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Craig Finnie: OU microcredentials case study

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As part of our combined responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Scottish Union Learning has worked with trade unions and the The Open University in Scotland to support union learners to access the new suite of Open University Microcredentials.

Since June 2020, we have supported 33 places covering Online Teaching, Management and Cyber Security. Unions have worked hard to establish union-led study groups to ensure union learners have a safe space to discuss the content of their course and to support each other through to successful completion.

The Open University is publishing Case Studies gathered through interviewing union learners. Craig's story is the fourth in the series to be published.


The original version of this article was published on The Open University: Student Stories.

Craig Finnie

Craig Finnie first dipped his toe into the OU microcredentials waters in 2020 and says these short courses were such a great opportunity to upskill that he’s now done four – all via the OU’s social learning platform, FutureLearn. They’ve even helped him to land a new job.

With two distance learning undergraduate degrees under his belt already – including one from The Open University – Craig was after a short course that would help him in his role as a Development Officer for Scottish Union Learning. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, interest in online learning soared and Craig wanted to quickly improve his skills, so he chose an OU microcredential in Online Teaching; Creating Courses for Adult Learners.

He said: “I decided to do an OU microcredential because I realised they were a great opportunity for me to upskill in key areas. I was so impressed with the quality of the first microcredential, which I found both stimulating and challenging – and the rest is history.”

“I’m directly applying what I learnt through my microcredentials at work”

Craig, from Glasgow, says he was immediately able to apply what he’d learnt at work, which meant he quickly saw the benefit of these short courses to him, his employer, and their clients (trade unions).

“My work involves supporting trade unions around skills development and education for their members. Demand for online learning exploded when the first Covid-19 restrictions came into being,” he said. “I was looking to broaden by knowledge of online learning so that I could be more effective in my job. I was able to start using my new-found skills and knowledge right away at work – the learning was very relevant.

“The microcredentials have definitely improved my practice in a number of ways. For example, I work more effectively with learning providers to ensure the online courses they deliver for our projects are as good as they can be. I have been able to introduce new teaching ideas and approaches directly as a result of learning acquired on the microcredentials.”

“Once I got a taste for microcredentials, I couldn’t stop!”

A few months after completing his first microcredential, Craig had signed up for his second. In an 18-month period, he’s completed four of these short courses, with each taking 10-12 weeks.

“Each course introduced ideas, resources and practices which were up to date and relevant to modern working practices,” said Craig. “I have developed new competencies in using tools for strategic planning. At work we now organise many more online courses than previously. The microcredentials have improved my practice in this area in a number of ways. I work more effectively with learning providers to ensure the online courses they deliver for our projects are as good as they can be. I have been able to introduce new teaching ideas and approaches directly as a result of learning acquired on the microcredentials, too.”

Although the courses were hard work, Craig says the benefits outweighed this.

“I liked being exposed to the wide range of materials, resources and ideas, all of which were hugely relevant to my area of work,” he said.

“The courses required you to put the time in but were organised in such a way that encouraged support from co-learners and on-course mentors. Each course pushed me hard. I tried to do a little bit each evening after work and a longer day’s study at the weekend. Completing them was a real achievement for me. Once I got a taste for them, I couldn’t stop!”

“My microcredential helped me to get a new job”

While he was working on his first microcredential, Craig applied for his current role at work, and was successful. He believes his microcredential is part of the reason he got the job.

Craig said: “I was successful in applying for a new job during my first microcredential. I believe the course definitely helped me.”

“I took a lot from the ideas and perspectives of other learners”

Craig says his colleagues were also enrolling for OU microcredentials, and the benefits were clear to see all round.

“My colleagues’ enthusiasm for these courses definitely influenced me to keep doing more,” he said.

Although Craig was already experienced in distance learning, he says the support of other learners and his colleagues was invaluable to him.

“I’m a fairly experienced learner so I coped well with the level of independent study required. The microcredentials also put a strong emphasis on collective learning and I took a lot from the ideas and perspectives of other learners who represented a broad spectrum of professions and geographical locations,” he said.

“My colleagues also formed study groups to support each other, and we provided the best motivation for each other. We would meet informally online each week to share our thoughts and experiences. We all benefitted from meeting like this on a regular basis for the length of each microcredential.”

“I’d definitely do more microcredentials”

Despite having already completed four microcredentials – in Online teaching: creating courses for adult learners; Online teaching: accessibility and inclusive learning; Online teaching: evaluating and improving courses; and Management of uncertainty: leadership, decisions and action – Craig isn’t ruling out doing more.

He said: “I would do more if time allowed. I like the flexibility and the fact that the learning is rigorous and relevant. They also carry university credit, which has provided a great boost to my CV.

“Flexible learning of this quality is a great opportunity for professional development. I would recommend any of the micros I have completed. My advice would be to stay on top of the work and find regular support wherever you can. The micros can look daunting at first but, if you stick with it, you might surprise yourself in terms of what you achieve.

“I think these courses will be really useful to a broad range of people and I hope the OU is able to reach great numbers of diverse learners going forward.”


  • Microcredentials are career-focused courses created by world-class OU academics and hosted on the OU co-owned FutureLearn platform.
  • Each course is 10 to 12 weeks and ideal for anyone looking to quickly upskill and stay on top of in-demand subject areas from cyber security to agile leadership.
  • Choose from more than 20 OU microcredentials and find the right course for you.

Related resources

The Open University in Scotland: Union members' registration discount If you are a member of a trade union in Scotland, you may be entitled to a discount on your first Open University module if you register using this link.