Agile And Micro-Credentials: Using Agile Principles To Build

Considered Using Agile To Build Micro-Credentials?

Micro-Credentials Through The 12 Agile Principles

One thing that can get lost is that eLearning is not software, that it is actually learning that matters. That doesn’t mean that we can’t consider borrowing a project management methodology from the software industry.

Where To Start In Planning Micro-Credentials?

With micro-credentials predominately delivered online, a project management methodology rooted in the tech sector might seem the default. Choosing a project management method needs to take in several important factors, including what people are already familiar with and existing organizational structures. However, if you have been considering using Agile, there is some of common ground between micro-credentials and the Agile principles. First of all, we will have a quick overview of these two buzzwords, which are applied broadly but also have quite formal definitions.

What Are Micro-Credentials?

In short courses, MOOCs have made way for micro-credentials. In 2022, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment released a 20-page National Framework to define micro-credentials. My elevator summary is that they are the app of the learning world. They are focused on a small concept. To add complexity, micro-credentials can be stackable, meaning they can be used as credit toward award courses. Credit is provided by digital badges which use blockchain technology.

 What Is The Agile Methodology?

Similarly, the term “agile” is used widely in the workplace and is synonymous with post-it notes and Kanban boards. In general terms, it is often used to mean being flexible and reactive, and reviewing rather than sticking to a predetermined plan. It originates in the field of software and technology development. Despite the impressions of flexibility, in the formal form it is very structured, with designated roles and processes. The Agile Alliance is a good place to start, including the Agile manifesto.

Finding And Applying Agile Principles To The Development Of Micro-Credentials

1. Highest Priority: To Satisfy The Customer Through Continuous Delivery Of Software

Providing a piece of learning straight off the bat? Participants can continue as they grow. Institutions can start by just sharing one micro-credential, they don’t need to have developed an entire course or adapted their entire suite of micro-credentials.

2. Welcome Changing Requirements, Even Late In Development

Agile processes for building micro-credentials harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage. The framework describes how short courses, designed usually in partnership with industry, makes them highly complex to build. If industry is seen as a co-design partner, then allowing for changes late in the development gets the most out of their perspectives. With micro-credentials being built for emerging skills, it will be interesting to see how they are revised as the needs of industry changes.

3. Deliver Working Software Frequently, With A Preference For The Shorter Timescale

On paper this makes sense with micro-credentials, because it allows for more input and feedback from an industry partner. Any process that can bring in more co-design will make for a better course.

 4. Business People And Developers Must Work Together Daily Throughout The Project

This is an interesting concept when working with industry partners. Working daily might not be realistic, but keeping the communication channels open can’t hurt. This principle could also perhaps be translated into how a course is delivered. With the idea of participants learning from and working with their peers, perhaps a more intensive and synchronous format could work.

5. Build Projects Around Motivated Individuals

Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. This aspect perhaps relates to the challenge of selecting which micro-credentials to invest in. There is something that sparks the imagination with micro-credentials, perhaps their compact size that means that there are lots of ideas and concepts being submitted. The University of Western Sydney even holds a Shark Tank event with industry judges from Adobe.

Perhaps one selection criterion could be the level of motivation and drive of industry partners or academics pitching a course. With MOOCs earning a reputation for requiring enormous motivation to finish, will micro-credentials have similarly low completion rates? One difference could be the fact they are often really tailored and ideally connect with the participant’s goals, leading them to be highly motivated.

6. The Most Efficient Method Of Conveying Information Is Face-To-Face

This is different with short courses being primarily online. Perhaps this is something to consider in terms of including video versions of content in the course.

7. Working Software Is The Primary Measure Of Progress

This is very feasible when building online courses, as the platforms allow for rough concepts. However, storyboarding with programs or even paper can provide real clarity in the planning stage. The structure of a course ad the balance of content formats can be lost once put into a course platform. The other risk of these platforms is that they look too good, and the draft can then seem too final.

8. Agile Processes Promote Sustainable Development

The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely. The good thing about micro-credentials is that their size, their commercial nature, and their partnership nature seem to have fast and set deadlines. So, if the brief is to stretch, at least they are smaller projects, and lessons can be learnt and there is room for more sustainable development in subsequent builds.

9. Continuous Attention To Technical Excellence And Good Design Enhances Agility

There is a space for a little more innovation and creativity with micro-credentials. They are a showcase piece for institutions, a business card of sorts. So if there are funds for more interactive content that is going to work well. The challenge is funding time for adding in quality learning design elements, both the visible, technically advanced, and the invisible design elements, like discussion prompts crafted to spark conversation and authentic assessments.

10. Simplicity–The Art Of Maximizing The Amount Of Work Not Done–Is Essential

Micro-credentials are a challenge because they are usually about a third of what people are used to creating. Course elements that are not central to the learning outcomes will need to be cut. They really are an exercise in minimalism.

11. The Best Architectures, Requirements, And Designs Emerge From Self-Organizing Teams

This is perhaps the principle that is least compatible with micro-credentials. How would this work when institutions build a large suite of courses with a wide range of industry partners? Would it make sense to have each group and project organized differently? Perhaps that is what is required to really get co-design happening.

12. At Regular Intervals, Reflect On How To Become More Effective, Then Adjust Accordingly

This is perhaps the most useful principle for micro-credentials being built at such pace, to take time to reflect and document lessons learned to inform future builds. The nature of the short courses being released online and being tested several times a year is unprecedented in eLearning. This provides a great opportunity to review and tweak, both the content and the process on how they are made. Gathering feedback from the industry partner on the experience would also be a valuable step, easy to overlook in a fast-paced project.


Selecting a project management method is highly contextual, and this article is not making any suggestions. This is just a thought experiment exploring the similarities of two new, interesting concepts. A key takeaway for determining if Agile could be used to build micro-credentials is the organizational model.

Please comment and share your experience or perspectives on developing micro-credentials.