Inter-Institutional Collaborations

This chapter explores the benefits, challenges, and logistics of developing and offering programs in partnership with another post-secondary institution.

Chapter Audience:

  • administrator icon Administrators
  • program managers icon Program Managers
  • Faculty

What Is Inter-Institutional Collaboration?

Inter-institutional collaboration, in the context of this chapter, refers to a situation where groups from at least two post-secondary institutions come together to design and/or offer a micro-credential program.

Why Engage in Inter-Institutional Collaboration?

There are many goals and benefits to partnering with another institution to develop and offer a micro-credential. Here are some reasons to consider:

  • Harmonize curriculum across the province. In some instances, it is desirable to offer the same curriculum, with aligned competencies and assessments, throughout British Columbia. This may be particularly useful for training that employers require for employment. Employers will want to know what a credential means — what learners can do as a result of completing it — but they are unlikely to want to learn the intricacies of how each institution’s program differs from others. See Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector: CETABC’s Collaboration Across Four Institutions to Develop Harmonized Curriculum for an example of this practice.
  • Leverage institutional expertise and facilities. Each institution specializes in delivering a type of education (e.g., hands-on learning or theoretical explorations), has its own facilities and equipment (e.g., laboratories and simulation rooms), network of partners, a distinct brand and reputation among learners and employers, and access to educators and researchers with unique expertise. By coming together to develop and offer a program, institutions combine these resources to create a program that neither institution could offer alone. See Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector: UBCV and BCIT’s Collaboration to Offer Curriculum Not Possible at One Institution  for an example of this practice in action.
  • Create pathways for learners. Co-designing a micro-credential will create buy-in for the program. Each institution is more likely to trust the quality of a program that it helped to design and to develop laddering opportunities for learners who complete the training. This benefits learners in two ways. First, the opportunity to take courses at two or more institutions gives them first-hand experience with the environment and educational style of each institution. It’s a way to sample what it is like to be a learner at each institution. This knowledge can help them select the institution that is a better fit for their continued training needs. Secondly, when institutions ladder micro-credentials into further training opportunities at their institution, it expands opportunities for learners, who now have access to further training at several institutions. This mutually beneficial arrangement provides increased access for learners while also providing institutions with a recruitment on-ramp. One example of how institutional collaboration can benefit learners in this way is the international collaboration Open Educational Resources universitas (OERu). Learners can complete the micro-credentials offered by any of the partner institutions located in over 40 countries and then use the micro-credentials for credit-transfer at the first-year undergraduate level at several partner universities. McGreal et al. (2022) describe a few examples from this collaborative.
  • Comply with funding aims and requirements. Some funding opportunities explicitly call for institutions to partner in order to meet the funding program’s objectives. This may happen, for example, when the funder is looking to impact several regions in the province. In other cases, the funding opportunity may not explicitly require that institutions partner, but the eligibility requirements may exclude one institution that is interested in developing the curriculum. In such situations, partnership with another institution that is eligible may be a solution. For example, let’s say a funding call is only intended for institutions that are members of a professional association. One institution has ambitions to create a program in this discipline but is not currently an accredited member. It may partner with another institution that is a member and propose a joint application.
  • Pool resources and avoid duplication of efforts. Similar programs are offered by institutions across the province. Consider, for example, that most institutions offer programs in leadership, administration, and management. When each institution works in isolation to create and offer its program, there often is duplication of effort and inefficient use of resources. There is an economy of scale to be gained by collaborating to design and offer programs. See Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector: UBCV and BCIT’s Collaboration to Offer Curriculum Not Possible at One Institution for an example that describes not only the development of common curriculum but also ways in which each institution can modify the shared curriculum to ensure they remain competitive with their peers.

Development of OER Curricula

The development of open educational resources (OER) curriculum is perhaps an example of ways in which institutions can pool resources to create curriculum and avoid duplication of effort. The distinction between the development of OER micro-credentials and other forms of inter-institutional collaborations is that there might not be an explicit partnership required.

Here, one institution develops a micro-credential curriculum and its resources (e.g., syllabus, target competencies, assessments, lesson plans, learning resources, shareable content object reference model (SCORM) package for the learning management system, etc.) and shares it using an open licence  that allows other institutions to download it, adapt it to their specific context, and use it.

Typically, the institution that has created the curriculum received grant support to develop it. Read about one example in the chapter Employers, Indigenous and Community Partners: Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector and look for the section Collaborating with a Non-Profit Organization to Benefit the Community. Here, an Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) grant supported the development of a guide for replicating a micro-credential supporting newcomer women’s entrepreneurship.

eCampusOntario’s OER Micro-credentials Ready for Your Use

In 2021, eCampusOntario issued a call for proposals to support its Virtual Learning Strategy. Though not aimed specifically at the creation of micro-credentials, several institutions applied to develop openly licensed online micro-credential curricula. These open educational resources (OERs) are freely available to any interested institution through the eCampusOntario’s Open Library.

Several of the OER courses supported in the first round of funding are described below. They showcase the range of available OER courses, from credit-bearing undergraduate courses, to online simulation experiences when in-person practicums are not available, to professional development programs. Many more are available on the Virtual Learning Strategy Projects website (using the suggested keyword search “course” or “micro-credential”). More courses will become available with future rounds of funding.

Name of Funded Project Originating Institution Course Description Link to OER Curriculum on the eCampusOntario Open Library
Apprenticeship Red Seal Certificate of Qualification Preparation Course: Electrician 309A Construction & Maintenance Electrician Algonquin College Conversion of the Certificate of Qualification.
Preparation for apprentices transformed from face-to-face to online delivery.
Creating Six New Online Cybersecurity Courses Centennial College and Durham College Six new online cybersecurity courses for working professionals.
Creation of a new for-credit online course: “Big-data remote sensing using Google Earth Engine.” Carleton University Google Earth Engine is a free cloud-based software that gives learners hands-on experience with big data and remote sensing. Exercises allow learners to explore solutions to problems related to their own interest or work objectives and engage learners in collaborative code-development.
Early Childhood Education – Two Practicum Simulations Cambrian College This OER includes two complete simulations, including videos, branching scenarios, and debrief and reflection activities that can be used in situations where a placement or practicum is not available.
Entrepreneurship for Creatives OCAD University Digital program certification that offers artists, designers, and creatives the competencies and capabilities they need to bring their products and designs to market
Introduction to Higher Education Management Ontario Tech University Helps graduate students and junior faculty learn how colleges and universities operate and how to lead projects involving multiple stakeholders. Topics include governance, budgets, meeting management, strategic alignment, conflict management, etc.

All institutions, including those in British Columbia, may use these resources to create their micro-credential offerings. Institutions may wish to modify the curriculum by incorporating areas of specialization available at their institution as a way to differentiate their offerings from those of other institutions.

How to Develop a Micro-credential in Collaboration with Other Institutions

The following recommended practices are based on the experiences of institutions engaged in inter-institutional collaborations to provide micro-credentials:

  1. Initiate informal conversations. Like all partnerships, the collaboration begins with discussions between prospective partners to explore common goals and interests in working together to offer a program. Often a partnership will begin through other forms of relationships, such as instructors teaching at both institutions or previous joint projects, which give each group insight into the partner’s suitability for the collaboration.
  2. Establish a formal partnership agreement. The partner institutions should draft and sign a formal partnership agreement specifying the responsibilities and expectations of each institution. Such an agreement provides administrative backing as it is usually signed by senior administrative officers at each institution. This gives the program stability even if members of the team change, as the commitment is between institutions rather than specific individuals.
    Elements to include in this agreement include:
    1. Purpose of agreement. Define the purpose of the agreement and the nature of the program offered by the two institutions.
    2. Collaborative effort. Outline the collaborative effort required by each institution in order to successfully design and offer the program. This should include the deliverables and timelines.
    3. Governance and decision making. Describe the governance and decision-making process for the project.
    4. Responsibilities. Define the responsibilities of each institution in terms of staffing, resources, and administrative duties related to the program.
    5. Financial arrangements. Determine how costs, profits, and other resources will be allocated. This includes tuition fees, grants, costs, or other payments.
    6. Liability. Describe the liability of each institution for any program-related losses (e.g., if the program incurs financial losses), as well as any claims or damages that may arise from the program.
    7. Conflict resolution. Establish a process for addressing and resolving any disputes or disagreements that may arise between the institutions.
    8. Termination. Define the conditions under which the agreement may be terminated. This could include that the agreement automatically renews each year unless either party notifies the other by a certain date that they wish to terminate the partnership.
    9. Signatories. List the name, title, and signature of the person authorized to sign on behalf of each institution.

    The Continuing Education and Training Association of British Columbia (CETABC) website provides many examples of service contract agreements from B.C. post-secondary institutions that could be adapted for this purpose. The Legal/Contractual webpage provides access to these documents.

  3. Establish a forum for regular communication. The institutions should agree on a forum to exchange frequent communication. This will first be used to coordinate on the design of the curriculum and later to review operational issues as they arise. The forum should include members from each institution. Consider including individuals with a range of expertise including instructors as well as administrators to ensure that there is broad knowledge of the program from multiple perspectives and effective problem-solving. The meetings should be frequent so that issues can be resolved quickly.

Vancouver Community College is currently developing a model for curriculum sharing across institutions. This project will create and evaluate a common partnership agreement and a repository of program resources. If successful, these resources should reduce the need to establish bi-lateral agreements and it should streamline the collaboration process between B.C. post-secondary institutions.

What Are the Challenges of Collaborating on a Micro-credential?

While there are many benefits to developing a micro-credential in partnership with another institution, it can be challenging to do so. Working with a partner adds layers of complexity and requires extensive communication between partners. Here are some of the challenges that must be addressed in the collaboration:

  • Securing adequate funding. Creating a new micro-credential can be costly and institutions should work together to secure adequate funding for program development. The partners should clarify their expectations for the division of funds between them if successful with their application.
  • Coordinating administrative procedures. For the new program to be successful, it is necessary to coordinate the administrative procedures of each institution involved. Notably, some of the logistical processes that will need to be addressed include:
    • How do learners register for the program?  For instance, can they register using the website of one of the institutions or both institutions? Are the courses listed under one institution, and learners need to use both institutions’ registration websites to register for all courses, or is there a new website created specifically for this program’s registration?
    • How will tuition fees be collected and distributed between institutions?
    • Which institution can claim the registrations as part of their full-time equivalency (FTE) reporting?
    • How are costs and revenues shared between the partners? How are the funds transferred between institutions? Who monitors and has authority over the program budget?
    • How do institutions share risks and liabilities (e.g., in the event that a course must be canceled)?
    • How is the micro-credential approved by each institution?

    See Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector: UBCV and BCIT’s Collaboration to Offer Curriculum Not Possible at One Institution  for an example of how two institutions navigated these decisions.

  • Maintaining consistent standards of quality. Two institutions collaborating to create a new micro-credential must ensure that their standards of quality are compatible and that the program meets the same level of excellence across both institutions.
  • Developing a unified curriculum. The curriculum for the micro-credential must be coordinated across both institutions so that learners can achieve the program’s learning outcomes or competencies. This will require extensive conversations to ensure that the curriculum is well articulated across courses or components. The partners should also agree on a consistent method for evaluating the courses across institutions. There may be some challenges if the two institutions use different learning management systems. Learners may need to become proficient at using both technology ecosystems, and require support to do so.
  • Credentialing. There should be a conversation about which institution will issue the credential upon successful completion of the program. Monitoring completion of the micro-credential requires coordination across the registration systems of both institutions if learners registered for courses at both schools. Each institution may use different digital badging systems and their compatibilities must be examined. Some digital badge systems may only be able to issue a badge from a single institution. Solutions will need to be developed to address these concerns.

Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector

CETABC’s Collaboration Across Four Institutions to Develop Harmonized Curriculum

The Continuing Education and Training Association of British Columbia (CETABC) brings together 15 colleges and universities across the province. Representatives from member institutions’ continuing education and contract training unit meet several times a year, share knowledge and expertise, and collaborate to address workforce training needs across the province. Here, CETABC president Claire Sauvé (associate director of continuing studies at Vancouver Community College (VCC)) and Nancy Hamilton (manager of continuing education and contract services at Vancouver Island University (VIU)) describe a collaboration of four CETABC institutions to develop a uniform curriculum for building service workers across the province (the program is now offered at VCC, VIU, Okanagan College, University of the Fraser Valley, Selkirk College, North Island College, Camosun College, and Coast Mountain College).


What motivated CETABC to collaborate on the development of the building service workers program?

Sauvé: “It was a combination of factors. Each of our institutions already offered building service worker training, some of which was proprietary curriculum. We had heard from employers that they wanted a harmonized curriculum across the province. With each institution having its own curriculum, which covered different competencies and varied in length and scope, it was difficult for employers to interpret the credential. When prospective employees applied for a position, it was unclear what skill they had, because it varied based on where they were trained. There was a need to create a uniform curriculum across the province.”

Hamilton: “There was another driver as well, which was the COVID pandemic. That required new knowledge about how to clean safely and about how to disinfect appropriately. It was the right time to update the curriculum, to keep everyone safer, including the workers.”

Sauvé: “Our desire to work together also came from our long history of collaborating. CETABC’s mandate is to support such dialogues and collaborations. We meet regularly so we know each other well. We have developed our own funding to support inter-institutional collaborations, where we identify a training or research need, work together on a gap analysis or to develop curriculum, and then anyone in the association can access the research and use the curriculum. We also respond to outside calls for funding together. We all operate on a cost recovery model, and I think that also helps, because we understand each other’s business context and we share values, for example wanting to keep the cost of training as accessible as possible for learners. That history of knowing how to collaborate with each other, the trust that comes with it, and the similarity in vision and goals across members, were key to the success of this collaboration.”

How did the partnership work in practice?

Sauvé: “One institution steps up to be the lead. This is usually based on interest and whoever has the capacity to support the collaboration. In our case, one institution initially took the lead and put together a funding proposal — which was eventually successful. However, they had to step back when it was time to implement it. That’s when VIU found that they had available resources — staff time — to lead the charge and coordinate the project.”

Hamilton: “We started with a project charter to clarify every team member’s role and responsibilities. We met weekly. Each institution contributed subject matter experts to engage in a conversation about the competencies that are essential for a building service worker. We used the Developing a Curriculum (DACUM) approach to identify the competencies needed in the workplace. There were a lot of tough conversations during those discussions, because we had to identify what are core competencies, from what are not, and participants’ views were influenced by their experience of their institution’s curriculum.

“We used consensus-based decision making. If someone could not make a meeting, it didn’t mean that they did not have something to contribute to the meeting’s conversation. It’s important to provide multiple forms of engagement and opportunities to contribute (for example, having meeting minutes and allowing people who missed the meeting to add their input) to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.

“The funding for this program was used to support a project manager, to compensate the time of the subject matter experts, and to produce some of the instructional materials.”

What are the outcomes of this collaboration?

Sauvé: “We now have a harmonized curriculum, and a harmonized name for the curriculum, across institutions in the province. That way, employers recognize the credential and know what it contains. The curriculum has also been updated to include COVID cleaning protocols. The deliverables include lesson plans, SCORM files that can be uploaded into any learning management system for online delivery, and even professionally produced videos to deliver some content. The curriculum is for an online course. Any CETABC member can access this curriculum, free of charge. They can then offer the program independently, collecting registrations and tuition, and hiring instructors, on their own.

“Developing a curriculum from scratch, including all of the learning materials, is resource intensive. Before, we were duplicating efforts across the province. Also, some institutions didn’t have the resources to develop their own, so they licensed it from other institutions who had a curriculum. With this collaboration, we have a harmonized curriculum, that is of high quality, that every member has access to without any licensing fee, and we combined our efforts to create it so there is no duplication. The funds were necessary to make it happen, but in return the province gained an economy of scale.”

Hamilton: “We wanted to encourage institutions to differentiate themselves and to respond to local needs — for example, specializing in cleaning protocols for a particular industry like hospitals — and we agreed that this would be called Level 2 of the building worker training. Level 1 gives participants the core skills and are uniform across the province, and Level 2 is specialized and each institution can create its own.”

What’s next for this collaboration?

Hamilton: “We would like learners to be able to transfer between institutions – to take the Level 1 course at one institution, and then go take Level 2 at another institution if that institution is closer to them geographically or perhaps if it offers a specialization they need. We haven’t worked out this sort of transfer agreement yet. It would be easy to do with digital badges. However, it hasn’t been done yet. That’s the next step.”

Top Tips from CETABC’s Experience

  1. Build on existing relationships. CETABC’s mission and activities means that member institutions (schools of continuing education and contract training across the province) routinely work together. Working together is hard, since each institution has different priorities and processes. Prior experience of working together and knowing each other facilitates inter-institutional collaboration to ensure its success.
  2. Foster trust. Foster a culture of trust, where everyone’s voice is valued (even when they miss a meeting!), and where tough but productive conversations can occur. People coming together from across institutions will have different ways of operating and different perspectives about how to do things. The team leader should ensure that everyone stays focused on the shared goal, commitment, and values.
  3. Hire a project manager. Coordinating multiple team members across institutions is challenging. Have a dedicated project manager who can communicate with everyone and remind them of action items and deadlines.
  4. Follow the DACUM process. Use someone with knowledge of competency-based education, and of the DACUM process in particular, to guide the conversations with all subject matter experts. This curriculum design strategy was created to facilitate the input of several stakeholders.
  5. Provide means for institutions to specialize. Even when building harmonized training across the province, each institution will need to respond to local needs and opportunities. Therefore, when developing harmonized or shared curriculum, build ways in which each institution can integrate its own area of specialization into the curriculum.

UBCV and BCIT’s Collaboration to Offer Curriculum Not Possible at One Institution

Anubhav Pratap-Singh is an assistant professor of food processing in the faculty of land and food systems at the University of British Columbia Vancouver campus (UBCV), where he holds the Endowed Professorship in Food and Beverage Innovation. He initiated a collaboration with the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) to offer the Micro-certificate in Food Safety Management. By January 2023, the program had been delivered successfully to two cohorts, with plans to expand the program. Below, Pratap-Singh describes his experience of partnering with another institution to provide such programming.


Tell us about the structure of the micro-certificate in food safety management.

“To earn the micro-certificate, learners must complete four online courses. Three are mandatory and one is an elective.

“Of the three mandatory courses, two are offered through UBCV and one is offered at BCIT. With this structure, all learners are exposed to the approaches and expertise of instructors at each institution.

“The elective course gives learners the opportunity to pursue a topic of interest in more depth. Each institution currently offers one course, with plans to develop more offerings in the future.”

Why did you decide to collaborate with BCIT to offer this program?

“A few years ago, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Food conducted a survey with food industry employers to learn about their challenges and labour market gaps. BCIT and UBCV were both involved in collecting the data. Two findings from that report motivated the decision to move ahead with this micro-certificate. First, the B.C. food industry felt that there was a gap in food safety management training. Second, they brought up the impact of geographical barriers to educating their workforce. This is one of the biggest problems in Canada generally, but it is particularly acute in agriculture and food production because they take place in rural areas whereas post-secondary institutions tend to be in urban regions. The food production sites are also decentralized, so there isn’t one easily identified region where we could offer training that would address this issue across the province.

“BCIT and UBCV are the only two institutions that have expertise in food safety. We each have our own niche area of expertise. UBCV is more academic and global in its outlook; while BCIT is very well connected in the province — they already work with employers and are familiar with the provincial regulations that regulate practice in B.C.

“There were already connections between the two institutions. For example, some instructors teach in both institutions. But this was going to be a new type of relationship. I reached out to BCIT to inquire about their interest in collaborating on a micro-certificate and there was interest. I then applied for seed funding to develop the courses. We received the funding as part of the province’s pilot micro-credentials funding call. Since the funding was meant to support the development of new courses, we split the funds between the institutions in a proportion that matched the number of new courses offered by each.”

How did you implement the collaboration?

“We decided to keep things as simple as possible. Each institution has its own policies and procedures for putting together a new program. For example, each has its own approval processes. We decided to create a program structure that exposed learners to the two institutions’ expertise and approaches, while minimizing the administrative overlap. BCIT handled their own student registrations, scheduling, hiring of instructors, and course delivery, and we did the same on our end.

“Of course, this doesn’t take care of everything. There needs to be constant communication between the two institutions to ensure a smooth, integrated program. For this we created a small working group of about five people that met bi-weekly. It was composed of individuals from each institution, including faculty and members from the teaching and learning centre of each institution. We solved problems together as they arose. For example, learners started to report that one core course didn’t prepare them adequately to take the next course at the other institution. We had to investigate the curriculum and ensure that the two courses coordinated more smoothly. Another example is that each institution used a different badging system to recognize the completion of each course, and we had to devise a solution to ensure that when learners complete the program, they are granted the micro-certificate.

“Before this work began, we signed a service agreement contract. This is an important step because it gives both parties clarity about their roles, obligations, and how the funds will be allocated between them. This is where we clarified that each institution would be responsible for the costs of their own courses. It also addressed whether we intend the program to renew. In ours, we have an auto-renew clause that basically says that the service agreement is extended in perpetuity, so that we can continue to offer the program to more cohorts each year, until one of the two parties gives notice that they want a change. This is a legal agreement. It’s important to set it in place, because let’s say one of the coordinators cannot devote time to the program one year, unless that agreement is in place, the program could fall apart. Having a legal agreement means that it has been reviewed and supported by administrators at each institution and that provides a measure of stability and sustainability.”

What are some of the benefits of this partnership?

“There are several. First, it gives our learners exposure and knowledge to a range of specializations and expertise that neither institution would be able to offer alone. It created something new that benefits learners.

“I think students also appreciate obtaining the recognition from both institutions. There is a certain cachet to having a credential from both UBCV and BCIT. Each one carries different values and connotations about what the learner can do. That’s valuable.

“The fact that we created an online program also responded to the need expressed by the food industry and made the learning accessible across the province.”

What were/are some of the challenges of offering a program through multiple institutions?

“One challenge is that there were no policies or guides helping us move ahead. No one had done this before. We had to figure this out for ourselves. At UBCV, we didn’t even have a policy governing micro-credentials, though one is coming, and that should help in the future. For example, this work is currently not recognized as part of my teaching load as a faculty at UBCV. I take on the work because I believe in it, but the system is not set up for it. The newness of it all, and the lack of systems and policy to support it, makes it harder to do.

“Engaging in inter-institutional collaboration is not easy. Our systems are not built with a lot of incentives to make it happen. Without the B.C. Ministry of Post-secondary Education and Future Skills micro-credential funding, this partnership would not be possible. If, as a community, we decide that we value this, it will be important to create funding opportunities that incentivizes it (i.e., micro-credential funding that make inter-institutional collaborations a criterion for applications).”

Top Tips from UBCV’s Experience

  1. Identify the unique expertise of each institution. If two institutions have similar specializations, there may not be significant benefit in collaborating on a new program. The key is to identify a partner with a related but distinct area of expertise. That way you can combine your knowledge and unique approaches to create something new that neither institution could offer alone.
  2. Ensure there is a champion at each institution. Whenever you create something new, there will be procedural hoops to jump through. In a program involving two institutions, you need someone who can navigate the policies and procedures of each institution’s systems. For this reason, you need a champion at each institution who is committed to the program’s success.
  3. Hold frequent meetings. Unanticipated issues will arise during the delivery of a new program. It is critical to have a forum to address these issues with representatives from both institutions. In the UBCV-BCIT partnership, they held a meeting every two weeks, a frequency that was effective for them given that their courses are each four weeks long.
  4. Have an agreement in place. Once both partners agree to a partnership to offer a new program, it’s time to formalize that agreement with a signed contract. This will ensure that both institutions are clear about their roles and responsibilities, and that the parameters of the partnership are understood by both parties.
  5. Keep it simple. Collaborating across institutional boundaries presents some challenges. However, there are ways to improve and streamline the process. For example, you might decide to create one registration system for learners in the program rather than sending them to each institution to register for each course. However, implementing such a system is not without its challenges. It raises many questions, such as how to distribute the tuition to each institution, how to count student registrations, who administers the system, etc. This will require bridging institutional policies, which will take time and may impede the core objective of educating learners. To overcome this, try adopting a rapid prototyping approach. Create something that works. Offer it. Then iterate and improve.

BCIT’s Collaboration with UNBC to Access Funding and Enhance Programming

Eric Saczuk is the head of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS; also known as drones) operations at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). He developed and launched the micro-credential Introduction to Forest Health Quantification with RPAS, now in its third offering, as well as several related programs that use drones for remote sensing. Below, he describes how a collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) was instrumental in moving the initial micro-credential forward.


What sparked the development of this micro-credential?

“The idea for this micro-credential came out of a Mitacs-funded research project between BCIT and Stinson Aerial Services Inc. This company had recently consulted with the Huu-ay-aht First Nations on Vancouver Island. The Huu-ay-aht First Nations had just acquired a 51 per cent share of a local timber forestry licence , and they were looking at different technologies and tools to manage their land’s resources. Drones are a great way to do that. Stinson connected BCIT and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations and this made us aware of a need for training.

“When the opportunity to develop a micro-credential came up, it was a perfect fit. The past conversations between BCIT and the Huu-ay-aht First Nations had identified a training need: How to operate this equipment, extract data from it, and analyze it to manage their forest resources. When it comes to giving people in-demand, employable skills, RPAS operation is a no-brainer. The first offering of this micro-credential had 12 seats assigned to the Huu-ay-aht First Nations and we filled them all.

“We explored the best format for the program. We settled on each course taking place over three weekday mornings online, followed by Saturday in-person in Port Alberni doing hands-on training with the drones. The micro-credential consists of four of these courses.”

Why did you partner with another post-secondary institution to offer this training?

“We had two sources of funding for this micro-credential. One of them was from the Cascadia Innovation Corridor, which is an organization that promotes the economic development of the Pacific Northwest. BCIT is a member organization. The application criterion for the funding required a collaboration with at least one other member of the consortium. By reaching out to colleagues across forestry departments at several institutions, I determined that UNBC was the best fit in terms of talent, willingness to collaborate on this project, and timing.

“BCIT led the partnership, and the program was offered through BCIT (i.e., students registered through BCIT and earned a BCIT credential). UNBC collaborated on the development and offering of the curriculum.

“The discussion between institutions was eye opening. We learned about structural differences in the job description of faculty at each institution. While building in funding for the faculty to conduct research and collect data was an incentive to participate in this project at BCIT, it was not for UNBC faculty because that is already a part of their job description. We had to find other incentives and ways to compensate for the work of members of the UNBC forestry department on the project.

“The solution was to hire a UNBC graduate student to contribute his expertise. He traveled to Port Alberni to teach the hands-on portion of the program for two out of the four Saturdays. He created the content and graded the assignments related to those two sessions. This allowed us to contribute and combine our different expertise in the development and delivery of the micro-credential. It also allowed us to spread the travel and workload between instructors and made the program easier to offer. Students seeing institutions work with each other is beneficial as well.”

To what do you attribute the success of the collaboration with UNBC?

“We signed an agreement between the two institutions to ensure that the funds were distributed equitably. It also clarified the roles and expectations for each partner in the development and offering of the program.

“The two institutions enjoyed great communication and a willingness to be flexible in the collaboration to make it happen. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.

“There is no real framework in place for these kinds of collaborations, so we took a ‘make-it-up-as-you-go-along’ approach, which of course has its challenges. Just trying to set up the agreements and establish a structure for ‘who’s doing what and when’ takes time and a lot of open communication.”

Would you do it again?

“Absolutely! The opportunity to collaborate across institutional boundaries is not the type of thing that happens on a regular basis. Academia is inherently siloed, and we have a tendency to keep to ourselves, simply because it’s easier that way. However, there is so much to learn from these types of partnerships that I can honestly say that all the effort we invested to make it happen was worth it.”

Suggested Resources

Systems Thinking

In this provocative article, the authors argue that in this challenging environment, post-secondary institutions should take a systems approach to their mission rather than trying to maximize their own operation. Operating “for the good of the B.S. post-secondary system” maximizes efficiencies and facilitates a collaborative, rather than competitive, mindset.

Minassians, H. P., & Roy, R. (2017). Meeting the complex challenges facing public higher education will require moving from silos to systems. The Evolllution.

This article explores why the University of Nebraska Online Worldwide — an online aggregator of courses offered by several institutions within the University of Nebraska system – has been a successful example of post-secondary institutions working together to offer programming.

Niemiec, M., Keel, L., & Barber, M. (2015).  Collaboration critical for system-level online aggregators. The Evolllution.

Partnership Development

This article presents a model for successful educational partnerships that includes five elements: commitment to partnerships, curriculum and learning, quality and risk management, geographic and economic setting, and change management.

Chou, D. C. (2012). Building a successful partnership in higher education institutions. International Journal of Information Systems and Change Management, 6(1), 84–97.

This article promotes the value of planning before two institutions engage in a partnership. The instructions for the plan could be used in the development of a partnership agreement. The article also provides questions that could be used to assess the success of the partnership as the project progresses.

Hilliard, A. (2012). Sharing resources: Benefits of university partnerships to improve teaching, learning, and research. Journal of International Education Research, 8(1), 63–70.

Works Cited

McGreal, R., Mackintosh, W., Cox, G., & Olcott, D. (2022). Bridging the gap: Micro-credentials for development. UNESCO Chairs Policy Brief Form — Under the III World Higher Education Conference (WHEC 2021) Type: Collective X. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 23(3), 288–302.


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BCcampus Micro-credential Toolkit for B.C. Copyright © by Annie Prud'homme-Généreux is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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