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Micro-credentials, Macro Impact: Making Higher Education More Accessible


SIT Associate Professor Goh Weihan, a winner of the 2024 GovInsider Dare to Do Award, is empowering learners to upskill and gain competencies that can lead to a degree in Applied Computing.   

Prof Goh Weihan receiving the Dare to Do award

A/Prof Goh Weihan receiving the Dare to Do award at GovInsider’s Festival of Innovation Awards 2024. (Photo: GovInsider)

As computer ownership in homes ballooned during the 1990s, so did Associate Professor Goh Weihan's interest in computers. As a teen, he would spend his time tinkering with computers, figuring out its capabilities when the Internet was still in its infancy. 

He put his skills to good use when library computers at his high school in Malaysia were infected with a virus. He managed to get rid of it. 

“I got that opportunity to try out new things. Slowly, it became, ‘Hey, I’m good at this. Maybe I should continue doing this’,” said A/Prof Goh, who eventually went on to pursue a degree and a PhD in computer engineering at Nanyang Technological University.  

Decades on, he is helping to give others the opportunity to pursue computing.  

He spearheaded the creation of the Applied Computing degree programme via the Competency-based Stackable Micro-credential (CSM) Pathway at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and went on to win the GovInsider Dare to Do Award, which recognises individuals who challenged the status quo, overcame failure, and persevered in their quest to deliver their services/products/processes. 

Small Steps, Big Impact 

The CSM Applied Computing degree programme targets in-employment learners who wish to upskill themselves, and follows a stackable micro-credential route. Micro-credentials are trimester-long, focused qualifications that denote competency in a specific area. After completing the required number of micro-credentials, a workforce essentials component and a capstone project, learners will graduate with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Applied Computing. 

For A/Prof Goh, making higher education more accessible was the key reason he chose to work on this project. “The current approach to a degree is that it’s an all-or-nothing approach,” he explained. “If you don’t complete all the required modules, you won’t get the degree. The CSM pathway is different because you can pick and choose your micro-credentials, and as long as you fulfil the requirements, you get a degree. And if you are unable to complete the full degree, your micro-credential qualifications will still be valid.”  

In addition, many degrees also require pre-university qualifications, such as diplomas. But this programme is different. 

While applicants still need to go through an admissions process, SIT considers their skills, experience, passion, and aptitude instead of only their paper qualifications. For example, someone with no formal background in IT but has completed IT-related boot camps or who possesses industry qualifications may also be considered for admission. They are put through an aptitude test and interview if need be.  

“We want to try to look at a degree not really as a paper chase but as a consequence of upskilling,” said A/Prof Goh. 

Prof Weihan Panel Discussion

A/Prof Goh Weihan speaking on a panel at the GovInsider Festival of Innovation 2024 about Digital Identity and authentication. (Photo: GovInsider)

Hurdles Along the Way 

To create the programme, A/Prof Goh had numerous discussions with partner companies such as telco Singtel and information technology firm NCS. He wanted to find out what some of the in-demand skills companies were looking for, and he helped arrange for their staff to enrol in the programme. 

But it was not without its obstacles. The discussions spanned several months, with logistics as one of the biggest hurdles. He had to sort out questions like whether lessons could be scheduled during office hours, if staff could come back to study full-time, and understand the viewpoint of the partners. 

Designing the programme was a challenge, with discussions taking place as early as 2022. Goh shared that the version now was a result of multiple iterations from start to finish. “Numerous different plans were surfaced, only to be chucked aside,” he chuckled. 

And when the curriculum was drawn up, he had to get help to develop and run the micro-credentials. “It cannot be that one person does it (alone), right? Because he’s not going to survive, he’s going to quit!” he exclaimed with a laugh. Fortunately, several of his colleagues from the ICT Cluster came on board, and the programme was launched in September 2023. 

Stretching His Students 

To A/Prof Goh, being a good mentor to his students means having to push them sometimes. In 2019, he convinced a group of students from his digital forensics class to enter the United Nations Cybersecurity Challenge despite their initial resistance.  

“A lot of students can do great things (but) sometimes they don't realise it because they might think, ‘Hey, no, I'm still a student, what can I achieve?’” 

Even though the finals in Vienna was held during the exam period – his students flew there after one exam paper and returned right before another, and beat 12 other teams to win the hackathon. 

He wants his students to stretch themselves because “they have the potential (but) it’s not tapped”. “So why not encourage them to just do it and see what they can achieve?”  

“Everything is about the students,” he added. 

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