New pilot programme provides online certification to professional education – and enhanced employment value
As a working professional, Joshua Antwi from Ghana was unable to enroll in UNU-MERIT’s full-time Master in Public Policy and Human Development (MPP) programme, despite his desire to acquire some of its taught skills in order to apply them to his career.
On Thursday 15 June 2023, Antwi celebrated his completion of a different route to achieving his goal: graduating from a short course entitled ‘Behavioral Insights for Policy Design in Risky and Vulnerable Situations.’ This short course, running for 4 weeks, is part of the MPP programme and can be enrolled in without doing the full master programme. His course completion was celebrated in the presence of UNU-MERIT student affairs officer Rasma Molenaar, dean of Maastricht University’s Maastricht Academy for Lifelong Learning Mark Levels and head of the UNU-MERIT Capacity Development Office Mindel van de Laar.
And his celebration was indeed merited; not only did Antwi successfully pass the course, but he was also one of the first two students to receive a Maastricht University (UM) microcredential as part of a pilot project facilitated by SURF, a cooperative association of Dutch educational and research institutions.
Microcredentials are certificates in the form of a digital badge, which in this pilot project can be awarded to working professionals who complete a course – in-person, online or hybrid – at a Dutch higher education institution.
“Educational badges allow professionals to make their acquired knowledge and skills more easily visible to employers than a paper certificate can,” explains van de Laar, who participated in the pilot on behalf of UM. “And more so, they provide a safe and easy way to award certification to participants all over the globe, with the credibility of the high-quality UM brand attached to it.”
The pilot project aims to facilitate transferability of courses to other educational programmes in the Netherlands and potentially also beyond. The digital badge provides information on the completed course, including the course description, learning objectives, workload and assessment method. It is connected to an educational ID that is used throughout one’s life and is not institution-dependent.
“Working professionals do not generally aim to complete full degree programmes,” echoes Levels. “They more often need to upgrade their knowledge within their specific field of expertise, through shorter courses or workshops. The learning is more important than the certificate, yet having the proof of completion in an easy and accessible way that can be validated by the student as well as the (future) employer brings a great added value.”
While UNU-MERIT was UM’s pilot institute for this programme, the Maastricht Academy for Lifelong Learning will continue to use them in the 2023-2024 academic year, also allowing other institutions within UM that provide education for professionals to award them.
For Antwi, the fact that the certificate is digital is an unexpected bonus, but the actual course participation was the real treat. “The method of teaching in small groups with discussion and excellent tutor guidance was new for me. In Ghana, a course like the one I took is not available. As someone seeking to do my doctoral research in public policy and governance, while exploring the application of behavioral economics, I found the learned materials useful for my future career and hope to return to Maastricht soon for more training.”
For Maastricht University professional training providers: you can obtain more information on how to design and award your microcredential or educational badge to working professionals that complete Maastricht University courses by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org