Creating a Shared Language for Degree and Micro-Credentials at University of Calgary

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Sheila LeBlanc, Associate Vice President of Continuing Education at The University of Calgary joins the podcast to talk about the adoption curve for microcredentials in higher education and the need to adopt a shared language for degree and micro-credentials in order to accelerate it.

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect e D U podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Sheila Le Bloc, Associate Vice President at the University of Calgary. Sheila, and welcome to the show. Thank you, Eric. Pleasure to be here, pleasure to have you and excited to talk with you today about the need to adopt a shared language for degree and micro credentials. Before we dig in, can you give the listeners a little background on both University of Calgary and your role there? Absolutely. I have the privilege of leading the continuing education team at...

...the University of Calgary. Were located up in Calgary, Alberta, in Canada. We're research intensive university with serving about three to forty thousand students each year and a full comprehensive with the Undergrad graduate and a medical school, so a full research intensive institution. I love it's so excited for this conversation she led a kick us off today. How would you describe the state of the micro credentials adoption curve in higher read today? Great question, Eric, and an interesting question too, since I typically draw the parallels between product development theories and, you know, thinking about our various programming portfolios as product lines and our individual programs as products, which leads me to a well, not so definitive answer. That means it really depends, and I'd say it depends on two things. We're looking at the product line or the area or the field of learning. In some fields the development curve we're really right at the very, very beginning, especially in the traditional account to me of our faculties, whereas...

...in some product areas, and I would say those that serve and work in the continuing education field, we've been doing or micro credential type programming for decades and in certain areas have had products that are completely through the life cycle of the product adoption curve. So it really does depend. But I would suggest that as we start working with the traditional academy, starting to get our academics to think about how we create micro credentials that are short cycle learning for graduates of their programs to continue their learning. Is really new and it's really quite an innovative space that we're seeing grow, as we're seeing the short cycle learning requirements in the changing world to work grow continuously. Yeah, let's talk about this growth. How might better and shared language help accelerate this growth, this adoption curve? You believe that a shared understanding of how our degree credentials and these micro credentials connect within a broader framework might be a really helpful assist here?...

Absolutely, to unleash the power of my cre credentials, we really need a common language and a common understanding of what we're speaking about to create that bridge between those traditional degree credentials and are non traditional or newer emerging credentials or micro credentials, so that we can create recognition and pathways for learners. The analogy I sometimes draws that we have a sense of what a degree is. Most people will think a degree is about four years of learning. It said. They have a sense of what depth it is, but when we start talking about micro credentials, we don't have any language that says, well, how much volume and at what level of learning is taking place, so that those that are potential learners, the students that might want to take these programs, and that the employers that might want to recognize these programs to help folks get jobs have a shared understanding of what that is. And I go one step further to say that our our government unders you know, working together as...

...a an ecosystem of higher education institutions and employers that need these skills and government funders. We all need to have a shared language to know what it is we're creating, what we're funding, what learners are learning and how it can be applied in the workplace. So that creation and the micro credential sphere is critical. Now I think we've hit a tipping point in the terms of our need for that, with the lots of conversations around the industrial revolution, the fourth industrial revolution, education, four point, oh, industry for em point. Oh. It really comes down to the shortening half life of new knowledge and this need for continuous learning and continuous skills in our workforce in order to make us a competitive economy on an ongoing basis and to keep folks having meaningful work and having the skills for that and if we're going to do that and continuously skill and reskill people, we do need a common language to identify what it is they're learning. How do we evidence that and what are the various depth breadth of learning that's taking place? I would suggest we have multiple flavors...

...of micro credentials. We haven't identified what chocolate, Vanilla and strawberry are, let alone butter, P can and uh and there's there's a lot, but without that shared language we're going to struggle. We've seen some changes in different jurisdictions, like in the UK and New Zealand and Europe, they've started to come to terms with through their qualifications frameworks, what they're considering the level of learning, so whether it be um at a backlaureate level or entry level through the very much more complex levels like doctoralial type of levels of learning. But in both Canada and in the US we still have not identified that structure even to build upon. So I really think we've got some serious work to do as a higher education system to support this lifelong learning, continuous learning for the world of work within which we find ourselves in order to be competitive going forward. Really helpful thoughts. Sheila and I love this thought of making sure that...

...not just internally we understand how Michael credentials and degree credentials pit together, but thinking about making sure that this shared language works for the student, for the employer, for the government, local partner. Back to the Higher Ed side, how should we be thinking of micro credentials in terms of embedment, in parallel or in alternative to our existing credentials? My response to that was we should all of the above, and then more and then more. To be honest, there's so many possible and I'll use the again analogy of flavors and possibilities of micro credentials in terms of how it can add value to learning pathways and supporting people in their journeys of life while learning. I'll give an example of a something different than embedded and in parallel that was recently created in one of our micro credentials at the University of Calgary. We have have had a strong oil and gap a sector for years and when we saw the downturn in...

...that field, we recognize that we have these highly skilled engineers, oil and gas engineers, that didn't have employment and in order to try and transition them into technology type of work, opportunities. We built a micro credential in parallel with the School of Computer Science and Engineering to actually bridge, but through a short micro credential, engineers that had a strong level of learning technical learning already take a little bit of micro credential learning in software foundations and could drive right into a master's degree in software engineering and come out then very strong, very employable, with great skills for the new world of work. So that's one that's not even embedded or in parallel. It's actually a laddering element. And so there's so many creative ways we think about the embedded opportunities to give students that are taking a traditional degree a variety of professional types of recognition and dentials...

...and micro credentials, things like project management or Microsoft certifications or a variety of other things that can actually complement in evidence their readiness for the world of work. If we actually had the mechanisms and the language and the I would say systems, which is a very big part of our work. Our I T staff are needing us to do this, but those are the challenges that we have ahead of us and I think the opportunities to really differentiate forward thinking and innovative higher education institutions. It feels like you and the folks at University of Calgary are really forward thinking when thinking of micro credentials. As I look around Higher Ed, it seems like the broader acceptance point is want to make our degree programs more relevant. Sure, let's embed it. It's a good marketing story. It makes them makes our students better entry level workers immediately and it doesn't threaten our revenue line. In your opinion, if you try to fast forward and no Tradama ten years out, this potentially feeling threatened by or nervous...

...of micro credentials in Higher Ed. Do you see that going away? I think it really depends on one's Lens and approach to change. This change is coming and I believe all of us, has higher education leaders, know it's coming, but there is nervousness and there is apprehension and it is a threat. It's a threat to the status quo, but it's also an incredible opportunity for higher education institutions to, I don't want to say reclaim, but redefine their place within the ecosystems and the societies that we serve. And I would offer this in particular as publicly funded institutions, which I have always sat within as part of of the civil society and Civil Service. We're looking at how do we create the serve the economy, how do we serve the needs of the learners and also create a well rounded cit usins are all parts of our...

...our requirements and if we don't change and with the world around us and keep up with the speed of change and the skills that are needed in the economy, I think will continues to see the relevance of higher education institutions in their traditional sense continue to erote that trust in that a degree is the end all on the all too social and financial mobility has been eroding and it's been evidenced in the research for for quite some time, and it's through this type of change really thinking how do we mobilize the new knowledge that researchers are creating into practice so that we have the most skilled workers in our economy quickly and getting good at that. I think it's an incredible opportunity for forward thinking post secondaries or higher education institutions. Post secondaries is a Canadian term for education and I'm trying to keep myself that. I'm trying to use what keep myself here and the continent, not just in the Canadian context. I think that language crosses the border. That's got good but so again, really passionate about that.

In terms of us, it's being our role to serve and our role to think about knowledge mobilization and our role to think about how do we get that knowledge and translate that knowledge in a way that it's meaningful to the learners and meaningful to the economy. And employers are and are a significant part of that, in order to maintain the you know, the bigger, greater thing, the way of life, that which we have the privilege been joining. Yeah, Sheila, leave us with for for listeners who are nodding and saying, if our goal is to serve our students, let us jump deep into the brig dear friends. But they need help. They want next steps, advice for getting alignment internally on micro credentials. They want to embrace a shared language and framework for all of their credentials. How should they think about that? What's a good next step? It's really important to bring the academic leaders together. I mean the, in the brilliant words of Peter Director, cultural strategy for breakfast. And if we don't engage the leaders know this work, and...

...that's your continuing education and professional education type leaders, as well as the academic leaders that are involved in your teaching and your research. To start, think about and determine what a shared language can be internally so you can create transparency and shared understanding. To start from within and then move into some of those broader conversations within your regional government, your your state, your province, your and and the national conversations with the professional associations like opsia and other types of organizations that are really advocating with government about the importance of this type of learning and how do we both create policies and and structures to do that really encourage leaders to start from within and then and be active participants. It's in the advocacy of for this work within their their governments. We need to do it as a system. We need to be an ecosystem of learning that includes employers, government and higher educational leaders. Sheila, thank you so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to reach out if they haven't...

...follow up questions? Sure, I certainly can. We reached at Sheila Dot Le Blanc. At you Calgary dot C a. that's S H E I l a dot LE BLANC, L E B L A N C. At you, Calgary, you see A L G A R Y dot C A. Thank you very much, Eric. Thank you so much for joining us today. Sheila. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges, downloaded today for free at Helix Education Dot Com. Slash playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to...

...the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, H.

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