Was 2020 a tipping point for micro-credentialing? New research says yes.

By Peter Nikoletatos, TechnologyOne

No matter where you look within our universities and TAFEs there is no doubt it was a year of challenges and change for students, faculty and the institutions themselves.

Had some sociologist suggested that we send everyone home for a few months as an experiment in remote learning, the idea would not have gotten far. But that’s exactly what transpired last year (unfortunately, without the customary defined endpoint!).

For example, the last twelve months saw an unprecedented swing toward online study. This year, with new COVID-safe measures in place, will hopefully see the pendulum swing back with more students returning to campuses and face-to-face learning. There is no doubt that online learning will continue to play a key role, and lessons learnt in 2020 will prepare institutions for a better student experience.

TechnologyOne surveyed almost 2,000 students in Australia and New Zealand, in both the higher and VET spheres, to understand how COVID has affected their attitudes to technology. What we found was interesting.

Our research focussed mostly on the student-facing technologies education institutions use to deliver their services, including learning and administrative functions. It followed a similar survey of 1,008 Australian university students by TechnologyOne in 2019, allowing us in many cases to compare and contrast responses over time.

Our 2020 research found that:

  • Almost two out of three students said they would consider taking subjects at different institutions at the same time if they were credited towards a single degree. That’s an increase from our 2019 survey where just under half (49%) answered yes to the same question
  • Almost half said they would consider micro-credentialing
  • Almost half now favour sub-bachelor degrees

About micro-credentialing

Progress on micro-credentialing in Australia gained momentum in the industry in 2019 and received a considerable boost in 2020 via the Federal Government’s relief package, with 392 short courses rolled out across 55 providers.

Former Education Minister, Dan Tehan, told the Australian Financial Review in August:

“We want micro credentials to be a permanent fixture of the Australian higher education system giving universities the opportunity to become global leaders in the development and delivery of a new mode of education that will open new markets and revenue streams.

“The rapid development of micro credentials has demonstrated that universities are innovative, entrepreneurial and responsive to the needs of students and industry. We need to harness those qualities to drive our post COVID recovery.”

The question of accreditation is challenging. After all, employers need to have confidence they are comparing apples with apples when assessing candidates. Our research suggests the attitudes of students have reached the ‘sweet spot’ for broader adoption.

It also found students are now more open to changing their place of study to get a better technology experience. After a year spent mostly on-line, it’s perhaps not surprising what was once a ‘nice to have’ has become a fundamental part of the experience.

Taken together, the results of our research suggest that student ‘stickiness’, what consumer marketers more commonly call brand loyalty, is likely to be more difficult to achieve in a post-COVID education sector and that the bar for technology experience has been raised.

The sector undoubtedly faces difficult years ahead---there is no simple way to wave away the impact of the loss of international students, for example. But the silver lining is that there is now a significant momentum around innovation…and great student focussed technology will continue to sit right at its heart.

Publish date

29 Jan 2021

Access the report

Student Survey Report 2020

This report from TechnologyOne explores what students expect from their education experience, the impact of COVID-19 and how student preferences are being shaped by new technology trends.

About the author

Peter Nikoletatos

Peter Nikoletatos is the global industry general manager of education for TechnologyOne. He is a former Chief information Officer at five Australian universities and currently holds an Adjunct Professor Computer Sciences and IT role at La Trobe University.

He currently works with universities to help them optimise their investment in technology and ensure alignment to their strategic objectives. In the past 18 months he has led a Global Mobility Thought Leadership Program between leading tertiary education institutions in the UK and Australia.

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