By Dr. Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl, Head of the Ideas Lab, National Institute of Digital Learning at Dublin City University
DCU’s mission of transforming lives and societies, is underpinning the university’s deep engagement in the micro-credential space across multiple initiatives, domains and activities. At the national level, DCU will develop and deliver a series of micro-credentials in the coming years focused on addressing future-focused skills in key sectors as part of the MC2 project.
This project is a national sectoral initiative, led by the Irish Universities Association, which received over €12 million in 2020 to develop and deliver micro-credentials under the Irish Government’s Human Capital Initiative (HCI). Further to this DCU’s own major transformation initiative funded under HCI, DCU Futures, provides the opportunity to engage with a micro-credential approach in developing transversal skills for undergraduate learners. These major strategic commitments follow on from the launch last year of Ireland’s first for credit micro-credential, FinTech: Financial Innovation by DCU Business School. This was a direct outcome of DCU’s Global partnership with the FutureLearn platform having previously delivered numerous highly successful non-credit bearing micro-credentials as part of the Fáilte ar Líne/ Welcome Online initiative, to thousands of learners from 140 countries around the world.
Alongside these national and institutional activities, DCU is participating in the ECIU University. An alliance of European academic, societal and economic partners, aiming to develop a unique ecosystem to solve real-life challenges. This system will be based on a micro-credential infrastructure and approach to support flexible learning pathways for European learners and it will use a challenge-based pedagogy. These initiatives are in the pilot phase at present and are providing an important evidence-base for the university as it engages further with the nuances of developing co-constructed and innovative learning experiences and pathways. Aligned with this work are the activities of DCU academics that are playing an important role in researching micro-credentials and advancing policy dialogue at national and international levels.
Professor Mark Brown, Director of DCU’s National Institute of Digital Learning (NIDL) and Dr. Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl, Head of the Ideas Lab in the NIDL are contributing to both European and national projects, and policy dialogues to further European and national approaches in this area. Some of their work includes (i) the establishment of the Micro-credential Observatory to curate global micro-credential research and developments, (ii) the publication of a Global Insights Report on micro-credentials in the summer of 2020 and (iii) membership of the European Commission’s consultation group on micro-credentials. Further to this they will publish in collaboration with DCU’s Irish Institute of Digital Business, the First National Micro-Credential Survey of Irish Employers and Employees which will be launched in early 2021 along with a roadmap of recommendations as part of an industry-academic research initiative with five national sectoral training networks. This survey is particularly relevant, as their little empirical research into the need and relevance of micro-credentials for industry and employees.