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Micro-credentials have emerged over the last decade as a flexible complement to conventional studies. They offer certification for smaller periods of learning, allowing a focus on narrower specialisations, and can be offered before, during or after conventional studies. The definition proposed by the European Commission in 2021 describes micro-credentials as “the record of the learning outcomes that a learner has acquired following a small volume of learning. These learning outcomes have been assessed against transparent and clearly defined standards”.

There are a variety of different forms of micro-credential; the term can be applied to courses offered by higher education institution, employer, vocational training bodies, or by other (informal) education providers, and the mode of delivery may vary. A number of recent studies have sought to analyse their typology and characteristics. These studies have included the European approach to micro-credentials for lifelong learning and employability, and the MicroBol project.

Due to the nature of micro-credentials, credential evaluators may find that assessment of these qualifications can prove challenging; qualifications which are aligned to the Bologna Process can be recognised per the Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC); however, the wide variety of micro-credentials offered can make recognition process challenging in daily practice.  Micro-credentials of other types could be recognised through procedures for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and an assessment of the relevant details of the course presented.  In order for this to be possible, the micro-credential documentation should contain details of key aspects necessary for credential evaluation, such as – but not limited to – transparent information on quality assurance, assessment methods, entry requirements, and learning outcomes.

The e-VALUATE project provided a framework for recognising non-traditional learning, including Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs). The STACQ project followed on from e-VALUATE; this newer project has developed an online evaluation tool for micro-credentials. It uses the criteria and the framework for recognising micro-credentials, and offers recommendations if some criteria for recognition are not met.

The MICROBOL project developed a “Common Framework for Micro-credentials in the EHEA” with a section dedicated to recognition, together with qualifications framework and quality assurance.