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Overview of Micro-credentials

Although definitions vary, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario defines micro-credentials as: “a representation of learning, awarded for completion of a short program that is focused on a discrete set of competencies (i.e., skills, knowledge, attributes), and is sometimes related to other credentials.”

By nature, micro-credentials are short and serve as proof of learning or capability aligning with standards and requirements, often based in industry. Micro-credentials can be achieved through short courses or through assessment of specific competencies.

Micro-credentials are:

  • Skills and competencies-based
  • Short in duration
  • Assessable
  • Modular and stackable
  • Personalized
  • Verifiable

Expandable List

As micro-credentials are short, they are particularly attractive to working professionals who are looking to upgrade their skills or are interested in special topics. Micro-credentials are often developed in collaboration with and recognized by business and industry, meaning learners can be sure that they are acquiring relevant skills for the job market.

Micro-credentials are also generally stackable and ‘transcriptable.’ This means that micro-credentials could appear on a university transcript and could be ‘stacked’ to achieve a certificate. Some micro-credentials are tied to digital badges which live in a learner’s e-portfolio or e-wallet, hosted on platforms such as LinkedIn. Learners can then control who sees the badges.

Micro-credentials can be offered though face-to-face, online, or hybrid learning contexts.

A range of providers offer micro-credentials including:

  • Universities
  • Colleges
  • Professional bodies
  • Licensing organizations

Micro-credentials can be designed and assessed through different means depending on the offering provider. A few common delivery and assessment modalities include:

  • Coursework and accompanying assessments
  • Lectures/seminars
  • Projects, assignments, portfolios, conferences

Micro-credentials offer personalized, flexible, life-long, and specialized learning opportunities. They can provide recognition for pre-existing or newly learned soft and hard skills. Micro-credentials can help learners prior to entering or while on the job market and can address gaps in employees’ skills.

Funding and governmental involvement in micro-credentials are rapidly changing in Ontario. The Micro-credentials from Ontario post-secondary schools offers some guidance on the expectations of a micro-credential that could receive Ministry funding and some forms of recognition. We anticipate that these guidelines will change and should be regularly revisited.

Likewise, policy and administrative processes for micro-credentials at McMaster continue to evolve. Please consult with your Associate Dean and/or the MacPherson Institute for current practices for the design, implementation, and approval of micro-credentials at McMaster.