With the labour market requiring new skills and technical training for workers worldwide, MOOC platforms can play a role in assuring uniform standards for certification and accreditation.
As the changing needs of regional job markets create the need for new types of expertise, training platforms that support upskilling are growing in their significance as gateways for workers to adapt to the needs of the market.
The MOOC (massive open online course) platform landscape includes players at both the small and large scale. But challenges remain in the certification landscape.
Due to the diversity and informal nature of these platforms, many employers have not yet recognised the value and effectiveness of non-degree and non-accredited qualifications.
Discussing the influence that The Open University’s MOOC learning platform, FutureLearn, has had in widening participation in distance learning, Professor Dr Rebecca Ferguson, Academic Lead on Microcredentials at the OU, considered the opportunities available to develop a global standard for online learning qualifications.
Prof Dr Ferguson shared:
“This is one of the many spaces in which MOOC platforms can have an impact."
“The platforms originally built for MOOCs are now providing professional development, careers development, and skills development across Europe and beyond. Here in IET, we are working with the European MOOC Consortium, focussing on how MOOC platforms can best engage with the labour market."
“FutureLearn currently has over 14 million registered learners, and is established in Europe as well as growing worldwide.
“On this project, we collaborate with partner MOOC platforms, employment organisations, and careers services, making connections between what is going on in institutions, what people who are training or taking extra certification are looking for, and how can we make links between these groups.
“As nano-degrees and professional certifications developed in America, interest in what we now call microcredentials was growing but nobody could agree on what a microcredential was. There was a gap in the market for people who want professionally accredited qualifications, or a way to get back into education, and MOOC platforms offer these.”
Discussing historical issues with MOOC certification, Dr Ferguson added:
“MOOCs come without formal accreditation. They may offer a certificate of participation or completion, but there is no real check that participants learnt anything or developed new skills. Those certificates provide a way of affirming some level of engagement, but most employers would question their significance. What is needed is an agreed standard of accreditation that employers will recognise and accept.”
Adding further, “Most European countries have a shared understanding of what an undergraduate or postgraduate degree is, or what kind of certification you may have when you leave school. But introducing a whole new layer to that is a big deal. Especially when it’s done internationally, because all of these qualifications originally developed within national contexts.”
“In this knowledge-sharing alliance, we work with education, employment and industry to create a framework for microcredential qualifications and to put it into practice”
A new qualification framework has the potential to contribute to solutions for the current and future job market. It could have significant impact by engaging workers across Europe and globally to up-skill at scale.
Dr Ferguson closed:
“Universities and other educational institutions are increasingly aware that there is a gap in their provision, and they are faced with the challenge of plugging that gap. There is a socially responsible aspect to this work as well as a market need."
“There are some real economic possibilities… particularly if you look at FutureLearn and the buy-in that has come from global careers organisation SEEK, which is aiming to stamp its name in the international market.”
Read more about the European MOOC Consortium: Labour Market project on the project page.