Micro-credentials quality assurance and governance: Considerations for higher education
“Constraints around the recognition and quality assurance of micro-credentials are cited as the largest barrier to adoption at scale.” – HolonIQ, 2021.
Globally, micro-credentials are in a state of prolific creation. As the needs of the global workforce changes and grows, more students and employers are turning to micro-credentials to gain job-ready skills and knowledge.
Despite the demand, there is a lack of guidance on how higher education institutions can quality assure and govern the micro-credentials they create, impeding their adoption.
CourseLoop helps institutions overcome this barrier. Our micro-credential solutions enable institutions to create, assure and govern legitimate, meaningful micro-credentials that attract students and earn the trust of employers.
Why quality assurance and governance matters
The quality of an institution’s curriculum can impact its reputation and standing among its peers. It influences how students and employers perceive the value of education obtained from that institution.
Institutions need a way to demonstrate that micro-credential approvals are subject to an appropriate and consistent level of rigor – doing so will enable them to attest to the strength and value of their micro-credentials.
“Effective quality assurance systems help a provider to validate any claims it may make about the quality and standing of its educational offerings.” – Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, 2017.
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 87% of executives, 81% of supervisors, and 90% of HR professionals said they value alternative credentials, such as micro-credentials.
However, the skills and knowledge obtained from micro-credentials are inconsistently described and verified - creating significant challenges within the wider workforce context.
In the SHRM survey, executives and supervisors ranked the response “quality among alternative credentials is too varied” as the top barrier they faced during the hiring process. HR Professionals ranked the response “it is not always clear what skills were learned through the alternative credential” as their highest barrier.
Miller and Jorre de St Jorre (2022) also had similar findings: “While there was strong support and enthusiasm for the micro-credential and broad approach, employers needed further context about how micro-credentials can be used, and confidence in the rigour and standards applied.”
For micro-credentials to be accepted by students and industry, institutions need to verify what skills and knowledge will be obtained upon completion. To do this, institutions must evaluate their micro-credentials against a set of ‘quality’ criteria or characteristics under appropriate academic oversight — the quality assurance and governance process.
Given that many institutions will form partnerships – with, for example, micro-credentialing platforms, businesses, communities and other institutions – to develop and deliver micro-credentials, these processes also need to extend to third parties to ensure the continuity of quality.
Quality assurance frameworks and guidance for institutions
Although guidance material on micro-credentials is still in its infancy, there are resources to guide institutions in the right direction.
Earlier this year, the Australian Government released the National Microcredentials Framework (NMF). The framework:
- Sets a formal micro-credentials definition,
- Agrees on unifying principles for micro-credentials,
- Establishes critical information requirements,
- And outlines a minimum standard for micro-credentials that will sit on the Microcredentials Marketplace.
This has important implications for Australian education and training providers who do not meet the criteria. These institutions will be excluded from the Marketplace – the nationally-endorsed platform where students, institutions, industry and government go to compare and evaluate the micro-credentials on offer.
In the US, Rutgers Education and Employment Research Center researchers Michelle van Noy, Heather McKay, and Suzanne Michael (2019) created a ‘Non-degree Credential Quality: A conceptual framework to guide measurement’, which suggests potential measures of quality across credential design, competencies, market processes and outcomes.
The authors wrote the paper through a quality lens, stating “low-quality non-degree credentials have the potential to perpetuate or even worsen inequality”. Further, they make recommendations for policy and practice.
This framework is already being employed by the University of Maine, among others.
In Europe, the Common Microcredential Framework, developed by the European MOOC Consortium and launched in 2019, draws upon the European Qualification Framework to provide a set of specifications and recommendations for providers to adhere to, ensuring the creation of high-quality micro-credentials.
More recently, the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education released a Characteristics Statement for Micro-credentials. The statement contextualizes micro-credentials in the UK and provides guidance around the characteristics and quality assurance of micro-credentials.
Getting on top of quality assurance will not only help institutions ensure they consistently create quality micro-credentials, but also help future-proof themselves against changes in government policy – for example, the introduction of strict quality standards to protect consumers.
Digital micro-credential management solutions can help institutions quality assure and govern their micro-credentials with speed and ease. While manual processes might prove a convenient short-term solution, in the long run institutions wanting to achieve at-scale adoption will struggle to keep up with the rapid deployment needed in this fast moving market.
Today’s institutions seek efficient, repeatable workflows that enable staff to move rapidly through the approval process. This, in combination with the capability to manage curriculum data and integrate it with downstream systems, will better enable institutions to confidently deliver appropriately governed, quality micro-credentials at scale.
How CourseLoop can help – micro-credential quality assurance and governance solutions
CourseLoop supports education institutions, globally, with micro-credential quality assurance and governance.
Our solutions reflect the unique size, scope, and intended purpose of micro-credentials with tailored, collaborative workflows that streamline the approval process for our clients – to achieve even greater efficiency.
With CourseLoop, institutions can:
- Demonstrate the assurance of learning with a transparent and robust governance process.
- Eliminate manual processes and reduce human error with automation and quality checks.
- Tailor workflows, determining the number of workflows and the stages for each.
- Give full proposal management visibility to staff who need it.
- Easily and quickly submit a business case or proposal for a new micro-credential.
- Capture critical information used by students, governing bodies, and badging platforms.
- Manage committee meetings. Set dates for meetings, add descriptions, allocate the proposal under consideration, and add supporting documents as attachments. Then record and view meeting outcomes.
- Collaborate with tasks and notifications, comments, and show changes.
- Control versions, keeping a complete history audit of changes made.
Interested in learning more about the CourseLoop Micro-credential Management solution?