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Opportunity to lighten and shorten university studies for SPM and STPM leavers

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Microcredentials are changing the landscape of higher education and the world of work (Corporate Communications Centre - Universiti Malaya)

By: Dr Zahiruddin Fitri Abu Hassan

Applications to enter public universities through the new UPU system are now open. Teenagers who have complete SPM and also STPM are examining the study programs offered by universities for them to continue their studies at a higher level. Of course, the choices made takes into account each individual’s interests and tendencies.

Dr Zahiruddin Fitri Abu Hassan

The field of higher education is now more open, with access to online courses offered by domestic and foreign universities through international platforms such as FutureLearn, Edx and Coursera. Some of the online courses offered are part of the existing study program at the university.

These courses are sometimes offered as microcredentials, which have a credit value equivalent to conventional study credits if taken face-to-face at a university, because they consist of a complete study component with learning outcomes, comprehensive content, and assessments that measures the achievement of learning outcomes . Universiti Malaya (UM) itself, since 2016 has offered online courses through the platform https://www.futurelearn.com/partners/universiti-malaya and until this article was written, offers more than 40 online courses, which are open to anyone who are interested in studying in various fields.

In fact, since 2017, the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) has allowed up to 30% of the credit requirement for graduation to be taken as online courses and transferred as credits to the university students after meeting certain conditions.

SPM and STPM leavers can now start their university studies in their chosen field without waiting for registration as a student of any university or institute of higher learning. This way, they may achieve 2 positive pay-offs. First, lighten the study load, by only having to complete the remaining 70% of graduation credits with courses that must be taken face-to-face during the entire period of study, and secondly, the possibility of shortening the study period, since they have completed up to 30% of the credit requirements for graduation in self-directed learning.

Online Learning Situations

To facilitate understanding, let’s make an assumption based on the situation of an STPM leaver named Balqis who aspires to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Universiti Malaya in the field of Actuarial Science.

Balqis can find and examine the structure of the Actuarial Science curriculum from the UM website and obtain a list of courses for the program, in preparation to identify the courses to be studied when she registers as a full-time student in the coming semester 1. She can compare this list of courses, with any related online courses, whether they are offered by UM or other universities from home and abroad. Taking into account the statement of Course Learning Outcomes (CLO) that matches the courses offered by UM, Balqis can study from online courses while waiting for an offer to enter the university, to enable her to obtain microcredential certificates that recognizes that she has achieved the relevant CLO.

Armed with the microcredential certificates from those online courses, Balqis can potentially apply for credit transfer from UM for any related course. After being admitted to UM, Balqis needs to apply for a credit transfer using the microcredential certificates she has completed.

Credit Transfer Process

Upon receiving an application from Balqis, UM will initiate a credit transfer process that involves verifying that her microcredential certificates are genuine, as well as having the authority to verify that the entire CLO that needs to be achieved can be proven by scrutinising the assessment achievement from the platform. In addition, UM can also initiate a special assessment called ‘challenge test’ for Balqis to demonstrate CLO achievement for the course to which credit is to be transferred. If successful, the credit from the microcredential certificate will be recorded as part of the credit achievement for Balqis to graduate with a Bachelor of Actuarial Science from Universiti Malaya.

Students currently undertaking a program of study at the university also have the opportunity to study online in their own time, and apply for credit transfer to any courses that have not been taken conventionally.

Opportunities like this that have been available and accepted by the higher education sector in the country need to be utilised to the maximum by the Gen-Z SPM and STPM leavers who now live in a world that is seen as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous).

Microcredential potential in the future

Microcredential is a long-term trend that many experts see as the future of the education sector. It supports a culture of lifelong learning and is gaining ground among employers as ‘just in time’ education model for the specific skills they need to face the challenges of the ever-changing business world. Therefore it is not surprising that technology giants such as Microsoft, Google and many others, each offer their own online courses, with certificates in the form of digital badges and microcredentials in areas of IT needs such as cloud computing, cyber security, artificial intelligence (AI), data science and others. Meanwhile, LinkedIn, which is a business and professional platform, offers online courses including business, creative and software skills.

Those who want to get a better job, or negotiate a promotion and salary, have started using microcredentials as a avenue to prove the skills they have, to increase confidence and also trust in potential employers.

Conclusion

In conclusion, microcredentials are a future of the education model that is changing the landscape of higher education and the world of work. Opportunities are available for SPM and STPM leavers to start their studies online from world-renowned universities and professors, and transfer the study credits to get their degree.

Everyone, regardless of whether they are students who are still in school, SPM and STPM leavers, housewives, professional workers, or retirees, have the opportunity to acquire new skills or to validate existing skills, by taking advantage of microcredential courses to advance in their field of interest.

Access to lifelong learning is now more open with online microcredential offerings offered by universities and corporate entities and recognised by the government.

The author is the former Head of eLearning, Academic Development and Enhancement Centre (ADEC), Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at zahiruddin@um.edu.my

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