UWA Plus micro-credentials set to encourage lifelong learning

29 Jul 2020 | 3 mins

Micro-credentials may be the newest buzzword in higher education, but the philosophy behind UWA’s new offering goes back to a longstanding mission: to provide world-class education for our communities.

With a new suite of micro-credentials – ranging from medical technology and professional writing, to tackling plastic pollution – launching at the end of July, UWA’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Graham Brown, expects students from all walks of life to sign up to this newest way of learning.

“Micro-credentials generally require between 50 and 150 hours of study and many are offered online, intensively or through blended delivery modes,” Professor Brown said.

“This is a ‘low commitment’ way to study at UWA – and while micro-credentials can be used for professional development points, advanced standing or credit into full length degrees, they’re also perfect for busy professionals looking to upskill or learn something new.”

Badged under the UWA Plus brand, the micro-credentials will not have any admission requirements (although more specialised subjects may have recommended prior learning), and aim to foster lifelong learning – a key pillar of UWA’s Education Strategy 2020-25.

“We want UWA to be a place that students can return to over their lifetime, constantly learning new skills, creating new connections and seeking new opportunities,” he said.

Philosophy academic Lachlan Umbers will run Bioethics: Life and Death in Semester 2. He says offering bioethics as a micro-credential will engage the wider community in discussion about challenging ethical issues.

“The issues we will discuss – abortion, disability and euthanasia, for example – confront and challenge many of us at various points in our lives,” Dr Umbers said.

Four weeks will be devoted to issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic – from scarcity of ICU beds and ventilators, to the challenges of vaccine development.

“One dilemma is that a number of scientists and medical ethicists have proposed using ‘human challenge trials’ to accelerate vaccine development,” he said.

“This would involve deliberately exposing healthy volunteers to the virus to test the efficacy of possible vaccines. This can carry enormous risks – so is it possible for volunteers to give informed consent and is it permissible for researchers to expose people to such risks?

“In tackling each dilemma, students will practise a range of transferable skills: critical thinking, the ability to formulate and analyse arguments carefully, the ability to write clearly and persuasively, and so on.”

Also in the health realm, entrepreneur and biomedical engineer Intan Oldakowska will be running the Biodesign Medical Technology Innovation micro-credential over 10 weeks with six intensive days of online lectures and workshops.

Students will learn, based on the Biodesign process, how to identify a good clinical unmet need, create solutions to address that need, and navigate the complex commercialisation and development pathway to take medical technologies to patients.

“There’s a lot of interest in the med tech space so we want to give people the tools to identify and work on these important challenges,” Ms Oldakowska said.

“Students will be able to work on a problem of their choosing or find an unmet need to validate from one of the clinical scenarios provided. The solution concepts could be anything from a digital solution to an implantable device.”

And with the micro-credential spanning a wide range of disciplines, she’s expecting students with backgrounds in biomedical sciences, physics, engineering, medicine and business to be among the first participants.

Micro-credentials on offer include:

  • Advanced Structural Geology
  • Biodesign Medical Innovation Technology
  • Bioethics: Life and Death
  • Geophysical Exploration: Gravity and Magnetics
  • Professional Writing and Communication
  • Tackling Plastic Pollution

With classes open to everyone, we’re hoping to welcome back our UWA alumni, as well as offer quality learning to everyone from first time university students through to retirees.

For a full list of micro-credentials, see the UWA Plus website.

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