Micro-Credential: What Makes A Short Course One?


What To Include From The First Course Storyboard?

Unlike other types of short courses, a micro-credential works to a framework so that students know what they are enrolling in and can compare courses. This clear framework has been championed by the UNESCO Technical and Vocational Training Group as these small courses are highly relevant and sometimes confusing in the workplace [1].

Overview Of The Framework

There are several frameworks around the world, with strong similarities. Two examples are:

  • The European Commission’s framework [2]
  • Australia has recently created a framework [3]

This article is for people looking to write micro-credentials. It scans the in-depth framework documents, looking for what should be included in practice and, more importantly, what can probably be left out.

Unifying Principles And How That Could Look In Practice

The four principles are: outcome-based, driven by industry need, tailored for/supports lifelong learning, and transparent and accessible.


It is important to know that it is centered around learning outcomes. This is good to know from the drawing board as all content needs to be built in response to clearly defined learning outcomes. These need to be visible to participants and this can help to provide motivation. Educational institutions have processes for developing outcomes; however, they do need to be carefully crafted if they are to provide credit or nest with a credit-recognized courses that will be set at an AQF level.

Driven by Industry Need

A principle worth considering when selecting micro-credentials is that if there is no clear need in an industry, it may not be worth developing and is best suited to a different format. This is where codesign with an industry partner can help to create a micro-credential that provides in-demand training and responds to a need in a profession. Several micro-credentials have been commissioned in response to reports on key skills shortages, such as the report on the digital skills gap in Australia, and mirrored internationally. This could be providing digital skills, or responses to Artificial Intelligence (AI), or other changes in a sector.

Tailored For/Supports Lifelong Learning

This is where the micro-credential hopes to succeed where MOOCs faltered. Rather than trying to appeal to a massive number of people, it is really focused on a specific cohort. There is still scope for the course to be completed by a large number of participants, but the course is not afraid to be specific and talk to a unique context. A version of a micro-credential could even be tailored to a specific business. An eLearning tool borrowed from UX/UI design that may be of use is creating personas or cohort profiles for shaping the design.

Supporting lifelong learning will probably be common sense and usual practice for eLearning principles, but like much of the framework, it is useful to have it spelt out for communicating with a codesign team. It really shapes how the participants are viewed, and the challenge is to bring in peer learning and acknowledgment of life experiences within what are often fully asynchronous online courses.

Transparent And Accessible

Making it really clear how the content will be delivered is great practice for online courses, regardless of if they are paid or offered for free. A key point that is stressed is transparency around the time commitment required of participants: this allows participants to plan for space in their schedule to be successful in the course. This should be really specific, in terms of how many hours for the modules. A concept that is becoming more commonplace is the expectation that assessment requirements will be visible before the course starts. This means that people can see if it will include an exam.

Micro-credentials are stepping stones to future skills and essential to industries responding to change. They will be part of organizations’ professional development offerings so they must be accessible. Considering the participant profile in designing the course can help to tailor the assessment types to be authentic and relevant to that industry. These links will be very familiar to eLearning professionals but a great place to start is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WACG)2¬†and the¬†Universal Design for Learning Guidelines [4].

What To Include In Micro-Credentials

Leading on from transparency, a quick checklist of what to include and make really clear to participants is:

  • Who is offering the course (naming both the institution and industry partner)
  • Learning outcomes
  • Course and assessment dates
  • The delivery mode. This is worth clarifying for all involved to confirm if it is fully asynchronous or if it will be complimented, by webinars for example.
  • What they will need. Will they require anything other than computer access? For example, a microphone for contributing to webinars or recording a video assignment.
  • Learner effort needs to be really spelled out. Specifying not just how many hours, but breaking down the division of hours into hours for reading or watching content, synchronous hours, peer-to-peer teamwork hours, and how many hours on assessments is vital. (Tip: estimate hours for each activity and element to make creating a total easier)
  • Credit options for mapping to any certification or study pathways.

What To Leave Out In Micro-Credentials

If you are familiar with accredited full topics, the hardest aspect will be making the course a smaller stackable element. With the common experience of online short courses being MOOCs, it is worth considering how micro-credentials are tailored for specific participants.


[1] Micro-credential

[2] A European approach to micro-credentials

[3] National Microcredentials Framework

[4] The UDL Guidelines


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