News story

Could microcredentials prove the answer to emerging skills gaps?

LondonLearning NewsFutureLearn

FutureLearn will be at Learning Live 2019 to discuss how its new microcredentials could be the answer to developing the skills businesses need for growth.

FutureLearn, Europe’s leading online social learning platform, will be in attendance at Learning Live 2019, where the company will be discussing how their new microcredentials could be the answer to key issues businesses face: sourcing and developing the skills they need for future growth. 

Microcredentials are industry-backed credentials accredited by universities developed specifically to address employability goals, helping learners find a new job, move into different lines of work and increase their earning potential whilst at the same time helping employers address skills gaps. 

Learner demand for the stackable form of education is clear. In December 2017, over 200 people who had registered interest in doing a degree with FutureLearn responded to FutureLearn survey questions about microcredentials. Nearly three quarters (72%) said they were interested in doing a microcredential online. 

Research interviews with global online learners in February 2018 highlighted the features most desired for microcredentials. These features included that it was relevant to their chosen careers; that it was employer recognised; and that it was standardised. 

Further employer-focused research commissioned by FutureLearn last year showed the perceived value of continuous learning when it came to employability. From that research, nearly three quarters (73%) of employers believed evidence of online learning was a valuable asset when considering the promotion of an existing employee; over two-thirds of employers believed a candidate’s ability to evidence taking an online course was a differentiating factor when hiring mid-management and junior staff; and an overwhelming 92% of employers said online courses were a valuable learning and development tool. 

Additional research from FutureLearn in May 2018, which surveyed almost 600 people specifically about microcredentials, revealed a number of important findings: 

The most desired forms of credentials were verified online credentials and academic credit that can be applied toward a degree. 

The ability to learn over a flexible time period was rated as the most important feature for a packaged series of online courses. 

Paying in instalments over a fixed period of time was the most preferred payment model. 

Earlier this year, the European MOOC Consortium (EMC), of which FutureLearn is a founding member, launched a Common Microcredential Framework to create portable credentials for lifelong learners. 

The move was in response to demand from learners to develop new knowledge, skills and competencies from shorter, recognised and quality-assured courses, which can also be used to earn traditional university qualifications. The CMF established a framework for these goals to be achieved across Europe’s leading MOOC platforms and the universities within their networks, with the ambition to lay the foundations for a new international credential for universities to meet the needs of lifelong learners, globally. 

Stephen Somerville, Managing Director, Government and Employer Partnerships, FutureLearn, said: “Global and national economies across the world need to develop the skills needed to capitalise on the 4th industrial revolution and it has become clear that current solutions are not keeping pace with emerging skills demanded by employers, as evidenced by growing national and global skills gaps across across a wide range of key sectors. A change of approach is required to address this demand. 

We need the provision of education and training to be responsive, flexible and portable. Once thought of as a ‘nice to have’, the reality now is that lifelong learning is vital for people who want to upskill and reskill effectively. As our research shows, both employers and learners are looking for that research to be credentialed and standardised.” 

Notes to Editors: 

Survey Sample 
Question & Answer 
FutureLearn Degrees survey (December 2017) Number of survey respondents: 216 
Based on the description above, how interested are you in doing a microcredential online? 41% said they would be ‘very likely’ and 31% said ‘moderately likely’ 
FutureLearn’s Microcredentials Survey (May 2018). Number of survey respondents: 597 

(Facebook ad + SurveyMonkey panel) 

When considering whether to start a packaged series of online courses, assuming the topic and price are suitable... which one of these features is the most important to you? [could use extra context from the multi choice question that preceded it] "Can be done over a flexible time period: 30%" 

Which form of credit, certification or credential would be most important to you? 

"A verified online credential enabling you to demonstrate your skills": 30% 
"Academic credit that could be applied towards a degree": 27%. 

"How would you prefer to pay for a series of online courses?" 44% - Pay in instalments over a fixed period of time. 
Employer Research (2018) 
Conducted by SAPIO Research on FutureLearn’s behalf 

To what extent do you find online courses valuable when considering the promotion of an existing employee? 

Survey sample: 300 recruiters (across UK, US, Australia territories) 

Would you consider online courses a key differentiating factor when assessing various candidates with a similar qualification or experience for a new role? 

Survey sample: 300 recruiters (across UK, US, Australia territories) 

To what extent do you find online courses valuable for learning and development? 

Survey sample: 300 employers working in a Training & Development capacity (across UK, US, Australia territories)