Microcredentials for Increased Learning Agility in Accelerated Warfare

By Malcolm Woodside October 19, 2020

The speed and complexity of warfare is ever increasing. It will be increasingly impossible to train and educate Army leaders for every possible duty assignment or skill required to dominate the modern battlefield. With limited training and education time, self-directed learning will continue to grow in importance among Army leaders.


Dr Franklin C Annis (2018)[i]


Imagine that Army (Defence) requires rapid recruitment of 50 new medics (or aircraft technicians, or intelligence analysis, or almost any trade, for that matter), and imagine that all it takes is a simple interrogation of PMKeyS/Defence One to find all members who have performed well in self-directed online PME study of medic theory courses (or aircraft technician or intelligence analysts courses). Army (Defence) can quickly identify members (who have completed personal interest online training in their own time) who are pre-qualified and available for rapid secondment to short notice operations.

Army can increase the agility, simplicity and capacity of its Future Ready Training System[ii], and prepare its people for Accelerated Warfare through developing their intellectual edge[iii] using microcredentials. Defence’s extant wealth of education and training (learning) can be restructured to be delivered as microcredentials. The term microcredential describes discrete learning which takes a degree of time and effort to complete, and results in certification or credentialing of mastery or competency for the content learned[iv]. Imagine the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Units of Competency (UOC) as an analogy for microcredentials. Access to online learning is provided by the delivery platform known as ADELE (the Australian Defence Education and Learning Environment). All Defence members can have access to much of extant Defence learning through ADELE in an Open University type approach.

The way contemporary learners think and frame problems has changed from those of pre-twenty-first century. Contemporary learners are sometimes called digital natives. The term digital natives is addressed further in Woodside[v]. Changes in the learner seem to correlate with changes in the workplace. The World Economic Forum compares skills demands in 2018 and what is expected in 2022[vi]; in summary, contemporary learners assign a lower priority to those skills where technology can be relied upon for task completion (eg map reading is replaced by GPS use). Incorporating technology is increasingly important for contemporary learners.

Reviewing learning content and outcomes (in order to present them online as microcredentials) should address all three of Bloom’s Learning Domains of affective, behavioural and cognitive[vii]. Outcomes should include recognisable attribute-sets described under the headings of behaviours, attitudes, skills and knowledge (BASK)[viii]. In Bloom’s Learning Domains, the affective domain encompasses the necessary attitudes, the cognitive domain involves the knowledge and skills required, and the behaviour domain includes the actual performance/practice/demonstration[ix].

The civilian AQF clearly addresses skills, knowledge and behaviour in the UOC[x]; however, there is no provision to clearly measure the affective domain (attitudes). Ethical behaviour originates in the affective domain[xi]. How a learner frames a problem (IOT reach a solution) resides in the affective domain. Defence’s values-based culture rightly insists inculcation of ethical behaviour at every opportunity. Therefore, revision of learning delivery should retain/include a measure for the relevant attitudes. The purpose of PME is to develop members for effective decision making in problems that do not yet exist. Microcredentials will become central to Professional Military Education (PME).

The key benefit of modifying the extant learning framework, in order to facilitate microcredentialing, is that they can form the core of any number of as-yet-undefined qualifications, for as-yet-undefined roles, in as-yet-undefined conflicts. Facilitating microcredentialing can increase the agility, simplicity and capacity of Army’s (Defences) Future Ready Training System[xii], and prepare our people for accelerated warfare.


End Notes:

[i] Annis FC 2018, Self-development requires self-direction: Recommendations to improve the Army leader development model, Small Wars Journal, viewed 08 June 2020 at

[ii] Forces Command, Army 2020, Future Ready Training System Transformation Program Strategy, viewed 06 June 2020 at

[iii] Pearse MR 2020, Developing the Military Professional in an era of Accelerated Warfare: The Forces Command PME Plan 2020-2025, FORCOMD Directive 17/20, viewed 06 June 2020 at

[iv] Bartz DE and Krotsonis WA 2019, National Implications: Effective Approaches to Learning for Organization Members, International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration, 22, 1, 2019, 6, viewed 31 May 2020 at,%20David%20E.%20Effective%20Approaches%20to%20Learning%20for%20Organization%20Members%20IJMBA%20V22%20N1%202019.pdf

[v] Woodside M 2019, Blended Learning, Digital Natives and the Effective Application of Learning Technologies in Army, The Cove, 30 Aug 19, viewed 07 June 2020 at

[vi] World Economic Forum 2018, Insight Report: The Future of Jobs Report 2018, Centre for the New Economy and Society, Table 4: Comparing skills demand, viewed 31 May 2020 at

[vii] Buchanan H, Siegfried N and Jelsma J 2015, Survey Instruments for Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes and Behaviour Related to Evidence-based Practice in Occupational Therapy: A Systematic Review, Occupational Therapy International, 23 (2016) 59–90, viewed 01 June 2020 at

[viii] Schrader P, Lawless G, and Kimberly A 2004, The Knowledge, Attitudes, & Behaviors Approach: How to evaluate performance and learning in complex environments, Performance Improvement; Oct 2004; 43, 9; 8-15, viewed 22 August 2020 at

[ix] Buchanan H, Siegfried N and Jelsma J 2015, Survey Instruments for Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes and Behaviour Related to Evidence-based Practice in Occupational Therapy: A Systematic Review, Occupational Therapy International, 23 (2016) 59–90, viewed 01 June 2020 at

[x] National Skills Standards Council 2012, NSSC - Standards for Training Packages, viewed 07 June 2020 at

[xi] Anderson T and Dron J 2012, Learning technology through three generations of technology enhanced distance education pedagogy, Revista Mexicana de Bachillerato a Distancia, viewed 07 June 2020 at

[xii] Forces Command, Army 2020, Future Ready Training System Transformation Program Strategy, viewed 06 June 2020 at



Malcolm Woodside

Captain Malcolm Woodside is the Staff Officer Grade 3 Training Development in the Communication, Education and Learning Technologies Section of the Trades and Training Branch, Headquarters, Army Aviation Training Centre, Oakey. Their small team develops and produces a wide range of Blended Learning materials for Training Transformation of aviation courses. He is an Education Officer in the Royal Australian Army Educational Corps, and he has filled a range of instructor and training system positions. Since joining Army in 1996, Captain Woodside has completed four degrees and three diplomas. In that time, his wife, now of over thirty-three years, completed the Doctor of Philosophy degree. They have five adult children and four grandchildren together. Captain Woodside volunteers at a local council's English conversation classes for new Australians (suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions). He also enjoys spending time with his family, as well as reading, walking and gardening.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.


This is an important subject and one very close to my heart given that in a past-life I introduced the concept of competency-based training and assessment into the ADF. Where our early successes lay was not so much introducing competency-based qualifications (now the AQF) but the concept of competence, that being the skills and knowledge essential to the competent performance of a function in the workplace. The downside of this approach was that PMKeyS did not recognise competence, only proficiency (in qualifications term). So the notion of competence became 'qualified'. In others words, skills and knowledge that were taught as opposed to those essential for competent on the job performance. Micro-credentials are an ideal way of increasing 'readiness now' while establishing a platform for 'future ready', but in my experience we could do better than rely on the 'competencies' detailed in AQF qualifications. Instead a more nuanced approach to developing the competencies described in LMPs would enable on the job performance to be the focus of assessment, not what was taught and may or may not be actually applied (or needed) on the job.

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