interested.” That led to projects and working groups, all without earning quantifiable credentials but gaining what you call “social capital” in the college. (You were one of the *digital* social capital rock stars, and I was privileged to hang around the edges of that digital world. But it made me an innovation leader in our small institution.) It also made my work very satisfying.
    In larger institutions, promotion and salary increases (not what I was seeking) probably would not follow, so, to answer your question, yes; informal learning that results in increased capability should get some kind of formal recognition, badges or micro credentials or staff awards, that count toward promotion and even tenure. I think that is a possibility being entertained in the British Columbia (Canada) open ed community.

    1. Agree with terming it digital social capital in our case, our relationship, and the ways these things have benefited people like us. What you describe happened to me as well. Those relationships serve me well, but not always in ways recognized (authoring papers, doing keynotes, recognized; inviting high profile speakers is cool, too, and knowing the cutting edge of edtech convos, but I don’t know if it is directly rewarded or directly obvious to others how I got there.. if that makes sense)

  2. It’s hardly my wheelhouse of expertise but you will find a lot of literature and efforts in PLA Prior Learning Assessment (sometimes it has an R for Recognition) at providing official creator for informal learning. Whether it is for the networking and self driven approaches you describe I am less sure of.

    Programs like Ontario Extend and also from the OERu do offer some pathways to academic credit at certain institutions.

    My informal opinion is that recognition for this is not going to be too widespread and the motivation comes from an internal hunch that the benefits show up in other ways. That’s not much to count on!

    1. Well I’m wondering if a person’s reflections on what they’ve learned in a portfolio is more indicative of learning than passing a few xMOOC quizzes… but yeah, probably not many ppl wanna listen to that

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