The rise of the digital mini diploma
Together with about 30 other Dutch higher education institutions, VU Amsterdam has been part of the national pilot project 'Microcredentials' for over a year now. A microcredential is a digital mini diploma that you can get in the future after completing an educational programme or module – think of a subject, course or postgraduate programme - for 3-30 European Credits (EC). How is this two-year project taking shape within VU Amsterdam and why is this development particularly important for education for professionals?
"At national level, the participating educational institutions are shaping the project differently," Hayke Everwijn, project leader Microcredentials explains. "Within VU Amsterdam, we are focusing on non-accredited educational programmes for professionals (Lifelong Development domain) at this stage because by doing so we facilitate these types of programmes in improving the quality assurance of their offerings. Quality assurance comprises all activities and measures through which programmes monitor and improve the quality of education. These programmes can also ultimately use this to better distinguish themselves from non-academic providers of education for professionals."
"At national level, the participating educational institutions are shaping the project differently,"
Hayke Everwijn, project leader Microcredentials
In practice, it means that two SBE programmes, - Business Analytics & Data Science (BADS) and Digital Innovation & Transformation (DIT)- have signed up and are participating in the pilot within VU Amsterdam. Programme manager of both programmes Marijn Plomp says: "Although the first microcredentials will only be awarded at the end of this academic year, we are already noticing a quality boost because of this initiative. Together with our education professionals and the SBE Executive Education Examination Board we re-examine and closely observe the learning outcomes of our programmes and how to test them. In addition, it is of course wonderful that participants will soon be able to use the microcredential as a concrete outcome of their learning trajectory at VU Amsterdam."
Importance of early involvement
Although participation in the project has so far been on a small scale, VU Amsterdam has been connected to the topic of microcredentials nationwide for quite some time, as well as the project design. Hayke: "That involvement from the start is very important, because I foresee that this way of awarding diplomas will become very big in the future, also at an international level. We notice an increasing need among professionals and students for flexible education that is smaller in size than an entire Bachelor's or Master's programme and that fits in well with personal learning goals and wishes. The question of how we value, describe and exchange those smaller units of education is part of this. It is therefore important that VU Amsterdam goes along with this development, helps shape the concept for microcredentials and also initiates and keeps the conversation going internally."
"It is of course wonderful that participants will soon be able to use the microcredentials as a concrete outcome of their learning trajectory at VU Amsterdam."
How it works
The professional who successfully completes an educational programme or module can apply for the microcredential via the Edubadge portal. It is awarded after the necessary checks. You will then receive the mini diploma as a digital badge, which you can put on your CV or Linkedin profile, for example. Employers and people from your network can click on the badge and enter the portal where they will find information about the completed course, including learning outcomes, level of education, testing method, study load and associated quality mark. This makes the microcredential substantially different from the edubadge, a digital diploma without quality mark.
The boards of the Dutch educational institutions have agreed to mutually recognise the microcredentials of professionals obtained within the pilot. Legally, however, the microcredential does not yet exist. Hayke: "When the pilot ends at the end of 2023, I can imagine that there will be a national extension, with the possibility of expansion to mainstream education. Furthermore, an experiment could follow that would allow the awarding of legally recognised microcredentials. We eventually want this concept to be enshrined in the Higher Education and Scientific Research Act (WHW). Such an experiment would be a nice prelude to that."
The first VU microcredentials will be awarded in June 2023. For more general information, please visit the national Microcredentials pilot website. Participation in the pilot within VU Amsterdam is still possible. If you, as a programme director within the Lifelong Development domain, are interested or if you have additional questions, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
VU for Professionals awareness campaign
In March 2022, VU Amsterdam launched a marketing campaign (in Dutch) to boost (name) awareness of the VU educational offerings for professionals, both among VU alumni and non-alumni. A baseline measurement among VU alumni from autumn 2021 revealed that only a third were familiar with the VU course and training offerings for professionals. Name awareness among non-alumni was found to be even lower.
Irene Koppe, senior communications advisor at the Communication & Marketing (C&M) department, explains: "Designed in collaboration with agency Steam, the VU for Professionals awareness campaign was deployed in various social media channels and media platforms for three months to raise awareness of our wonderful offerings and social involvement. These efforts were supported by our own campaign page Enrich your subject with VU for Professionals (in Dutch), on which, through podcasts, topical, social issues were addressed by VU academics and professionals from the business and public sectors."
Following the campaign, measurements from June 2022 showed that VU Amsterdam for Professionals' brand awareness had increased. Melanie Nab, marketing and communications consultant at various Post Graduate Educational Institutions (PAO) at VU Amsterdam: "In particular, name recognition among alumni has increased significantly compared to a year ago, by 36%. So-called assisted name recognition among non-alumni has also increased by 43%. This means that compared to 2020, respondents are more likely to name VU Amsterdam as a known provider of education for professionals on a total list of providers. This is a great result, but we’re not there yet. Creating name recognition takes time and patience. We will repeat the campaign this winter based on lessons learned and slowly build awareness that way."