A New Age of Educational Credentials: To Learn or Not to Learn, that is a question!

Author: Dr Svetlana Belic Malinic, Academic Director at LINK Educational Alliance, Serbia

Just like many of you, I followed a linear path in my education: I completed my primary and secondary education, went to university, graduated… But little did I know that the knowledge I had then and the knowledge that I have now would be so different. From this distance of 20 odd years, I dare say that the university did not prepare me for the 21st-century fast-paced turbulent lifestyle, where acquiring new knowledge while adapting to the new working environment is a survival skill in a professional world.

The other way around:  Will an academic path change its course?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution brought technological delights and digital mindsets, which reimagined not only the pedagogical practices but also the well-trodden path in earning credentials. The students of the new age will not gauge their university diploma to their jobs but the other way around – they will assess their talents, interests, inclinations and affinities, land a job that meets their set of skills and weave job-specific knowledge around it.

Moreover, all new jobs that will emerge in the years to come will surely need a combination of skills and knowledge that are unthinkable right now. Unfortunately, our present educational system is not able to support their capacity building which is alarming enough for Education 4.0 especially in regard to teachers’ preparedness for reinvented pedagogy, redesigned syllabuses and reassessed competencies. Teachers are surely shaping the future but they also need to unlearn and relearn to be able to respond to new trends.

Knowledge appreciation: Open Badges, Microcredentials and Personal Learning Accounts

As both students and teachers progress towards a new culture of learning, which has become a two-way exchange discourse and an opportunity to build on rather than to build in, they will earn their learning stripes and get awarded with open badges as testimonies of their academic path. They will attest to competencies earned in a non-formal educational context that could be verifiable through accredited platforms.

University credentials would be redesigned to meet the needs of students, who would create their own learning paths through mobility and credits that would be time accommodating rather than limited to course semesters and numbers of lectures attended. Interdisciplinarity and phenomenon-based education would rest on microcredentials which would be collected over one’s career.

The co-author of “A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change”, John Seely Brown, explains that the business of universities in an era of exponential change should shift from transferring knowledge to students to providing them with access to the latest knowledge via digital platforms, developing their skill sets through mentorship and then immersing them in situations to probe and push the boundaries of current knowledge and practice.

In such an environment, each student will create their own personal learning accounts, which would support their growth and development with related evidence. In other words, students would be able to adjust their learning as they progress through their careers and choose courses that are relevant, useful and applicable in their working context.

The latest policy introduced by the EU aims to empower teachers through pilot projects like Erasmus Teacher Academies and Digital Education Hubs, inspire scientists through Alliances for Innovation, encourage start-ups in various EIT KIC and mobilise many other stakeholders towards a new Industrial Revolution 5.0. It would require open-mindedness and unleashed imagination to take us to a new level of thinking and doing.

Are we ready?