Alternative Credentials


At the most basic level, alternative credentials verify, validate, and attest that specific skills and/or competencies have been achieved by the learner. They differ from traditional degrees and certificates in that they are generally offered in shorter or more flexible timespans and tend to be more narrowly focused on specific professional or lifelong learning knowledge, skills or competencies. Alternative credentials can be offered online, in the classroom, or via a hybrid of both.  They are also not always transcripted.

Along with enhanced access to learning opportunities, alternative credential opportunities offer convenience, flexibility and affordability – features that are valued by adult learners and that may propel adult learners toward degree attainment. The potential uses for alternative credentials are far-reaching:

  • If they are offered within an existing degree program, alternative credentials can motivate current students to persist. 

  • As an add-on to an existing degree program, alternative credentials allow students to distinguish themselves in a competitive marketplace through mastery of career-oriented skills which are complementary to their chosen field of study.

  • If they are offered to non-matriculated students (e.g., adult learners looking to start or return to college), alternative credentials can be used to break a degree program down into smaller sections of curriculum that stack toward a degree (e.g., referred to as a “stackable” credential).

  • Finally, alternative credentials can be tools to support life-long learning and professional development for both matriculated and non-matriculated students.

What are Alternative Credentials?

Alternative credentials can come in a variety of forms:

  • Credit-bearing or non-credit certificates
  • Curricular or non-credit microcredentials
  • TechCred

Alternative credentials may include only credit-bearing courses or workshops.  They may involve no credit-bearing opportunities; or they may combine credit-bearing courses with other non-credit bearing activities. If the alternative credential involves credit-bearing components, each credit hour issued must be equivalent to the university’s credit hour policy for learning time (e.g., one hour of credit is equated to two contact hours which includes the sum total of direct contact hours and all other time spent engaged in learning activities in the learning experience). 75% of credits for the alternative credential must be taken through Miami University.

Completion of credit-bearing certificate programs is recognized on the student’s transcript and administered by the University Registrar. Earners of all other alternative credentials receive a formal certificate of completion and/or digital badge that is administered by the home department or unit overseeing the credential.  If the student receives a digital badge, that badge can actually link prospective employers to examples of student work. 

It is important that Miami University ensures that these opportunities are purposeful, are aligned with our mission, comply with relevant accreditation and state regulations, and advance rigorous learning,

Types of Alternative Credentials


A certificate is a type of award, whether for-credit or non-credit, that indicates a person has achieved a specific level of knowledge, competency, skill, or abilities; typically, certificates are focused on professional or lifelong learning. Most certificates can be completed within one year of full-time academic effort.

  1. Credit-bearing Certificates: Credit-bearing academic program in which the student completes a prescribed course of study, typically 12-30 credits, typically focusing on professional or lifelong knowledge, skills or competencies. Like a minor, it is offered to students outside of the major. It may also be offered to non-degree seeking students. This may be at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level. For matriculated students, this type of certificate is designated on University transcripts when the certificate is awarded. For non-degree-seeking students, the certificate is designated on University transcripts upon completion. (Depending on the level of the certificate and the number of credit hours, certificates that have the possibility of enrolling non-matriculated students may need to be submitted to the Ohio Department of Higher Education and Higher Learning Commission for approval.)

  2. Non-credit Certificates or Certificates of Completion: Programs in which the student completes a prescribed course of study but do not issue academic credits. They are often offered in professional, adult, executive, and continuing education programs and awarded to students upon successful completion of the program. They can be completed by matriculated or non-matriculated students. However, this type of certificate is not designated on University transcripts when the certificate is awarded.


A microcredential is a credential that signifies, verifies, and/or validates that specific professional knowledge, competencies, skills, or abilities have been achieved. Microcredentials are generally shorter in duration than certificate programs (generally ranging from no credits to 17 credits) and focus pointedly on in-demand, high-quality and growth-oriented jobs. Because of this focus, they are typically developed in close partnership with an employer and tailored to the needs of that organization.  Some may be self-paced and/or competency or performance-based; many are offered online or involve online learning aspects. They are typically highly customized and innovative and may include online educational courses, bootcamps, professional certifications, pre-hire testing or employer-sponsored training. They are not transcripted at Miami University; earners receive a hard copy of a certificate issued by the academic department or unit offering the program.  Some programs that are more rigorous may also provide earners a digitally verifiable badge.


An Ohio Department of Higher Education credential, TechCred are technology-focused and industry-recognized microcredentials that take a year or less to complete and prepare current and future employees for the technology jobs Ohio employers need.  These alternative credentials are developed in partnership with an Ohio employer and can be completed in less than one calendar year, involving fewer than 900 clock hours or thirty (30) credit hours. Employers can apply for funding from the state to offset costs for their employees/students.


  • Recognize that rapidly changing technologies and social issues create an increasing need to respond with new and relevant educational opportunities. 

  • Seek to engage students who may or may not need an entire degree program but have skills/knowledge gaps or interests that relate to future desired employment or promotion.

  • Match workforce demands by generating outcomes that connect to employer needs, as determined by thorough market analysis and employer input.

  • Demonstrate market viability.

  • Provide flexible pathways to college credentials and opportunities, to address students' personal and professional life/schedule needs.

  • Permit the curriculum to be nimble and responsive to the evolving needs of the global community, while maintaining the high standards inherent of Miami University.

  • Support the following audiences: current college educated working adults with identified skill gaps, college educated individuals trying to change or advance careers, alumni, professionals in need of continuing education to maintain credentials, and working adults trying to identify a more advanced career path where college credit is required. 

  • Ensure the quality of the learning experience for Miami alternative credentials (whether credit or non-credit).  is of utmost importance. All alternative credentials should advance rigorous learning outcomes and be assessed regularly via a University-approved rubric.

  • Promote the portability and transferability of the credential (have value beyond the institution and within an external industry or market).

  • Offer alternative credentials within a traditional semester or term.