Claire Field on new priorities in learning: what is needed and when

Sometimes a phrase is so helpful it just sticks with you

Speaking at the 2021 EduGrowth Summit, Brad Birt, Director of Learning Partnerships at Curtin University, introduced me to the concept of “just in case” and “just in time” learning, as he discussed Curtin’s new stackable credentials.

It is such a powerful construct to explain some of the changes happening in Australian higher education and VET.

A range of factors are collectively driving the need for more “just in time” learning. They include EdTech making it easier to offer personalised learning at scale, rapid technological change in the world of work, an ageing population meaning longer careers, and other global trends such as climate change.

While some argue the merits of full qualifications versus short courses – the reality is that most individuals and most careers will require both. And that in turn means tertiary education providers will need to be increasingly nimble – offering both traditional post-school qualifications (just in case) and shorter form credentials (just in time).


The VET sector has always offered short courses. The challenge it faces is to make them more relevant as growing numbers of industries are moving away from VET for “just in time” learning and switching instead to non-accredited, often EdTech, alternatives.

The case in higher education is less pressing but potentially just as significant. If individuals and employers turn to non-accredited providers for their upskilling and reskilling and are satisfied with the learning experience, will they also be increasingly likely to look to them for longer-form professional upskilling (Graduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas and coursework Masters)?

The EduGrowth Summit showcased a number of universities and VET providers grappling with these challenges, and increasingly using a strengths-based partnership approach to engage with the EdTech sector in tackling them.

The recordings of the Summit are all available here, and I have summarised some of the Summit discussions I found most interesting on my website.

Claire Field is an advisor to the tertiary education sector.