Outlined below are seven phases of the micro-credential lifecycle:
- Ideation (sunrise)
- Marketing and launch
- Deliver or pilot
- Evaluate and revise (sunset)
Each phase shares some key tasks and ideas that link to different parts of the micro-credential ecosystem.
Micro-credentials can be initiated in a variety of ways: by industry and focused on a particular problem, or by an institution, community, or learner need.
- Conduct labour market research to determine industry training and needs.
- Connect with local employers and partners within the industry to inquire if they are interested in participating in a working group or focus group.
- From these focus group sessions, determine what necessary skills, attributes, knowledge, or competencies these industries would like their employees to have.
- Identify the purpose of a micro-credential, or what need the micro-credential will address.
Using a working group?
A working group can consist of smaller focus groups that can meet to draw out key information about the industry or profession. Use focus group sessions to pose relevant questions to better understand the training needs, including upskilling or new skills that employees are lacking. Also, determine what the needs are for graduates from colleges and universities and if they are entering into these industries with the correct skill set. If not, determine what exactly is missing and how a micro-credential could address this need.
You can gain this valuable information from your working group of industry experts; this group is critical to your ability to developing a micro-credential. The more industry experts and partners you have in the working group and participating in the focus group sessions, the more valuable the information gathered will be for all stakeholders.
- Consider how the micro-credential will align with institutional priorities (e.g., academic plan, strategic mandate agreements), institutional micro-credential policies, and unit plan resourcing prioritization. Build awareness, explore, and ideate possibilities for developing micro-credentials at your institution. Work up a one-pager or an elevator pitch.
- Identify a team of possible collaborators within your institution.
- Determine what kind of proposals may be necessary for curricular and quality assurance processes, and get started on securing any needed approvals.
- Create an initial budget. Identify and apply for internal or external funding opportunities to support the design of the micro-credential. Consider learner and employer pricing sensitivity, and marketing plan and costs.
Members of a micro-credential design team
Initiative lead: The lead is the lynchpin of the micro-credential development (is this you?). This person should be engaged about the initiative and be a good problem solver, able to navigate the internal processes.
Employer engagement lead: Getting employers on board early is critical. This person should have a track record of successful employer engagement and be able to talk their language and get calls returned.
Subject matter expert (SME): The SME co-creates content and advises on delivery in collaboration with industry or employer partners.
Pedagogical and edTech support: This is an instructional designer or educational developer who can help shape the learning plan and content, possibly in partnership with your institution’s teaching and learning centre.
Visual design support: That first glance is crucial to respect and understanding. This person should be able to go beyond making the design attractive and correctly branded. The job is about how visual design can support the meaning of your micro-credentials.
Leadership champion: Sooner or later you’re going to need this person—someone at the director, dean, or vice-president level who believes in what you’re doing and can advocate at high levels.
- Compile the list of competencies and skills and determine how a micro-credential can meet the requirements of the identified purpose it will address.
- With the focus group members, determine the number of instructional hours an employee or learner will need to master a specific skill or competency.
- Determine which learning goals or objectives need to be considered to ensure that learners can master a set skill or competency.
- As a group, determine what will be the best delivery method for this micro-credential: online, hybrid, or face-to-face.
- Build a learner profile to make informed decisions, including those of modality preference. Talk to prospective students about how to design a micro-credential to meet their needs.
Co-designing with industry
Having conversations with industry experts is essential and they must happen regularly. The more industry experts are involved, the more likely the content will be developed to meet their current needs.
Once this relationship has been established with industry experts, determine if any of them would be interested in writing the content for the micro- credential in collaboration with the faculty SME.
- If the micro-credential is competency-based, determine which learning objectives will help support the learner master the specific competency.If the credential is not competency-based, set learning outcomes and measurable learning objectives that will measure the micro-credential’s outcome.
- With the focus groups, identify how learners will be assessed and what evaluation method will be appropriate to determine whether a learner has successfully mastered a skill or competency. A mastery benchmark of passing must be determined by the working group; therefore, learners must pass the summative assessment with a specific percentage in order to be awarded the micro-credential.
Authentic Assessments and Micro-credentials
Focus group sessions should determine which authentic assessment will be suitable for a micro- credential. The goal is to ensure that the assessment accurately measures the stated competency for the micro-credential, and if there is no competency, then the stated learning outcomes and objectives. The goal of the assessment is to determine whether the learner can accurately fulfill the learning goals outlined in the micro-credential. Learners should be given clear instructions, criteria and a rubric on how to complete the required assessment.
Marketing and Launch
Once the micro-credential content has been developed and reviewed by the working group, and you know the assessment measures the stated learning goals, it is ready to be launched.
Consider two key questions: What is the description of the micro-credential? Who is the audience?
- Complete audience research and analysis (e.g., use case personas).
- Conduct surveys with relevant audiences.
- Develop a website and marketing plan.
- Reach out to prospective students in person through class visits or events, website presence, and social media posts.
- Participate in sector-wide events for building bridges between sectors (e.g., eCampusOntario micro- credential forum), regional forums (e.g., City of Hamilton, Mohawk College, McMaster University Micro-credentials Community Forum).
- Collaboratively develop marketing materials such as one-pagers, video promos and tutorials, presentation templates, text copy for websites, surveys, website, brainstorming tools (e.g., badges in Canvas), etc.
Deliver or Pilot
The following are key concepts and best practices for piloting and delivering a micro-credential:
- Similar to other course development, an appropriate micro-credential outline and learning plan should be developed and readily available in the learning management system. The length of time a learner is given to complete a micro-credential must be stated in the outline.
- Micro-credentials that are stackable, recognized as transferrable, or create pathways to greater or larger credentials should be identified early on to the learners. For example, if three micro-credentials at 15 hours earns a learner three credits on their transcript, this should be identified and recognized as they consider pathways into other credential programs.
- If learners are successful, they are awarded the micro-credential, which can be showcased with an institution’s digital badge or certificate of completion or achievement. Learners should have some trackable record or transcript that outlines these micro-credentials, and if they are credit-bearing (not all are), including this information on a transcript would be appropriate.
- Learners should be given two attempts to complete their summative assessment. If they are unsuccessful on their first attempt, they should receive constructive feedback from their facilitator, professor, or instructor on what they need to do on their second time to achieve a passing grade. Constructive, immediate feedback to learners is essential to help set them up for success.
- Explain to learners that, typically, after successfully completing an eligible course they will receive an electronic message with a link to their micro-credential.
- Encourage learners to share the micro-credential on your social media threads, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or to an e-portfolio or resume.
Prior learning and assessment recognition (PLAR)
Learners who believe they have already mastered the skill or competency that is being measured should be given an opportunity to measure their prior learning. The PLAR assessment should be the same summative assessment that is applied to learners taking the full micro-credential.
Flexibility for learners
Learners should be able to work through micro-credentials at a pace that works best for them. Because micro-credentials are self-directed, a rigid learning plan outlining specific due dates should be avoided. The only timelines that should be presented and enforced are the end date of the micro-credential and when the summative assessment should be submitted. Therefore, once a learner has registered for a micro-credential, they should be informed right away of how long they have to complete the required learning activities and assessments. There should be time allowed for learners who require two attempts to complete an assessment: this includes time to provide them with appropriate and constructive feedback, and for the second attempt.
Evaluate and revise (sunset)
- Micro-credentials may encompass new skills that have not yet been integrated into degrees. As programs evolve to include these new skills, the sunset of a micro-credential may be triggered.
- Determine the life cycle of the micro-credential being offered. Depending on the purpose of a micro- credential, some may have hard expiry dates when the content is no longer up-to-date as determined by industry partners. Others may become out of date and require consistent content and curricular review to remain relevant.