Quality Assurance

Micro-credentials must be trusted – by prospective learners, employers and the community, other institutions, and accreditors/governments – in order to have value. This chapter provides a primer in ways to build that trust through the development of transparent standards of quality.

Chapter Audience:

  • administrator icon Administrators

What Is Quality Assurance?

Quality assurance refers to the systematic processes, policies, and procedures that are put in place to ensure that an institution’s programs meet or exceed established standards. It is an evaluative activity that applies to program approval, program review, and even organizational review. It aims to maintain excellence in program offerings. Quality assurance protects and maintains the reputation of the institution with learners, other institutions, employers, and other stakeholders by committing to a set of transparent criteria that all of the institution’s offerings must meet or exceed. The process is formal, its outcomes are public, and it serves to build trust in the institution’s offerings.

Why Develop a Quality Assurance Process for Micro-credentials?

There are many reasons to develop and implement a quality assurance framework for micro-credentials. At its core, quality assurance ensures that micro-credential learners receive high-quality training that prepares them for work. Quality assurance also ensures consistency across all micro-credential offerings at an institution.

Quality assurance is a component of the Micro-credential Framework for B.C. Public Post-secondary Education System (2021) (2021):

Quality Assurance

Micro-credentials will be developed, approved and periodically reviewed, through an institutional process that aligns with existing post-secondary standards and policies, for credit and non-credit offerings, to ensure value to learners in meeting education or employment goals.

In addition, in British Columbia, all credit-based credentials should be regularly reviewed as part of the institution’s internal quality assurance processes for program quality (i.e., Quality Assurance Process Audit (QAPA)).

Who Is Quality Assurance For?

Quality assurance serves many stakeholders. Each one values that institutions have quality assurance processes for different reasons.

For learners, the fact that institutions engage in quality assurance means peace of mind. An institution that has a quality assurance process for its micro-credential programs is signalling that it cares about the coherence, rigour, and value of its programs.

For other institutions (that may receive the learner as they continue their educational journey), quality assurance provides information about the standards that the institution sets for all of its offerings. It provides reassurance about the merits of any program offered by that institution.

For employers, community and professional organizations, and government or accreditors, it’s a way to provide transparency about what an institution values in its programs. It’s a way to generate trust in the institution’s credentials.

An institution that puts in place a quality assurance process is signalling that it cares about the quality of its offering and, in so doing, it maintains a reputation for excellence in offering micro-credentials. Thus, quality assurance is also for the institution itself.

While all stakeholders value quality assurance, each might define micro-credential quality in slightly different ways. Arcolin & Elias (2002) have identified key performance indicators for micro-credential quality for different stakeholders. Below are markers of quality for each group.

Learners are looking for the following markers of quality in a program:

  • Affordable program;
  • Short-term (achievable) length of the program;
  • Ability to progress in one’s career; upskill and/or retool; change career trajectory; or get a new or different job – in essence, they want concrete professional growth;
  • Higher wages;
  • Understanding of how to apply the target skills;
  • Relevance of the assessments to work environment;
  • Recognition of target skills by employers;
  • Gain more confidence in career path and future;
  • Confidence to continue engaging in post-secondary education;
  • Authentic alignment of the learning objectives and outcomes.

Employers assess quality using the following criteria:

  • Meet a specific workplace need that directly support industry job roles and job descriptions that are in demand;
  • Recruit skilled workforce;
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy for recruitment;
  • Retain and reskill/upskill current employees;
  • Career pathways.

Instructors/faculty look for the following as indicators of a good program:

  • Engagement of learners into the program;
  • Evidence of learning;
  • Authentic assessments;
  • Retention of learners into the program;
  • Completion rate of the program;
  • On-ramps to other educational opportunities;
  • Off-ramps to employment;
  • Stackable educational and career pathways;
  • Curricular alignment to employment;
  • Career-readiness;
  • Industry engagement and involvement of advisory committee.

Administrators who oversee micro-credentials at their institution are looking for the following factors:

  • Meeting a specific workforce development need;
  • Learner success, in the program and beyond it;
  • Enrollment rate (i.e., how much demand is there for the program?);
  • Retention of learners into the program once they register in it;
  • Completion rate;
  • Revenues generated from the program;
  • Whether the marketing is effective (e.g., is the program digitally discoverable?)
  • Portability of the credential for learners;
  • Value to the learner;
  • Validation by employers;
  • Equity opportunities for learners;
  • Community engagement;
  • Compliance with accessibility best practices, policies, or legislations;
  • Quality of learning experience (teaching, materials, etc.).

An accreditor or government agency charged with overseeing micro-credential might be concerned with the following indicators of program success:

Institutions should consider the perspectives of each of these stakeholders when developing quality assurance standards for micro-credential programs.

How Are Quality Assurance Processes Developed?

Each institution develops policies and procedures to ensure the quality of its micro-credential offerings. These vary based on the institutional context, its mission and priorities, its governance processes, and its existing systems.

Quality Assurance for Micro-credentials vs Other Credentials

It may be the case that your institution’s existing quality assurance processes can be used to review and approve micro-credentials. For example, see Capilano University’s Use of Existing Policies to Approve Micro-credentials in the chapter Institutional Governance: Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector.

Micro-credentials are often developed and launched rapidly to respond to evolving workplace need or to leverage a funding opportunity. In recognition of this need for nimbleness, some institutions have developed a rigorous but expedited review and approval pathway for new micro-credentials. For an example, see BCIT’s Expedited Process to Review Micro-credentials in the textbox below.

Many institutions have separate quality assurance processes guiding the review of credit-bearing and non-credit-bearing programs. Ask yourself whether the two types of micro-credentials can or should be assessed by the same processes. This will likely depend on your institution’s existing systems.

Focus on Outcomes

Micro-credentials may be substantially different to the suite of credentials that your institution offers and therefore require distinct quality assurance processes. Indeed, a recurring theme across several micro-credential quality frameworks is the need to focus on outcomes (Liu, 2020; Moodie & Wheelahan, 2022; Taylor & Soares, 2020). This contrasts to the focus on inputs that is used to assess the quality of traditional credentials in higher education.

For example, program design (learning outcomes, assessments, and learning activities) is a staple indicator of degree quality. This input is likely to also be a marker of quality for micro-credentials. However, given the work-alignment nature of micro-credentials, it may be most useful to evaluate the quality of the program based on its results rather than its inputs. For example, were graduates able to find jobs once they earned the micro-credential? Were their employers satisfied with their level of ability? Was the micro-credential accepted by another institution as a basis for further training?

Assess the Entire Life Cycle of the Micro-credential

The quality of a micro-credential depends on applying good practices and meeting quality standards at all stages of the micro-credential’s creation and implementation. For example, a micro-credential that failed to conduct a proper needs assessment or environmental scan may be well designed from a learning perspective but may not be of high quality since it does not address a need of learners or employers.

Arcolin & Elias (2022) propose indicators that can be used to assess the quality of a micro-credential across its life cycle. At each stage, different data provide that insight. Accordingly, look for the following indicators of quality across a micro-credential’s lifecycle.

At the Analysis phase of program development (i.e., ideation, team formation, and feasibility), a quality program will consider:

  • The alignment of the program with the institution’s or department’s goals and/or mission;
  • Whether an institution or department has the capacity to offer the program (this includes an analysis of personnel capacity, financial resources, competing demands, etc.);
  • Feasibility analysis (needs assessment and environmental scan), to ensure that there is a market for the program;
  • A SWOT analysis (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to ensure that relevant aspects of developing and offering this new program are considered;
  • Analysis of skills gap, to ensure that the proper skills are targeted by the program (rather than make assumptions that could miss the mark);
  • Assessment of the technology needs to offer the program.

During the Design and Development phases, the following should be monitored in a quality program:

  • Stakeholder involvement, engagement, and buy-in;
  • Contributions from both the institution and employers to the design of the program and its assessments and standards.

After the program is Launched and Implemented, the following can be used to assess quality:

  • Time-to-market of the program (from ideation to offering – an indicator of the institution’s responsiveness and efficiency);
  • Identification and use of a minimally viable product, to ensure a focus on core aspects of the training;
  • Number and follow through of marketing leads generated through the program’s marketing tactics;
  • Number of enrollments;
  • Alignment to industry and to employment/jobs;
  • Transparency, validation, recognition, and reward of learner skills.

Finally, at the Evaluation stage, the following markers of quality can be used:

  • Surveys of learner’s expectations, experiences, perspectives, and outcomes;
  • Learner completion rate;
  • Learner outcomes from completing the micro-credentials, such as average increase in pay, percentage of learners who found a job in the field, number who received a promotion, etc.;
  • Revenues generated by the program;
  • How and where learners share their micro-credential (i.e., is their digital badge shared on LinkedIn?)
  • Whether employers modify and integrate their recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion processes to include the micro-credential training;
  • Iterative improvement of the program over its successive offerings.

The key is not to develop a micro-credential quality assurance process that touches on these exact standards, but rather to consider whether your institution’s quality assurance standards assess different stages in the development of a micro-credential, not just its final product.

Consider What Stakeholders Want to Know

As you develop a quality assurance framework for your institution, ask yourself what information a stakeholder of this program (e.g., prospective learners, employers, other institutions accepting the micro-credential, government agencies, etc.) would need in order to understand what the learner has done to earn the credential. What might convince them of the program’s validity, merit, and value?

The above section Who Is Quality Assurance For provided suggestions for including quality assessment standards that different stakeholders might value.

Also consider the following questions:

  • How can you make the process as transparent as possible?
  • How can you ensure communication with all stakeholders?
  • How can you encourage that micro-credentials don’t just meet the standards, but aim to exceed them in some areas? For example, do you want to provide examples of different levels of achievement for each criterion, like in a rubric?

Micro-credentials are different to many other types of credentials by virtue of their alignment with the world of work. Ask yourself if there is a place for employer endorsement in the quality assurance process.

Guiding Principles

Usually, a quality assurance policy includes guiding principles for quality assessment of the credential. To inspire ideas about what principles may become part of your institution’s policy, take a look at O’Leary et al.’s (2022) article. These authors propose a set of eight principles for quality frameworks for micro-credentials in the post-secondary sector. They advise that the quality assurance process encompass the following features:

  • Academic and learner-centred (the programs are academically rigorous and offer value for learners);
  • Academic freedom and accountability (micro-credentials are evaluated using the methods of academia and include peer review to assess quality);
  • Quality culture (institution commits to continual improvement – quality assessment is not a once-and-done process);
  • Informed practice (informed by the interests of internal and external stakeholders);
  • Proportional implementation (the creation and administration of micro-credentials should be proportional to the volume of learning);
  • Comprehensive and publicly accountable (all processes for assessing quality should be available to the public);
  • Measurement, reporting, and academic governance (the institution collects data about the outcome of its programs and learners, and uses that data to improve its offerings);
  • Consistent with policy and international effective practice (the policies and processes are aligned with others at the institution and follow quality assurance best practices in higher education).

Following wide-spread consultation with employers and the public in Ontario, the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) developed a set of recommendations for setting up a quality assurance framework for micro-credentials (Pichette et al., 2021) including the proposed principles shown in Figure 1. Though not captured in the figure, the authors note the importance of transparency throughout the entire process.

Figure 1. HEQCO’s guiding principles for developing a quality assurance framework (Pichette et al., 2021, reproduced with permission). [Image description]

Quality Assurance Procedure

A quality assurance procedure provides a set of criteria (and accompanying standards) against which all the institution’s programs are evaluated before they are approved and can be offered. These standards should also be used when the program is periodically reviewed after its approval.

The procedure should provide details about who is involved, what their roles are, when they conduct the work, in what context (e.g., as part of senate curriculum committee work), how the approval of new programs takes place (e.g., submitting specific forms to an approving body), and how frequently programs are reviewed to ensure they continue to meet the quality standards. As an example, Carleton University’s procedure for the review and approval of new micro-credentials is available online (Carleton University, 2022).

Stories from the B.C. Post-secondary Sector

BCIT’s Expedited Process to Review Micro-credentials

The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) has a well-developed quality assurance process. Each school is responsible for setting up its own School Quality Committee (SQC) that reviews and approves new and existing programs. Laurie Therrien is the manager of corporate training and industry services in the school of construction and the environment. She describes how micro-credentials undergo an expedited review process compared to larger credentials.


What are the steps to approve a micro-credential at BCIT?

“Like other educational institutions, the ‘higher’ the credential, the more stakeholders are consulted in the program approval process. Our micro-credentials go through a rigorous approval process, but it is fairly ‘agile.’ I smiled as I used that term because the proposal goes to the ‘agile quality committee’ that has a special interest in micro-credentials and badges. What happens is that the proposal is created, the dean signs off on it, it goes to the agile quality committee, and then the dean presents it at a deans’ council. So, in the end, micro-credentials go through a formal approval process, but it’s pretty simple.”

Quality Assurance Checklist

Quality is the result of considered and continuously improved policies and procedures impacting activities across an institution. The elements below, adapted from the eCampusOntario Micro-credential Toolkit, are frequently identified in quality systems; however, they can be arranged differently, with greater or lesser emphasis placed on individual components. The elements are organized into four main categories. The first two are inputs, and the last suggests ideas for outcomes.

Program Design

  1. Alignment
  2. Credential design
  3. Course design
  4. Learner perspectives
  5. Employer perspectives
  6. Delivery
  7. Recognition of learning


  1. Instructor preparedness
  2. Technology infrastructure
  3. Equipment and facilities
  4. Learner support
  5. Administrative support


  1. Transparency of the process
  2. Evaluation and continuous improvement


  1. Satisfaction
  2. Completion
  3. Employment outcomes
  4. Pursuit of further education
  5. Credibility and reputation

Below, these items are described in more details, including areas to consider as you build and refine youfr quality assurance system for micro-credentials.

1. Alignment

The first element to consider in evaluating the quality of a micro-credential is its alignment to the institution’s missions, priorities, and other programs. Some questions to consider include:

  • Does the micro-credential align with the institution’s mission and values?
  • Does it support the institution’s strategic goals?
  • Does it duplicate existing offerings?
  • Does it complement existing programs at your institution?
  • Is your institution the right one to offer this micro-credential?
  • Are similar programs offered by other institutions that might be better positioned to offer it?

2. Credential Design

The next thing to consider is the structure of the credential. This means examining the components that make up the credential (e.g., the coordination of its courses), the level at which it is pitched, its prerequisites, and its educational pathways.

Curriculum mapping / development of competencies

When a program is composed of several courses or modules, each one tends to be developed in turn. It is therefore important to undertake a curriculum or competency mapping exercise to ensure that learners will achieve all of the learning outcomes or competencies by the end of the program, and that learners gradually develop greater mastery as they progress through the program. For this reason, several quality assurance processes require that a program proposal include a curriculum map.

A curriculum map shows the alignment between the program-level learning outcomes or competencies and the contents of each course. It usually also captures the level of competency or learning outcome achieved in each course – represented as introduced (I), reinforced (R), mastering (M); or novice, developing, and mastery; or similar terms showing the gradual development of skills.

The curriculum map is typically visualized as a table. Table 1 shows an example. A way to think of it is as a skills matrix for the micro-credential. The Suggested Resources section provides additional resources to create your own, including a digital tool freely available to B.C. institutions.

Table 1. Sample curriculum map.
Micro-credential competencies Course 1 Course 2 Course 3 Course 4 Course5
Competency 1 Novice Developing Mastery Mastery
Competency 2 Novice Developing Mastery
Competency 3 Novice Developing Mastery
Competency 4 Novice Developing Mastery
Competency 5 Novice Developing

Note: The use of colour is optional but can help to quickly assess the progression and achievement of the micro-credential’s competencies or learning outcomes. Some curriculum maps switch the placement of the rows and columns and put the competencies/learning outcomes along the top row and the courses that make up the program in the rows below it.

Some questions to ask yourself as you review a curriculum map:

  • Do the first courses in the course sequence require that learners have prior competencies as they begin this program? Is this captured in the program’s prerequisites?
  • Are there competencies or learning outcomes that a course should cover that it does not?
  • Are there competencies or learning outcomes that a course covers that it should not and would best be placed in another course?
  • Are all of the micro-credential competencies or learning outcomes addressed through the completion of this set of courses?
  • Does the sequencing of courses make sense, i.e., does it help learners build on the skills they developed in previous courses? Can the learner gradually develop their competencies as they progress through the program?
  • Are all the micro-credential’s competencies acquired at the target level by the end of the program?


There are many ways to structure the learning in a micro-credential. The process for earning the micro-credential should be transparent to all individuals seeking to earn it. Some questions to consider:

  • Is the micro-credential composed of one course or several courses?
  • Can the courses be taken in any sequence, or must some be successfully completed before the next one is taken?
  • Do learners have any options, such as a choice between two electives to meet one requirement of the program?

Educational pathways

There are several elements that pertain to the micro-credential’s educational pathways:

  • Level targeted
  • Prerequisites
  • Stackable learning
  • Laddering opportunities

Level targeted

Ask yourself: Does the micro-credential target the correct level for this skill set? For example, is the program aimed at high school graduates? At mid-career professionals looking to update their existing expertise? At workers who want to pivot their skills toward a new industry? Based on this, is the appropriate level for this micro-credential undergraduate or post-graduate?


Will learners be required to have specific competencies or experience before they can enroll in the program? How will this be assessed? What can prospective learners do to acquire these requirements if they do not meet them?

Stackable learning

Is the credential comprised of smaller micro-credentials that can be combined to create a larger milestone credential?

Can the micro-credential be broken down into smaller components (i.e., micro-competencies) in order to make the learning more accessible and achievable for learners? In this way, learners who leave the program after achieving some but not all of the micro-credential’s competencies can still receive recognition for the ones they have attained (i.e., they do not leave empty-handed). This can be a source of motivation for some learners.

Do you offer related micro-credentials that have courses in common, thus making it easier for a learner to acquire the second micro-credential once they complete the first? For example, if a micro-credential in web design includes a course in fundamental design, WordPress, and search engine optimization; and a micro-credential in graphic design includes fundamental design, fonts, and colours, a learner can rapidly achieve a second micro-credential once they have completed the first because they have already completed one of the three required courses.

How does the stacking of smaller micro-credentials toward the milestone one work? Do learners simply complete the smaller ones and are automatically granted the larger one? Do they have to apply for the larger credential? Do they have to carry out additional tasks, e.g., assemble and submit a portfolio? Are policies and procedures about how to do this clearly communicated to learners?

Laddering opportunities

How will the micro-credential, or set of milestone credentials, ladder into other credentials? Are there opportunities to use this micro-credential as an entry requirement or as an “advanced placement” requirement (or a form of prior learning and assessment recognition) for larger programs like diplomas and degrees? Where is the micro-credential recognized for further learning? Are these opportunities for further learning well identified for learners, and is the process for using the micro-credential well explained?

Each micro-credential and the program it is intended to fit into should be mapped and communicated to demonstrate opportunities for continued training and to indicate the value of the program to learners.


What is a reasonable length of time to complete the micro-credential?

Competency-based education typically looks at time in a course differently to the traditional post-secondary method of measuring a credit hour (i.e., the Carnegie credit hour (McQuarrie, 2016)), which is based on time spent in the classroom or on a learning task. In competency-based education, some learners may spend a few minutes demonstrating that they can already do a skill and move on to the next unit, while others will devote hours or days acquiring that same skill. The unit of measurement is the competency, not seat time.

That said, learners need some indication of the length of time they should expect to devote to a program. It may be related to the average amount of time that a learner new to this competency will take to master it, or to a maximum amount of time that learners may take to complete a program at their own pace. Setting a time indicator for a program is also useful for administrative purposes, such as for planning and allocating resources (e.g., compensation for an instructor).

For these reasons, each micro-credential should have some indication of scope and time. As you evaluate a micro-credential, ask yourself:

  • For a learner who has not yet acquired these competencies, what is the average amount of time that they will need to master the competency?
  • Is this time reasonable, from the point of view of:
    • The time it takes to acquire this competency?
    • The schedule of a typical learner (e.g., if learners are expected to complete the program while holding a full-time job, will they have sufficient time to achieve these competencies on a part-time basis)?
    • Timelines that aren’t so long that the coherence of the program and the acquired competencies are likely to be lost or become out of date?

3. Course Design

The design of courses that make up a micro-credential should be clear, focused, and ensure explicit and reasoned coherence between the intended learning outcomes or competencies, the assessments, the strategies for learning, and the resources. This is likely to be the section of the checklist most familiar to those involved in the quality assurance of traditional academic courses.

Competencies/learning outcomes

The competencies or learning outcomes targeted by a micro-credential should be developed based on data and/or industry consultation. They should address the needs of employers and be mindful of learner requirements. They should also align with milestone competencies, pathways, and assessments (Duklas, 2020).


A micro-credential should provide learners with meaningful feedback on their progress and performance to help them improve. Ask yourself:

  • Are learners given sufficient opportunities to practice and to receive feedback before the formal assessment (i.e., does the course incorporate frequent formative assessment opportunities)?
  • Are multiple sources of feedback provided to learners as they practice?
  • Do these practice opportunities mimic the formal assessment task to a sufficient extent that mastering it will result in a successful outcome when doing the formal assessment?
  • Can learners determine when they have mastered a competency and are ready to take the formal assessment?

A micro-credential should also provide confirmation that the learner has achieved certain competencies to a defined standard. Stakeholders will be interested in how this was done as a measure of the trust they have in the micro-credential. For these summative evaluation methods, the assessment should be rigorous and fair. Ask yourself:

  • Are the assessment methods aligned with the learning outcomes or target competencies for the course?
  • Is the assessment fair for all learners?
  • Are there systems in place to accommodate learners with different abilities, such as for someone who is colour blind or for whom English is not a native language?
  • Does the assessment method authentically capture how the learner would use this competency in the workplace?
  • Is the assessment appropriate for the learners’ level of knowledge, skills, and competencies?
  • Are there different levels of achievement possible? Is this relevant to an employer? Will this be captured in the recognition of learning (e.g., the digital badge awarded upon successful completion of the program)?
  • Are the assessment methods transparent to a learner? Do learners know what is expected for a successful demonstration of competency?
  • Would an employer accept this assessment as an indication that the learner can perform the task in relevant workplace contexts?
  • Have you taken steps to ensure academic integrity, e.g., by verifying the identity of the learner?
  • How will the successful demonstration of the assessed skill be documented and archived?

Currency of content

The content of the micro-credential should be up-to-date, relevant, and engaging. In some industries, the contents can have an expiry date, so it is important to check with employers about the currency of the materials used in the program. Ask yourself:

  • Are the competencies timely?
  • Is the assessment of competencies valid only for a limited period of time? When will you need to reassess a learner to confirm they still have the competencies? When will industry have changed sufficiently that workers should retrain to update their knowledge?
  • Was an employer contacted to ensure that the materials are still relevant and up to date?

Nature of activities

The nature of the activities in a micro-credential program should match the program’s target competencies or learning outcomes. Ask yourself:

  • Are the selected resources at the appropriate level for the target learners?
  • Do the chosen activities align with the target competencies or learning outcomes?
    • Will they help learners achieve those aims?
    • For example, Roessger (2015) argues that in continuing professional development, reflection is suitable for communicative learning (learning a concept or learning “what”) but is not important in instrumental learning (learning “how” to do skills through task-oriented problem solving).
    • Consider whether it would be beneficial for learners to interact with other learners to exchange ideas and grow their understanding, or whether individual learning is more suitable.
  • If the micro-credential is aligned with workplace competencies, should there be a work-integrated learning component?
  • How will applied research or experiential learning opportunities be integrated into the program, as appropriate?
  • Should this program include simulations or serious games to replicate the work environment in which the skills will be used?
  • Are the learning materials, activities, and assignments authentic to the workplace application of that competency?
  • Do learners have opportunities to practice competencies in the same context as they will be assessed?
  • Do adult learners have choice and agency in what they learn and how they explore it?

Work-integrated learning and experiential learning opportunities, especially when simulated, require in-depth planning and organization. This should be initiated prior to the design of the program to expedite course development. If simulations or digital assets are required, the content should be developed so that it can be refined and built in conjunction with the design. Any simulations and digital assets must align with competencies or learning outcomes, and should be reviewed by employers to ensure their authenticity.


Consider the delivery format of the micro-credential in the assessment of its quality. The choice to deliver a program online, in person, or in a blended format should align with the learners and the aims of the course. Consider the following:

  • Do prospective learners have the digital literacy and/or access to appropriate technology and the internet to pursue online or blended learning?
  • Would this program be of interest to learners in remote areas who cannot travel to your institution?
  • Can the competencies or learning outcomes be mastered using online methods?
  • If so, what is the best way to help learners acquire these competencies? Would reading a text be appropriate for the learning outcome? Or would watching videos be more suitable? For example, reading text may be suitable in a leadership course, but may not be appropriate when learning to use a software.
  • Consider also how you will assess learners considering your chosen format. If learners are taking the course remotely, can they produce a short video of themselves as demonstration of their ability to do a skill? Must they be in person for this step? How will you validate their identity and ensure academic integrity? Will generative A.I. be a potential source of academic dishonesty to consider?


Access is one of the guiding principles of the Micro-credential Framework for B.C. Public Post-secondary Education System (2021).


Micro-credentials should increase access to post-secondary education and be accessible to a range of potential learners. They should provide flexibility, reduce barriers and increase opportunities for employment and life-long learning. Tuition and fees should align with the duration, skill level, learners targeted and expected outcomes of a micro-credential.

As you evaluate your program, ask yourself:

  • Will the cost of this program prohibit some learners from registering in it? What tuition support mechanisms may be put in place to support access for these learners?
  • Is the design of the program supportive of a range of learner abilities? For example, does it adopt Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices (Takacs et al., 2022)?
  • Will learners from a range of backgrounds and positionalities see themselves reflected in this program and feel included and welcomed?

4. Learner Perspective

Learner input in the design and approval of a micro-credential can ensure that the program meets the needs of learners where they are. As you evaluate a micro-credential, consider:

  • Is there a market for this micro-credential? Was research conducted to determine whether there are sufficient prospective learners to make this program viable? In other words, is there sufficient demand for this program?
  • Were prospective learners consulted to assess their needs, pain points, existing levels of competencies and knowledge, and goals for taking this training?
  • Has the situational context of prospective learners been investigated and taken into consideration in the format of the program. For example, will typical learners have full-time jobs? Can they travel for the course? Do they require support?
  • What are the expectations of prospective learners coming into this program? For example, what activities do they want to engage in to learn the competencies? Who do they value as instructors? What level of product polish do they expect?
  • Who do prospective learners view as competitors for your product? (This also provides information about their expectations since the program will be compared against this peer program.)
  • Once the program has been offered, has learner feedback on the program been collected and used in the improvement of the program?
  • Can learners who earn the credential easily find jobs? Does it help them secure employment?
  • Does the training help workers progress in their careers, pivot to new industries, get a promotion, or a pay raise?
  • Do learners who earned the micro-credential value the training once they are in the workforce? Does the program appear to align with how they perform these skills at work and is it relevant to what they do?

5. Employer Perspectives

Employer input is central in the creation of a micro-credential. Consulting with more than one employer can give greater insight into what is needed in a variety of workplaces.

Employer needs

Conversations with employers help to establish whether there is a demand for the skills and knowledge that the micro-credential provides in the job market. Ask the partner with whom you are collaborating:

  • Does the micro-credential target a set of skills or competencies that are challenging to find in applicants? Or, alternatively, has the institution conducted labour market research to investigate gaps in the competencies that employers want to hire?
  • Does the micro-credential have the potential to increase the pool of skilled applicants?
  • Is the institution the right one to offer this micro-credential? (Does it have the required resources, expertise, and reputation in this field and among employers?)

Employer consultation on program design

An employer’s advice and content review are essential to maintaining the quality of a micro-credential. The employer can provide valuable feedback on the accuracy of competencies/learning outcomes, the alignment of assessments to real-world practices, and the authenticity of content and activities.

  • Is the content of the program current and relevant for industry?
  • How long will it stay relevant? What is its lifespan?
  • Is the content accurate?
  • Will the activities engage learners in authentic practice?
  • Do the assessment methods mimic how the competency would be used in the workplace?
  • Will you recognize as competent and hire learners who have earned a micro-credential assessed using the stated methods? How much confidence will this micro-credential give you in their abilities?

Employment outcomes

Employers are the recipients of learners who earned a micro-credential and can therefore assess how learners use the skills and adapt them to new environments. Some questions to ask them include:

  • Are the employers who hired micro-credential learners satisfied with the competencies of the workers?
  • Can the workers who earned a micro-credential apply the skills and competencies they learned in the appropriate workplace setting?
  • Can the workers who earned a micro-credential adapt these skills to new situations?
  • Has the training resulted in improved performance for the worker or improved outcomes for the workplace?
  • Is the employer more or less likely to hire applicants who hold the micro-credential in the future?
  • Is the employer willing to publicly endorse the training?

6. Delivery

Consider what happens during the delivery of the micro-credential, for learners and for the team supporting them:

  • Were registration processes clear and user-friendly? What sort of questions did prospective learners and learners have about the program or the registration process?
  • Are existing policies and practices effective in communicating and managing how the micro-credential is offered?
  • Have approval and development timelines matched market expectations?
  • Has performance been measured against institutional estimates and expectations?
  • Has performance been measured against procedures and processes?

7. Recognition of Learning

Employers hiring for specific skills will want to be able to clearly understand the scope, depth, and quality of a micro-credential when reviewing applicants. For this purpose, a recognition of learning format like a digital badge can be more helpful than a traditional post-secondary transcript. As you evaluate the quality of this aspect of the credential, consider the following questions:

  • Does the record contain information about the competencies targeted and how they were assessed, the name of the learner, the institution that awarded the credential, and the date?
  • Should the credential have an expiry date? For example, for competencies that need to be recertified periodically.
  • Is the format of the digital badge open sourced, so that the learner can use it on their chosen platform?
  • Once awarded, is the recognition of learning owned by the learner and can they share it with whoever they choose?
  • Is the information appropriately secured? (e.g., for credentials that have professional value, is block chain used to ensure the integrity of the certification?)
  • Is the personal information of the learner protected, as per the institution’s responsibility under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)?
  • Is the information saved and archived by the institution so that a learner can request it at a later date?

For digital recognition of learning, analytics can be used to assess the value that learners and employers attribute to the credential. For example:

  • How many learners earned the micro-credential (how many badges were issued)?
  • Of those, how many were accepted by learners?
  • How many times does a learner access their digital credential?
  • How many times do they share their digital credential? What was shared? And using what means or channels (e.g., LinkedIn or email)?
  • How was the digital credential received and evaluated by employers?
  • Did employers seek workers with these digital credentials? For example, did they do a search on LinkedIn for people who had earned this credential?

8. Instructor Preparedness

The instructor(s) teaching a micro-credential program should have the necessary qualifications, expertise, and experience. While the assessment of qualification in post-secondary environments typically focuses on academic background and research record, in the context of a micro-credential, knowledge and experience in industry should also be a factor.
Fundamentally, there are two sets of skills required to teach a micro-credential: familiarity with the contents of the program and ability to support the learners’ growth. When evaluating the qualifications of instructors for a micro-credential, examine:

  • Does the person have expertise in the targeted field? How closely aligned is their expertise with the topic of this micro-credential? How recently was their training completed?
  • Do they have hands-on experience with this competency in the field? Do they have industry experience? How recently was this experience? If they are primarily academics, have they maintained contact with industry?
  • Would employers view this person’s background as relevant? Would the employer consider hiring them for the role targeted by the micro-credential?
  • Has the instructor taught adult learners in the past? What evidence exists of their ability to foster an effective learning environment?
  • Has the instructor been oriented to the micro-credential and to the learning environment, and given sufficient time to prepare for the course?
  • Has the instructor’s time on the micro-credential been protected? For example, are they doing this in addition to their full-time job or as part of it?

9. Technology Infrastructure

For online and blended micro-credentials, quality checklists should evaluate the effectiveness of learning technology (including reliable internet connectivity, online platforms for course delivery, and technical support for learners and instructors), the protection of user data, and how analytics are used to survey learner behaviour in the course.

Most institutions have access to a learning management system (LMS) for their courses and programs. As the micro-credential is designed, ask yourself:

  • What is the digital literacy of prospective learners? Will they be able to operate this LMS? Will they need an orientation and support to become proficient in its use?
  • Can learners easily find essential information about the course on the LMS, like its aims, assessments, and timelines?
  • How will content be delivered online (e.g., using text or videos)? Will learners have access to sufficient bandwidth to access these materials? Can your LMS support this format of content delivery? Is your LMS the right platform to do it?
  • What are learners’ expectations for an online course? How does your LMS compare to programs that learners deem to be your competitors (e.g., LinkedIn learning provides professionally produced videos)? What can you do to provide an online experience that meets your learners’ expectations for quality?
  • How will learners be accessing the LMS? For example, will they access it on their phone while on their daily bus commute, or from a shared computer at a public library? Does your LMS offer a good user experience in this situation (e.g., does it offer a good experience for mobile users)?
  • Does the LMS comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA)? Will the privacy and security of learners’ data be protected?
  • Can the LMS be mined through data analytics to understand learner behaviour? Can this data be used to improve the program and the learner experience?

Many quality assurance checklists have been developed for online and blended learning. The Suggested Resources section provides links to several of the most commonly used ones.

10. Equipment and Facilities

The availability of resources, such as libraries, facilities, and technology specific to the micro-credential, reflect the institution’s commitment to providing a supportive learning environment. Some questions to consider:

  • Do learners have access to the equipment and facilities they will need to practice and learn?
  • Will learners be able to practice in a safe and supportive manner? Are there systems in place to ensure safety in the use of the facilities and equipment?
  • Are the facilities and equipment in good working condition?
  • Are these resources available when the learners are available? Will they have sufficient opportunities to practice on them?
  • Do these facilities and equipment match those used in industry? Or, do they simulate them in a close enough manner to be relevant?
  • Are learners required to pay extra costs to access these resources? If so, is this clearly communicated to learners ahead of registration?

11. Learner Support

In addition to the training, learners may need other forms of support such as access to tutors, academic advisers, answers to questions about the micro-credential and its administration, accommodation services, or online communities. As you evaluate the program, consider:

  • Are there resources that can orient learners to the training environment?
  • Is there a dedicated person to answer learners’ questions as they arise?
  • Are there services at the institution to which micro-credential learners have access, such as accessibility services, writing centres, work placement centre, an ombudsman, international student centre, or diversity, equity, and inclusion services?
  • Is the information on how to access these support mechanisms clearly communicated so that learners are aware of, and know where to go to access, them?

12. Administrative Support

The quality of the learner experience is not only dependent on what happens inside of the course. It requires financial, administrative, and leadership support to ensure that it has the resources it needs, it can connect with the appropriate stakeholders, and it is based on a sustainable business model. One measure of the quality of a micro-credential is how much support it has from the institution’s leadership. Strong support can open doors and help to allocate resources to ensure the success of the program.

  • Does the micro-credential have the resources it needs to succeed?
  • Does the micro-credential have a sustainable business model? Do the sources of revenue appear stable? Are its costs expected to stay the same or to decrease as more learners take the program? Is the budget balanced?
  • Are there opportunities to gain efficiencies of scale as the program grows?
  • Is there support for this program from senior leadership? Is there a champion that can help to find and allocate resources and overcome challenges?

13. Transparency of the Process

The quality assurance review process should be as transparent as possible. This means specifying who is involved, what their roles are, what they will assess, and what criteria (or standards) they will use to determine whether a program is of sufficient quality to be offered by the institution. This is typically achieved through the publication of policies and procedures for quality assurance. It also means publishing a list of activities and timelines, as well as the reports from past quality assurance reviews.

14. Evaluation and Continuous Improvement

Regular review and self-assessment are pivotal to the quality process. The initial evaluation of a new micro-credential that takes place when it is developed and approved is just the first round of review of the program. The institution must have processes in place to periodically evaluate each micro-credential.
It may be helpful at the time the new program is launched to schedule the next quality assurance evaluation of the program. In this way, all stakeholders are aware of when the next review will take place.

Typically, quality assessment involves an internal review phase and an external one. During the internal review, those involved in offering the program gather relevant data and assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities for improvement, and threats to the continued offering of the program.

This report is then provided to an external review team, usually composed of peer reviewers from other institutions (and, in the case of micro-credentials, employer involvement would make sense). This group reviews the documentation assembled by the internal review team, meets with stakeholders, and produces an independent report of their analysis. The two documents (internal and external reviews) then go through the institution’s governance process, where the institution commits to implement the recommended steps to improve the program.

The documentation is typically made publicly available so that interested stakeholders – learners, employers, and other institutions – can consult them and gauge the quality of the program. A record of this documentation is maintained.

15. Satisfaction

Kirkpatrick (1996) and Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick (2006) are known for proposing a four-step process to evaluate the value of continuing professional development training (more on this is provided in the chapter on the Design Considerations: Practical Guide). The first step is to assess the satisfaction of learners with a program. While Kirkpatrick acknowledges that learner satisfaction is the data least correlated with actual learning, it is a foundational piece of evidence. Kirkpatrick explains that without learner engagement, the training will fail. It is a requirement for the other, deeper forms of assessment of learning. Learner satisfaction is also often the basis upon which managers decide to continue or discontinue the professional development training of their teams. Thus, one way to gauge the quality of a micro-credential is to survey learners to assess their perspective on the training. Consider asking learners who took the program:

  • For those who did not complete the program, what stood in their way?
  • For those who did complete the program:
    • Which aspect of the course was most enjoyable?
    • Was the training pertinent to their needs?
    • Which aspects of the program most helped them acquire the competencies?
    • Which aspects of the program hindered their learning or seemed irrelevant?
    • What could have made the training more effective?
    • How has the training helped them in their work?
    • Was the training a good investment of their time and money?
    • Would they recommend the training to someone who wants to get into/advance in the industry?

16. Completion

Completion rates are commonly used as indicators of quality, as they provide a measure of the effectiveness of educational programs in retaining learners and helping them complete their programs. You can ask yourself:

  • What is the demand for this program? How many seats are available?
  • How many learners registered in the program?
  • How many of them attempted every course in the program?
  • How many successfully completed it? How many did not manage to complete the assessment successfully?

17. Employment Outcomes

Employment outcomes mean the ability of learners who earned the micro-credential to find work based on this training. It also follows learners once they are in the workforce.

  • What percentage of learners who earned the micro-credentials find employment?
  • Was the micro-credential an important element in the hiring?
  • How soon after completing the micro-credential were they recruited?
  • Did the credential contribute to a pay raise or promotion?
  • Do graduates find that the training they received was relevant?
  • According to their managers or their teams, can they successfully apply what they learned to the job context?
  • How adaptable are they at utilizing these competencies in new situations?
  • Has the training resulted in changes in measurable improvements in the workplace (e.g., cost savings, safer environment and fewer accidents, etc.)?

Obtaining this data to judge the quality of a program will mean maintaining contact with past learners and their employers to gauge how effective the program meets its objectives and what can be done to improve it.

18. Pursuit of Further Education

One indicator of quality is whether other programs accept the micro-credential as evidence of a learner’s abilities. One thing to look for are established laddering opportunities.

  • Is the program accepted into other programs as part of a prearranged educational pathway?
  • Alternatively, were learners successful in getting the micro-credential learning recognized as part of a prior learning and assessment recognition (PLAR) process for another program?

19. Credibility and Reputation

Perhaps the ultimate marker of micro-credential quality is that it enjoys a strong reputation for quality and credibility in the relevant industry or sector. To do this, it needs to be recognized and valued by employers and professional bodies. Some of the indicators of quality in this regard include (listed from weakest to strongest evidence of industry support):

  • Employer groups partner with the institution in developing and/or offering the program.
  • The employer provides expertise in an advisory capacity.
  • The employer publicly acknowledges its contribution to the program and/or helps to promote it.
  • Several employer groups in the industry are aware of the program and speak favourably about it (e.g., in surveys, have positive perceptions of the program).
  • The employer endorses the program. One way to do this is by recognizing the training as meeting the requirements for mandatory annual professional development training. Alternatively, it can accredit it as part of its training ecosystem.
  • The employer actively seeks and recruits learners who have earned the micro-credential for employment in its organization.

Appendix I: Examples of Quality Assurance Frameworks

Examples of quality assurance frameworks can inspire the development of frameworks at other institutions. For this reason, a few examples are provided below. Additional examples are referenced in the Suggested Resources section.

Micro-credentials (Taylor & Soares, 2020)

The first example comes from two people who served for many years on the College Credit Recommendation Service (CREDIT®) at the American Council on Education (Taylor & Soares, 2020). They propose a quality assurance framework for micro-credentials focused on outcomes rather than on inputs. The list of their proposed elements of quality are provided in Table 2.

Table 2. Taylor & Soares (2020) proposed elements of a micro-credential quality assessment framework. The above table was created based on information provided in the article.
Elements of Quality Description
Understanding the needs of key stakeholders Since micro-credentials are designed to address a need in the workforce, programs should consult with employers to understand their training needs. They should also consult with learners to understand what would help them address these workforce needs.
Assuring credential outcomes Rather than focusing on inputs (what’s been put into the design of the program), the quality of a micro-credential should explore the outcomes of learners who completed the program and use those as indicators of quality. This will give the credential more credibility with employers who are focused on results (not how those results were obtained). Three types of outcomes can be the focus of a micro-credential’s quality: attainment of competencies, labour market alignment, and/or learner adaptivity (a person’s confidence and abilities in adapting their learning to new environments).
Transparency Information about a program should be easily understood by all stakeholder groups (including employers and learners). This requires that institutions communicate more pertinent information about what a learner can achieve than simply providing a letter grade at the end of a program.
Demonstrable value proposition Prospective learners need to be able to evaluate concretely how a program will help them achieve their career goals. They need data as evidence, such as which employers will recognize the credential, what the percentage of graduates found employment in their field after completing the training, and the average earning potential of a graduate. This information will allow them to compare programs and make an informed decision about their training.
Equity-minded approach The training should be accessible to as many learners as require it as a way to improve their socioeconomic opportunities and contribute to society.
Non-degree programs (Van Noy et al., 2019)

The Rutgers University school of management and labor relations put together a quality assurance framework for non-degree credentials (this includes micro-credentials) (Van Noy et al., 2019). They recommended that non-degree programs be evaluated on the basis of four main elements of quality, and they provide indicators for each element (Table 3). Outside stakeholders, notably employers, are given a prominent role in assessing the merit of micro-credentials.

Table 3. The Rutgers University school of management and labor relations quality framework for non-degree programs. Framework obtained from Van Noy et al., 2019, used with permission.
Elements of Quality Indicators
Credential design
  • Content relevance
  • Instructional process
  • Assessment process
  • Stackability and portability
  • Transparency
  • Accessibility and affordability
Competencies Demonstrated competencies including general knowledge, specialized skills, personal skills, and social skills
Market process
  • Awareness of credential and/or credential granter
  • Endorsements and validations
  • Organizational policies and practices
  • State regulations
  • Employer hiring policies and practices
  • Educational institutions’ recognition of learning
Outcomes For the Individual


  • Job attainment
  • Wage gains
  • Promotion
  • Retention


  • Stacking of additional credentials
  • Completion of academic degree(s)


  • Improved health and well-being
  • Greater civic involvement
  • Intergenerational benefits

For Society More Generally


  • Employee pipeline
  • Better retention
  • Higher skills and productivity
  • Increased diversity


  • Better public safety
  • Increased efficiency
  • Reduced inequality
  • More civic engagement
Short-term credentials (CHEA)

The Unites States Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) has put forward a report outlining quality criteria for short-term educational experiences. The report also outlined the measures that can be used to judge each of these elements of quality (van der Hijden, 2019). They are captured in Table 4.

Table 4. CHEA short-term credential quality framework. (© 2019 Council for Higher Education Accreditation.)
Elements of Quality Indicators
  • Mission statement of the provider
  • Level referenced against a qualification framework
  • Profile indication (e.g., research oriented, profession oriented, general interest oriented)
  • Workload indication (average time or credits)
  • Learning outcomes descriptors (knowledge, skills, degree of responsibility and autonomy)
  • Summative assessment
  • Certificates, diploma supplements, badges, etc., acknowledging learning
  • Uptake among learners
  • Higher education institutions accept the credential as part of accredited degree programs
  • Employers or employers’ associations recommend the credential for hiring and promotion
  • Professional associations accept the credential for licensing purposes or continuing professional development
  • Past performance of the provider in education and research (e.g., rankings and citations)
  • Partnerships and collaborations of the provider (e.g., leagues)
Micro-credentials (European Commission, 2021)

Finally, the European Commission has developed an approach to standardize how post-secondary institutions define, implement, and evaluate the quality of micro-credentials (European Commission, 2021). This includes outlining 10 quality principles. They are detailed below in Table 5. Note that this framework alludes to the portability of the awarded credential, employing open standards to ensure that learners can use them on their choice of platform. It also refers to the need to protect learner data, which may be of interest to public British Columbia institutions in light of their responsibilities to uphold the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

Table 5. The principles of quality for a micro-credential according to the European Commission. (© European Commission 2021, CC BY)
Quality Indicators
Quality Micro-credentials are subject to internal and external quality assurance by the system producing them (e.g., the education, training, or labour market context in which the micro-credential is developed and delivered). Quality assurance processes must be fit-for-purpose, be clearly documented, accessible, and meet the needs of learners and stakeholders.

External quality assurance is based primarily on the assessment of providers (rather than individual courses) and the effectiveness of their internal quality assurance procedures.

Providers should make sure that internal quality assurance covers all the following elements:

  • the overall quality of the micro-credential itself, based on the standards referred to below;
  • the quality of the course, where applicable, leading to the micro-credential;
  • learners’ feedback on the learning experience leading to the micro-credential;
  • peer feedback, including other providers and stakeholders, on the learning experience leading to the micro-credential.
Transparency Micro-credentials are measurable, comparable, and understandable with clear information on learning outcomes, workload, content, level, and the learning offer, as relevant.
Relevance Micro-credentials should be designed as distinct, targeted learning achievements, and learning opportunities leading to them are updated as necessary, to meet identified learning needs.

Cooperation between education and training organizations, employers, social partners, other providers, and users of micro-credentials is encouraged to increase the relevance of the micro-credentials for the labour market.

Valid Assessment Micro-credential learning outcomes are assessed against transparent standards.
Learning Pathways Micro-credentials are designed to support flexible learning pathways, including the possibility to stack, validate, and recognize micro-credentials from across different systems.
Recognition Recognition has a clear signalling value of learning outcomes and paves the way for a wider offer of such small learning experiences in a comparable way across the EU.

Micro-credentials are recognized for academic or employment purposes based on standard recognition procedures used in recognizing foreign qualifications and learning periods abroad, when dealing with micro-credentials issued by formal education providers.

Portability Micro-credentials are owned by the credential-holder (the learner) and may be stored and shared easily by the credential-holder, including through secure digital wallets, in line with the General Data Protection Regulation. The infrastructure for storing data is based on open standards and data models. This ensures interoperability and seamless exchange of data and allows for smooth checks of data authenticity.
Learner-centred Micro-credentials are designed to meet the needs of the target group of learners. Learners are involved in the internal and external quality assurance processes and their feedback is considered as part of the continuous improvement of the micro-credential.
Authentic Micro-credentials contain sufficient information to check the identity of the credential-holder (learner), the legal identity of the issuer, and the date and location of issuance of the micro-credential.
Information and Guidance Information and advice on micro-credentials should be incorporated in lifelong learning guidance services and should reach the broadest possible learner groups, in an inclusive way, supporting education, training, and career choices.

Suggested Resources

Curriculum Mapping

The University of British Columbia’s centre for teaching, learning and technology has posted a blog entry that describes how the faculty of arts engaged in the process of curriculum mapping. It also provides several examples.

Sasagawa, E. (2016, August 31). Curriculum mapping in the faculty of arts. Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, University of British Columbia. https://ctlt.ubc.ca/2016/08/31/curriculum-mapping-in-the-faculty-of-arts/

The British Columbia Institute of Technology’s learning and teaching centre has developed a three-page handout describing how to engage in curriculum mapping. The document provides a step-by-step description of how to develop such a document for your program.

Learning and Teaching Centre (n.d.). How to develop your new program. British Columbia Institute of Technology. https://www.bcit.ca/files/ltc/pdf/map_the_curriculum_2017-08-10.pdf

BCcampus held an event in the summer of 2022 to demonstrate the use of the online tool Curriculum MAP that can be used to create curriculum maps. The tool is free for people with an email address at a B.C. post-secondary institution.

Quality Assurance

Though not focused on micro-credentials, the following article provides an overview of key resources on quality assurance in higher education. It is dated, but it can serve as a primer on quality assurance.

Adam, A. J., & Morrison, M. (1998). Quality assurance in higher education: A selective resource guide. New Directions for Institutional Research, 25(3), 93–102.

The following three articles can shed light on the Canadian quality assurance process, which differs in each province. Note that most provincially mandated quality assurance processes operate at the degree level.

Baker, D. N., & Miosi, T. (2010). The quality assurance of degree education in Canada. Research in Comparative and International Education, 5(1), 32–57. https://doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2010.5.1.32

Marshall, D. (2004). Degree accreditation in Canada. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 34(2), 69–96. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ720718.pdf

Weinrib, J., & Jones, G. A. (2014). Largely a matter of degrees: Quality assurance and Canadian universities. Policy and Society, 33(3), 225–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polsoc.2014.07.002

Quality Assurance Frameworks and Checklists

Several quality assurance frameworks exist that can inspire and inform the development of your institution’s micro-credential quality framework. Some are specific to micro-credentials. Others were created to evaluate the quality of specific types of educational experiences, such as an online course. While not developed for micro-credentials, these frameworks may contain elements that can be included in your micro-credential framework, especially if your institution offers digital or blended micro-credentials.

Competency-based Education

The Aurora Institute (previously the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL)) has developed a set of 16 principles for designing and implementing competency-based education programs. It covers areas such as nurturing a culture of inclusivity, development of a growth mindset, personalized pathways, and performance assessment. Though designed for the K–12 sector, this framework could be used for post-secondary competency-based education.

Sturgis, C., & Casey, K. (2018). Quality principles for competency-based education. CompetencyWorks. https://www.aurora-institute.org/wp-content/uploads/Quality-Principles-Book.pdf

Online Courses

eCampusAlberta has developed a list of criteria and standards to be used in evaluating the quality of an online course. This could be useful for assessing overall organization, ease of navigation, and production value.

eCampusAlberta. (2017). Essential quality standards 2.0. WestEd. https://scope.bccampus.ca/pluginfile.php/56615/mod_book/chapter/2695/Essential%20Standards%20-%20Quality%20Online.pdf

eCampus Ontario has modified eCampusAlberta’s Essential Quality Standards 2.0 into a rubric that identifies the standards to meet, exceed, or reach exemplary status on each criterion.

eCampusAlberta. (2013). Essential Quality Standards 2.0. University of Calgary. https://www.ecampusontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Essential-Quality-Standards-2_0-updated-Nov-14-2013-1_0.pdf

The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) has developed its own quality standards checklist for online courses.

NAIT. (2013/2014). Essential Quality Standards (EQS) checklist: Online learning development and delivery. NAIT. https://publicdocs.nait.ca/sites/pd/_layouts/15/DocIdRedir.aspx?ID=4NUSZQ57DJN7-208515216-5754

Lethbridge College has put together a checklist of quality criteria for blended and online courses. These criteria are divided into those that must be included as a minimum to meet the quality requirements, and those that exceed minimum requirements to achieve excellence.

Lethbridge College. (2020). Blended & online course rubric. Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation. https://learninginnovation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/blendedOnlineRubric_2020.pdf

The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) has also put together a checklist of items that should be included in online courses to ensure their quality. It is composed of eight main elements assessed through a variety of questions to guide the review.

BCIT. (n.d.). Online course checklist. BCIT. https://www.bcit.ca/files/ltc/doc/ltc_online_course_checklist.doc

Quality Matters is a faculty-centred, peer review process that is designed to certify the quality of online courses. The framework is based on a set of eight standards and is widely used in higher education institutions across the United States.

Quality Matters. (2021). Course design rubric standards. Quality Matters. https://www.qualitymatters.org/qa-resources/rubric-standards/higher-ed-rubric

Online Learning Consortium (OLC) Quality Scorecard is a set of 10 standards that provides a framework for evaluating the quality of online courses. The scorecard is designed to be used by institutions to evaluate their online courses and make improvements where necessary. These instruments are popular in the United States.

Online Learning Consortium. (2019). OLC quality scorecard suite. Online Learning Consortium. https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/consult/olc-quality-scorecard-suite/

The State University of New York (SUNY) has developed an open rubric to assess the quality of online courses. The instrument is called the SUNY online course quality review rubric (OSCQR). The resource has been incorporated into the OLC Scorecard Suite (above). However, the original link to the SUNY website is provided below as it offers examples and additional resources.

State University of New York. (2018). The SUNY online course quality review rubric. State University of New York. https://oscqr.suny.edu/

E-xcellence is widely used in Europe. It is an instrument that provides quality criteria for online learning at the university-level. It covers broad quality indicators that range from curriculum design, learner support, and the institution’s strategic management for digital education. The manual is published under a Creative Commons license, which means it can be readily adopted and adapted.

Kear, K., Rosewell, J., Williams, K., Ossiannilsson, E., Rodrigo, C., Sánchez-Elvira Paniagua, Á., … & Mellar, H. (2016). Quality assessment for e-learning: A benchmarking approach (3rd ed.). E-xcellence. https://e-xcellencelabel.eadtu.eu/about

The Australian Government has put out a quality assurance toolkit that is specific to online education at the post-secondary level. The toolkit cites nine domains that should be assessed for quality, ranging from staffing to curriculum design.

Australian Government & Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. (2017). Quality assurance of online learning toolkit. Department of Education and Training, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. https://tech.ed.gov/files/2018/11/APEC-Quality-Assurance-of-Online-Learning-Toolkit-AUS-2.pdf

The following document outlines markers of quality for the design and delivery of online courses in South Africa. These quality criteria are not specific to micro-credentials, and so do not cover employer- and work-alignment. However, they provide several case studies to explore how the criteria are applied in practice.

Welch, T., & Reed, Y. (2005). Designing and delivering distance education: Quality criteria and case studies from South Africa. NADEOSA, Pretoria, South Africa. https://www.saide.org.za/documents/Nadeosa_Quality_Critiera.pdf

Works Cited

Arcolin, C., & Elias, J. (2022). Assessment and evaluation of microcredentials: What success looks like and to whom. WCET | Frontiers. https://wcet.wiche.edu/frontiers/2022/09/29/assessment-evaluation-of-microcredentials-what-success-looks-like-and-to-whom/

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Van Noy, M., McKay, H., & Michael, S. (2019). Non-degree credential quality: A conceptual framework to guide measurement. Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. https://doi.org/10.7282/00000116

Published Version: Non-degree credential quality: a conceptual framework to guide measurement.

Version of Record: Non-degree credential quality: a conceptual framework to guide measurement.

Image Description:

Figure 1. HEQCO’s guiding principles for developing a quality assurance framework

  • Relevant – consulted or involved industry/community
  • Accredited – recognized or issued by a professional accrediting body
  • Standardized – meets a government-set quality standard
  • Assessed – the learner must demonstrate skills/knowledge to earn credential
  • Flexible – the pace and/or structure of learning can be personalized
  • Stackable – can be “stacked” or combined toward a larger credential, e.g. a diploma or degree

[Return to Figure 1]

Media Attributions

  • Figure 1. HEQCO’s guiding principles for developing a quality assurance framework is reproduced from Making Sense of Microcredentials by Jackie Pichette, Sarah Brumwell, Jessica Rizk and Steven Han, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, used with permission.


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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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