Tertiary education, skills and employment minister, Paul Goldsmith, has announced New Zealand's first trial of micro-credential courses, including a course in self-driving car engineering programme delivered online by Udacity.
Micro-credentials, also known as badges and nanodegrees, allow for specific skills or components of learning to be recognised. They are not units of learning toward a full qualification, but are a recognition of specific skills, experience and knowledge.
According to the Ministry of Education, “Examples of micro-credentials include short courses delivered online, in the workplace or at training institutions. Micro- credentials can be at any level of a qualifications framework and would typically be between 5 and 60 credits.”
Udacity's Self-Driving Car Engineer nanodegree has been assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) as equivalent to a 60 credit package of learning at Level 9 (Masters level) on the New Zealand Qualification's Framework (NZQF). It covers deep learning, computer vision, sensor fusion, controllers, and related automotive hardware skills and takes nine months of part time study.
Goldsmith said it was one of three micro credential pilots in the Government’s work programme introduced in response to the Productivity Commission report on tertiary education. NZQA is working with Otago Polytechnic and the Young Enterprise Scheme on the other two.
The three pilots will be evaluated by NZQA within six months with a view of considering how best to support the further development of a micro credentials system in New Zealand.
"These new pilots reflect this Government's commitment to driving forward the kind of innovation in the tertiary education system recommended by the Productivity Commission’s report,” he said.
Goldsmith said micro-credentials would help New Zealand’s qualification system adapt to meet evolving skills needs. "Learners and employers will always value formal qualifications, but as workers need specific new skills across their lifetime, a micro-credential may be an excellent option for learners to upskill without completing a full formal qualification," he said.
Otago Polytechnic launched its micro-credential service, EduBits on 27 July. It recognises sets of skills and knowledge to enable just-in-time workforce upskilling and reskilling and is being developed in conjunction with industry. Otago Polytechnic and NZQA will jointly award micro-credential EduBits as equivalent to five to 60 credits across the levels of the NZQF.
The third pilot will enable high school students to gain a joint Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) and NZQA micro-credential. YES is run by the Young Enterprise Trust in association with the Lion Foundation. It provides students with an opportunity to set up and run a real business, creating a product or service and bringing it to market.