by George Nott

University of Melbourne trials blockchain micro-credentials for lecturers

May 01, 2017
Education Industry

There’s more to being a good educator than having a teaching qualification hung on the wall. A myriad of skills – like the ability to facilitate brainstorming, check students’ understanding or resolve classroom conflicts – are also required.

Micro-credentials aim to provide recognition for the additional abilities the best teachers have, in the form of a universal digital certificate. Think of it like a Scout proficiency badge for educators.

The University of Melbourne last week announced it had joined forces with US-based Learning Machine to pilot a blockchain based system to share and verify micro-credentials.

“Anyone who needs to verify official records, such as employers, can quickly check the validity and authenticity of each certificate. Any attempt to change, embellish, or otherwise misrepresent a micro-credential represented by a certificate will cause the verification to fail,” said Learning Machine’s Dr Natalie Smolenski.

To earn a micro-credential, teachers are required to provide evidence such as video of a classroom interaction or audio of a student reflecting on their learning, for approval.

“In a future where career churn and constant technical and organisational innovation are the norm, employers are looking for ways to verify the know-how and skills of employees at a very granular level,” said pro vice-chancellor (teaching and learning) Professor Gregor Kennedy.

The system will be trialled during an internal professional development program in July, run by the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education. A wider roll-out will be considered for 2018.

Micro-credentials, maximum benefits

The university – the first Australian institution to trial the system – will also consider extending micro-credentials to students.

“Students are increasingly interested in showing the specific skills and abilities they have acquired and developed. Micro-credentials, verified through secure, distributed platforms like Learning Machine’s are a means to address this,” Professor Kennedy added.

Asked whether micro-credentials represent a threat to traditional university degrees, Kennedy argued they actually complemented them.

“The knowledge, understanding and experience gained from a University education, acknowledged through the award of a traditional degree, are incredibly important for both the individual and our community,” he said.

“Micro-credentials complement these forms of recognition by allowing universities to acknowledge a range of specific skills individual students may have developed. If anything, we see this trial as experimenting with new ways to recognise learning.”