In South Africa's changing higher education system, innovation and adaptability are important, and small learning programmes called micro-credentials have become a powerful way to help students navigate the world of work. These micro-credentials are bite-sized learning opportunities that empower students to rapidly enhance their skills and knowledge in areas like problem-solving, project management and data analysis, which are crucial assets in the workplace.
One way to showcase the attainment of these micro-credentials is using digital badges. The badges serve as a tangible representation of the skills and knowledge acquired through micro-credentials. They can be posted on professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to show potential employers the specific competencies gained. Across the African continent, there has been a significant shift towards digital credential offerings in the higher education landscape. STADIO Higher Education is trailblazing a distinctive approach through their STADIO Stripes system representing more than mere digital badges.
Meeting the Demands of Employers
The rise of micro-credentials came into question when the corporate world began to question if there was a better way to fulfil student and labour market needs, while also bridging the skills gap between higher education and employment. These credentials allow for precise skills verification that provides a reliable way for employers to confirm a candidate's qualifications and competencies. They also emphasise continuous learning and adaptability, demonstrating a candidate's commitment to staying current in their field. The standardisation of these credentials ensures universal recognition and simplifies the hiring process, making digital badges a valuable tool for employers in assessing and selecting the most qualified candidates.
According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025. While the bigger workplace demand may be for technical skills, there is also a great need for soft skills, as these are the essential people skills that those looking for a job should possess to excel at work. These encompass:
- Using Design Thinking to Map a Career Journey
- Conceptualise Presentations with Focus and Impact
- Manage Own Time for Increased Productivity
- Create an Effective LinkedIn Profile
- Formulate and Present Persuasive Arguments as part of a Team
A digital badging success story
Simukelo Phiwe Biyela, 24, is a second-year Bachelor of Education student at STADIO and one of the first students to complete four STADIO Stripes to exemplify the transformative power of this programme. His Stripes include Using Design Mapping to Map Career Journey, Conceptualise Presentations with Focus and Impact, Create an Effective LinkedIn Profile and Manage Own Time for Increased Productivity. Biyela had embarked on his digital credential journey with a strong desire for personal growth and was unaware of the profound impact it would have on his academic journey.
“I like to think I am a proud and dedicated lifelong learner and I strongly feel that micro-credentials really added value to my professional journey. Completing my Stripes allowed me to stretch my capabilities and I can now showcase my new skills to prospective employers. Every Stripe I earn is stored digitally in one place, using a credentialling system, and I can display the catchy Stripes or badges on networking sites like my LinkedIn profile,” he says.
Micro-credentials are not merely a set of digital badges; they represent a paradigm shift in education. Rooted in micro-learning principles, it offers flexibility tailored to learners' needs, delivering manageable ‘chunks’ of content that are easily remembered and applied. These micro-credentials seamlessly integrate into the curriculum, becoming an indispensable part of courses, earned through rigorous and authentic assessments.
"Employers have been telling us that they are no longer content with traditional qualification transcripts alone. Instead, they are seeking graduates with additional skills and attributes that allow them to positively contribute to the world of work when they step into employment. We strongly believe that digital credentials and its formal acknowledgement of non-accredited learning achievements is the solution,” explains Dr. Jolanda Morkel, Head of Instructional Design at STADIO.
STADIO Stripes spans three essential dimensions that promote skills enhancement for the individual Self, skills relevant to the World of Work, and skills valuable to Society. At the end of the programme, all students should be able to demonstrate the relevant skills, for example, improved technological skills, as well as improving their soft skills like the ability to work well in a group, and negotiate. Dr Morkel emphasises the role of micro-credentials in helping students align themselves with the world of work. “Micro-credential programmes allow for higher education institutions to ensure their academic integrity and simultaneously upskill the next generation of South Africans to well-rounded, capable, and employable 21st-century citizens. I encourage all students to explore micro-credential programmes, particularly if you're keen to improve your employability and job prospects,” she concludes.
For more information on STADIO Stripes, visit: https://stadio.ac.za/