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Policy on Micro-credentials and Continuous Learning Offerings

Classification number ACD 1532
Framework category Academic
Approving authority Academic Council
Policy owner Vice-President, Academic and Provost
Approval date November 28, 2023
Review date November 2026
Last updated Editorial Amendments, December 20, 2023
Supersedes Non-Degree Programs, Diplomas and Certificates, March 2010; Section 6, Quality Assurance Handbook, June 2011 Continuing Education Programs Policy, March 9, 2016 (editorial amendments February 2020); Not-for-Academic Credit Digital Badges, Micro-credentials, and Stackable Credentials Policy, July 2021


The University encourages the development of new learning opportunities to address the wide range of academic and professional needs within our community. This Policy applies to Continuous Learning Offerings hosted at the University and serves to provide a framework to facilitate their development and implementation, as well as ensure their alignment with the University’s strategy and brand.

This policy also provides the framework for the University’s recognition, integration and use of Digital Badges, Not-for-Academic-Credit Micro-credentials, and Stackable Credentials branded and/or issued by Ontario Tech University.

Where applicable, For-Academic-Credit offerings, including Micro-credentials, will follow the Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP) and all associated policies and procedures.


For the purposes of this Policy, the following definitions apply:

Academic Unit: a department or unit whose operation is preponderantly teaching and whose nature reflects the existence of a demonstrably coherent field of knowledge.

Continuous Learning Department: the administrative and central professional development unit of the University supporting Faculty and Academic Unit development of alternative credentials, non-credit programming, corporate training, and new approaches for the community to access continuous learning opportunities.

Continuous Learning Offering: such as but not limited to programs, courses, workshops, and micro-credentials focused on professional development and life-long learning. This includes career-oriented programming, upskilling, and custom corporate training. Among others, Continuous Learning students may be post-secondary applicants who require additional support prior to admission, graduates, individuals who are unemployed and seeking training for employment purposes, individuals who wish to transition in their current employment or improve their career prospects, corporate and government employees, and individuals who are interested in post-secondary courses but not admitted to a degree program.

Continuous Learning Student: means a student registered in a Continuous Learning Offering.

Certificate Program: a stand-alone program of study consisting of a prescribed set of Not-for-Academic-Credit courses.

Digital Badge: the validated digital image and its associated metadata that documents when, where, and how an accomplishment, skill, quality, interest, micro-credential, or other stackable credential was assessed.

For-Academic-Credit: a course or designation of achievement which use existing requirements or are developed to meet the requirements of a degree or diploma program that includes a measure of the relative weight of the course or designation toward the fulfillment of diploma or degree requirements.

Horizontal Stacking: refers to the stacking or grouping of articulated skills with little or no explicit hierarchical order. Corequisite learning is the norm with micro-credentials, but prerequisites may be required in some instances.

Micro-credential: a designation of achievement of a coherent set of skills and knowledge, specified by a statement of purpose, learning outcomes, and strong evidence of need by industry, employers, and/or the community. They have fewer requirements and are of shorter duration than a qualification and focus on learning outcomes that are distinct from diploma/degree programs. It may be a sub-component of a For-Academic-Credit course, diploma, certificate or degree offering.

Not-for-Academic-Credit: a course or designation which does not use the requirements nor is it developed to meet the requirements of a diploma or degree program. A Not-for-Academic-Credit course that includes a measure of the relative weight of the course or designation toward the fulfillment of diploma or degree requirements and is assessed as such, may be approved for use toward the fulfillment of diploma or degree requirements with approval of the Academic Unit.

Stackable Credential: combines related assessed skills to accurately reflect an accumulated body of knowledge, skills and abilities. 

Stacking: the practice of assembling or compiling associated skill sets. 

Value-Added Stacking: combines the concepts of horizontal and vertical stacking while allowing for additional, non-related evidence of mastery to be added.

Vertical Stacking: the stacking of units of study in an explicit hierarchical order guided by prerequisite accomplishments.

Scope and authority

This Policy applies to all Continuous Learning Offerings, including Digital Badges, Not-for-Academic-Credit Micro-credentials, alternative credentials and Stackable Credentials issued by Ontario Tech University.

This Policy does not apply to For-Academic-Credit offerings, including Micro-credentials, which follow the IQAP and all associated policies and procedures, except where necessary to provide a framework for their review by the Continuous Learning Committee.

The Provost, or successor thereof, is the Policy Owner and is responsible for overseeing the implementation, administration, and interpretation of this Policy.


Framework for Continuous Learning Offerings

  1. Continuous Learning Offerings fall into a number of categories including:
    • Certificate Programs;
    • Short courses, workshops;
    • Professional development programs;
    • Not-for-Academic-Credit courses;
    • Not-for-Academic-Credit micro-credentials;
    • Customized training offered to organizations;
    • Camps for children and young teens;
    • Other offerings, comprised of Not-for-Academic-Credit courses including those offered fin partnership with Academic Units and external organizations.
  2. Separate from Continuous Learning Offerings, Continuous Learning as a business unit may be contracted by other units (internal or external) to deliver offerings, or perform particular business functions, through its platforms and resources. These would be subject to relevant organizational policies and/or governance processes.


  1. Admission and progression requirements for all Continuous Learning Department developed, Not-for-Academic-Credit offerings, including Micro-credentials, Digital Badges and Stackable Credentials, will be determined by the Continuous Learning Department.
  2. Admission requirements for a Continuous Learning Certificate Program developed in partnership with an Academic Unit will be determined by the Academic Unit, in consultation with the Continuous Learning Department.
  3. Admission requirements for a short course, workshop, or Not-for-Academic-Credit Micro-credential developed in partnership with an Academic Unit will be determined by the Academic Unit, in consultation with the Continuous Learning Department.
  4. Admission requirements for a For-Academic-Credit Micro-credential, Digital Badge and Stackable Credential will be determined by the Academic Unit that developed it, in accordance with the IQAP.


  1. The Deputy Provost will have the delegated authority to conduct Appeals and determine the outcome of Appeals related to Continuous Learning Students in accordance with the Continuous Learning Appeal Procedures. The Office of the Deputy Provost will establish and oversee appeal Procedures for Continuous Learning Students.

Certificate Programs

  1. Upon successful completion of a Certificate Program, participants will receive a Certificate from the University.
  2. All new Continuous Learning Certificate Programs, including new categories of credentials, programs and courses, must be developed in accordance with the Continuous Learning Offerings Development Protocol and Quality Assurance Guide (Appendix A.)
  3. All Certificate Programs must be approved by the Micro-credentials and Continuous Learning Committee and reported for information to Academic Council annually. 
  4. All Certificate Programs will be subject to periodic review as determined by the Micro-credentials and Continuous Learning Committee.
  5. Two or more certificates, building on each other for more in-depth knowledge or specialization, may be stacked into a more advanced vertical stacking certificate.
  6. Two or more certificates, usually in complementary areas, to broaden one's skills and knowledge across different but related domains, may be stacked into a broader horizontal stacking certificate.
  7. Micro-credentials may stack with other micro-credentials or courses to a Certificate Program, provided the Certificate Program is developed according to the applicable procedures. Where Micro-credentials are stacked into a higher order credential, there may be additional requirements.

Short Courses, Not-for-Academic-Credit Courses, and Workshops

  1. Upon completion of a short course, Not-for-Academic-Credit course or workshop, participants may receive a certificate of completion.
  2. All short courses, Not-for-Academic-Credit courses, and workshops must be developed according to the course development policies and procedures established by the Micro-credentials and Continuous Learning Committee. All information must be reported to Academic Council annually.
  3. All short courses, Not-for-Academic-Credit courses and workshops will be subject to periodic review as determined by the Micro-credentials and Continuous Learning Committee. Regular reviews should take place every three years to ensure the content is current and aligned with ever-changing user needs.

Digital Badges, Micro-credentials and Stackable Credentials

  1. Proposals for new Not-for-Academic-Credit Micro-credentials or for changes to existing Not for-Academic-Credit Micro-credentials, badges, or Stackable Credentials must be reviewed and approved by the Micro-credentials and Continuous Learning Committee. The development and approval of For-Academic-Credit offerings must be in accordance with the
    University’s IQAP.
  2. The approval processes for Micro-credentials are presented in the Governance flowchart for Micro-credentials, (Appendix C)
  3. To be considered a Micro-credential any Not-for-Academic-Credit programming must adhere to the requirements of having a meaningful assessment of the associated competencies and be developed in association with an employer, in response to regulatory changes for a profession or in response to changing legislation. Similarly, where evidence exists that a competency can benefit a large section of those  eeking employment, such as enduring skills or commonly used technology or software, then the requirement for a single specific employer may be waived.
  4. All Not-for-Academic-Credit Micro-credentials, even those which build into certificates or higher order Micro-credentials should represent the mastery of a specific competency. Mastery can not be assessed through the use of fill-in-the-blanks, true/false questions or multiple choice though these may be used throughout programming to allow learners to gauge their understanding of the material.
  5. Digital Badges, Micro-credentials, and Stackable Credentials may be delivered face-to-face, online, hybrid, by distance, or through a combination of these methods. They may also be used to articulate specific competencies demonstrated within academic courses. The Continuous Learning Department is responsible for submitting all OSAP Micro-credential approval requests and for any reporting requirements required by the ministry for these Micro-credentials.
  6. Prior to the development of a Micro-credential, Digital Badge, or Stackable Credential any business unit seeking to develop a Not-for-Academic-Credit Micro-credential should formalize the responsibilities of all parties with respect to development and delivery of the credential, issuing of badges, the learning management system to be used, technical support for learners, AODA compliance and others.
  7. Not-for-Academic-Credit Stackable Credentials may or may not require prerequisite qualifications. This will be dictated by the approach (i.e., Horizontal, Value-Added, or Vertical Stacking) taken to create the credential.
  8. The Micro-credentials and Continuous Learning Committee monitors the ongoing quality assurance of any Not-for-Academic-Credit Digital Badge, Micro-credential, or Stackable Credential developed. Regular reviews of the competencies and assessments should occur approximately every three years to ensure the skills are aligned with ever changing user needs.

For-Academic-Credit Digital Badges, Micro-credentials and Stackable Credentials

  1. For-Academic-Credit Digital Badges, Micro-credentials, and Stackable Credentials are awarded on the basis of assessments approved via the University’s IQAP and may be standalone or included as part of a Diploma or Degree Program.
  2. All For-Academic-Credit Micro-credentials must be endorsed by the Continuous Learning Department and Micro-credentials Committee to ensure they meet the specific requirements associated with a Micro-credential.

Monitoring and review

This Policy will be reviewed as necessary, at minimum every three years. The Provost, or successor thereof, is responsible to monitor and review this Policy.

Relevant legislation

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Related policies, procedures & documents

Institutional Quality Assurance Process Policy and related procedures
Micro-credentials and Continuous Learning Committee Terms of Reference

*Appendices follow on next page

Appendix A Continuous Learning Offering Development Protocol and Quality Assurance Guide

All Continuous Learning Offerings are developed according to the following.

Define Objectives: Clearly articulate the goals and objectives of the offering.

Identify Stakeholders: Identify the key stakeholders involved in the offerings, such as program assistants, instructors, students, industry experts, associations, and employers.

Identify the student. Identify and describe the typical student the offering will be developed for. Ensure that the learning outcomes, curriculum and learning objectives are developed with the student’s needs in mind.

Establish Program Learning Outcomes

Design Curriculum and Learning Outcomes: Develop a well-structured and relevant curriculum that aligns with the program objectives. Define clear and measurable learning outcomes that indicate what learners should be able to do or know upon completion of the offering.

Assessment and Evaluation: Establish mechanisms for assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of the offerings (where applicable). This may include methods such as formative and summative assessments, learner feedback surveys, and program evaluations. Regularly review and analyze the data collected to identify areas for improvement. Ensure learning outcomes are met.

Continuous Improvement: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement by incorporating feedback and data into offering enhancements. Regularly review and update the curriculum, instructional methods, and learning resources to ensure they remain current and relevant.

Program Review and Accreditation: Consider seeking accreditation or recognition from relevant accrediting bodies or industry associations. This can help validate the quality and credibility of the offerings.

Compliance and Legal Considerations: Ensure that the offerings comply with applicable laws, regulations, and policies. This may include adherence to privacy regulations, intellectual property rights, and accessibility standards.

Communication and Transparency: Clearly communicate details, expectations, and assessment criteria to learners. Be transparent about the offering’s benefits, limitations, and any associated costs.

Monitoring and Reporting: Implement a monitoring system to track program performance and progress towards achieving the desired outcomes. Generate regular reports to communicate the offering's effectiveness to stakeholders.

Appendix B Governance Flowchart – Micro-credentials


For Micro-credentials developed as part of a proposed new Degree or Diploma program, please refer to the New Degree/Diploma Program Governance Flowcharts on CIQE website:


Micro-credentials embedded in new programs will be sent to the Micro-credentials Committee for information after being approved by Academic Council and submitted to the Ministry for OSAP funding purposes, where appropriate.

* Minor Program Adjustment can be coupled with other curricular changes and submitted as one Major Modification if the threshold is met.

Appendix C

Curriculog link