Assessments are an essential component of a micro- credential (Oliver, 2021). They should always align with the stated learning objectives or competencies within the micro-credential and be intentionally selected to measure whether the learner has successfully mastered a specific skill . In consultation with industry, assessments should reflect what learners will need to be able to do within that profession. Assessments of competency should be authentic to eventual performance in the expected context. For more information on competency and competency frameworks, see eCampusOntario’s Open Competency Toolkit (Green & Levy, 2021).
Recent conversations related to micro-credential design suggest authentic assessments are an emerging high-impact practice (Gooch et. al., 2022). Authentic assessments are defined as those being relevant to particular or specific workplace and social contexts. They ask learners to “do” and practise the skill, competency, knowledge, or attitude that the micro-credential is designed to support (Wiggins, 2006).
The practice of assessing learners invites them to demonstrate how they have acquired the specific skill, knowledge, or competency targeted by the micro-credential. Without assessment there cannot be trust that a micro-credential has achieved its purpose (Chaktsiris et al, 2021). However, to reach this goal, assessments must authentically measure and share how the learner has acquired the promised outcome of the micro-credential.
Intentional selection of learning outcomes and objectives is a critical step in micro-credential design and development. It is important that an assessment be carefully selected to measure the targeted skill or competency, and for it to alignment with the competency. The same applies to assessments of learning outcomes and objectives. Using the rubric and framework available from Quality Matters while designing micro-credentials, including the selection of intentional assessments, can help to ensure alignment between the objectives and assessment (Quality Matters, 2022).
A rubric helps learners to better understand what is expected of them and what criteria they must meet to be successful. However, it is important to note that rubrics are not always required for assessments, especially if the instructions and criteria of the assessment are clearly explained and learners know what they need to do to reach a specific benchmark (e.g., a grade of 80% or higher). Rubrics do, however, provide learners with instructions and guidance on how to complete an assessment effectively.
Using backward design for micro-credential assessments
Backward design: is a method of instructional design that focuses on the “big picture” and what learners should be able to do upon successful completion of the micro-credential. The assessment method selected, therefore, should reflect this big picture approach. For example, if the design team feels that a learner should be able to create a resume and cover letter upon successful completion of the micro-credential, it only makes sense that the summative assessment would be to “create a professional resume and cover letter.” The formative assessments, whether graded or ungraded, should provide opportunities for learners to practise specific components of a writing a resume and cover letter and receive constructive feedback from the instructor before completing the summative assessment.
If the micro-credential is competency-focused, and learners are required to demonstrate a specific skill, the assessment must be able to measure and assess that the learner has mastered that specific skill. How this is done depends heavily on how the micro-credential is being delivered. For example, if the competency is welding a piece of copper, and the micro-credential is offered online, a suitable authentic assessment might be a video recording of the learner welding a piece of copper and describing each step of the process. Or if a micro-credential states that a learner will be able to “Identify common mental health–related illnesses in young children,” it would be appropriate for the assessment to measure their ability to “identify” these illnesses ; this could be done with a quiz or test, a PowerPoint presentation that asks learners to identify these illnesses, or a written assignment.
Choosing micro-Credential assessments
When designing micro-credentials, it is important to identify the assessments early on to ensure they are appropriate to the delivery method selected for the micro-credential, as well as the learning objectives. Some micro-credentials are better suited for face-to-face or blended delivery than online or hybrid formats.
For example, suppose the learning objective is to “perform proper hygiene” and the delivery method is completely online, asynchronous. In this case, an appropriate authentic assessment might be a video presentation where the learner is engaging in performing proper hygiene while verbally describing each step of the process.
Assessments of competency should be authentic to the eventual contexts where they will be used and provide evidence converging on the same skill or competence.
Some examples of assessments that could be used for micro-credentials:
- Project-based assessments
- Problem-based assessments
- Scenario-based assessments
- Video demonstration presentations
- Written assessments
- Portfolio (e.g., collected evidence from formal and informal learning)
- Workplace observation (e.g., specific demonstrations and/or observations over time)
- Dialogue or conversations (e.g., presentations, interviews, debates, discussions)
It is essential that both the formative and summative assessments selected help learners achieve the stated learning objectives.
Formative Assessments and Micro-Credentials
Formative assessments provide excellent opportunities for learners to practise and gauge their own learning and progress before they complete the summative assessment. Formative assessments throughout the micro-credential can provide learners with automated feedback through online quizzes, or direct feedback from an instructor to better support and prepare them for their summative assessment. Not all formative assessments need to be graded; ungraded assessments allow learners to practise and engage with the assessments multiple times.
Summative Assessments and Micro-Credentials
The summative assessment is critical and should always align with the learning objectives or competencies in the micro-credentials. Depending on the type of micro-credential being designed, some design teams may opt to provide learners with multiple opportunities to complete a summative assessment until they reach a specific benchmark or percentage. Others may want to provide learners with only one opportunity. Regardless of the choice, which will be different among institutions and design teams, learners should be set up for success with clear expectations related to assessment. They should be supplied with all the required materials and instructional resources, learning activities, course-related tools, and formative assessments to support their learning experience; this includes appropriate and measurable objectives or competencies.
The chart below will aid in developing and choosing appropriate assessments .
Micro-Credential Authentic Assessment Framework
When developing an assessment for a micro-credential, start with two simple but complex questions:
Once the purpose of the micro-credential has been set, next comes the work to identify the specific contexts where learners will be expected to “do” the skill targeted by the micro-credential:
Offer flexibility through assessment design. Learners can demonstrate competency or mastery in a variety of ways (Acree, 2016). After collaborating to identify how learners can demonstrate their mastery of a skill, competency, or knowledge, consider how they might choose to share their learning in a variety of formats (or multiple means of representation and engagement) (UDL On Campus, n.d.):
Connection between learners and instructors is a high-impact teaching practice known to increase student learning (Centre for Teaching Excellence, n.d.). Building connection between micro-credential partners through assessment offers a powerful opportunity for a micro-credential to meet its outlined purpose: to fit a clearly identified need for a skill or competency. To facilitate connection through assessment, consider:
Providing meaningful feedback to learners throughout the micro-credential invites reflection on the core skills targeted by the micro-credential offering. The purpose of any assessment is feedback (Wiggins, 2006). To provide meaningful formative assessment and feedback within a micro-credential offering, consider:
To incorporate perspectives of all members of the micro-credential ecosystem, adopting a flexible and iterative design approach provides opportunities to evaluate and revise offerings in a cycle of evaluation, analysis, and revision (Mei et al., 2021). Adopting an iterative design and evidence-based approach to micro-credential projects might look like: