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European Framework Offers Promise of Portable University Credentials

Recent reporting by Class Central shed light on a new initiative in Europe among MOOC providers and the universities they work with to launch a program for creating portable credentials for learners. The European MOOC Consortium announced its Common Microcredential Framework in April. EMC was founded by five MOOC operators: FutureLearn, France Université Numérique (FUN), OpenupEd, Miríadax and EduOpen.

The big goal of the framework is to "lay the foundations" of a new international credential that university partners could use to serve lifelong learners, according to the consortium. Along the way, participants also expect to increase the awareness and use of digital education and MOOCs within universities, make MOOCs a more viable option for training among employers and workers, and collaboratively pursue a MOOC research agenda in Europe. If the framework is picked up by the MOOC providers and their institutional partners, they'll also set up a form of competitive defense against bootcamps and nano-degree programs, the organizers suggested.

To comply, courses have to follow a set of rules that make them eligible for academic credit:

  • The course must have a total study time of between 100 and 150 hours, including completion of a summative assessment;
  • It must be aimed at Level 6 or 7 in the European Qualification Framework (EQF) or, if outside of Europe, the equivalent levels in the university's national qualification framework;
  • It needs to include a summative assessment that qualifies the student for academic credit, either right after he or she finishes the microcredential or via recognition of prior learning upon enrolment in the given course of study;
  • The course provider must use a "reliable method" of ID verification at the point of assessment that complies with the university's policies or that's widely adopted across the platforms using the framework; and
  • The course needs to provide a transcript that sets out the learning outcomes for a microcredential, total study hours required, EQF level and number of credit points earned.

Also, the consortium suggested, the design of the microcredentials should emphasize the combination of theory and practice, to make the learning relevant to people in the workplace.

The consortium hopes to make the microcredential courses distinct among universities, it explained in the announcement, "and thereby create an ecosystem where learners can one day take microcredentials from within a network of universities that can be used towards a larger qualification, such as a postgraduate certificate or master's degree."

"As the first Ibero-American platform in Spanish, which collaborates with more than 100 universities, we believe that it is essential to have a system of official microcredits that are easily used by corporations to define the competencies and professional knowledge of their employees and that are also fully recognized by the universities that offer them," explained Ana Casilda Andrés, CEO of Miríadax, in a statement.

The first microcredentials that adhere to the new framework are expected to be ready for enrollment on the partner platforms during the second half of 2019. Among them will be a microcredential course from Dublin City University on "Fintech and Strategy in the 21st Century," delivered on FutureLearn.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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