Academic Credentials Policy - Micro-credentials, Certificates, Digital Badges, and Recognition of Completion - UTDPP1120
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) will provide learners various pathways to earn credentials that will meet the current workforce needs. Learners include UT Dallas enrolled students desiring proficiency in certain disciplines, UT Dallas alumni who need to update their skills and abilities to remain current in their chosen fields, and prospective learners who may or may not possess a degree but need to earn credentials quickly to pursue employment opportunities and to advance their careers. Irrespective of their status, learners' skills and accomplishments will be recognized in verifiable and identifiable methods, including transcripts and digital badges.
Learner: A more inclusive term that encompasses a variety of target audiences, including those who are taking part in the educational process whether it be a micro-credential or a full degree program. UT Dallas welcomes learners to learn new competencies and skills whether they are currently enrolled students, alumni, or have never been associated with UT Dallas but seek opportunities to enhance their current skills to secure employment opportunities and advance their careers or advance their knowledge in subject matters.
Academic Certificates: Consist of semester-based, credit-bearing, and graded UT Dallas courses offered on the undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate levels. UT Dallas academic certificates typically have a minimum of semester credit hours (SCH), ranging from 9 to 15 SCH. Completed certificates are recorded in academic records and on transcripts. Admission to an academic certificate program does not constitute admission to a degree program.
Embedded Academic Certificates: Some of UT Dallas' degree programs have embedded certificates that could lead to the completion of degree programs as permitted by the requirements of the cognate degree program. Learners who enroll in embedded academic certificates are degree-seeking students at UT Dallas.
Stand-alone Academic Certificates: Consist of free-standing body of knowledge with organized, graded UT Dallas courses, and are often offered in an interdisciplinary manner. Generally, learners are certificate-seeking students although some of them may choose to apply to be degree-seeking students and enroll subsequently into degree programs.
Digital Badges: Consist of online representations that recognize competencies, skills, achievements, and participation earned by learners. Although the phrase of "micro-credentials" is used interchangeably with "digital badges," digital badges at UT Dallas refer to the learners' successful completion of micro-credentials. These badges will include verifiable and identifiable data associated with the specific learner.
Academic Micro-credentials (sub-certificates): Consist of a smaller subset of credit-bearing graded UT Dallas courses or specifically designed modules that are less than a full academic certificate. Micro-credentials are narrower in scope with a maximum of 6 SCH. If these micro-credentials are embedded within academic certificate programs, they may lead to the completion of academic certificates as permitted by the requirements of the cognate academic certificate program. Completed micro-credentials are recognized as digital badges. Academic micro-credentials may need to be renewed and approved on a periodic basis.
Professional Certificates: Consist of non-credit modules aimed at full-time professionals (non-degree seeking students) who are seeking additional knowledge and certification related to their industries. These certificates are typically earned in a short timeframe within a year or less. Learners will receive awarded certificates that will not be recorded on transcripts; learners may receive digital badges and/or other approved institutional documents.
Professional Micro-credentials: Consist of competency or skills-based criteria that allow learners to develop proficiency in particular areas. Similar to professional certificates, credentials are earned in a short timeframe within a year or less. Learners will receive awarded certificates that will not be recorded on transcripts; learners may receive digital badges and/or other approved institutional documents, similar to the awarding of professional certificates. Professional micro-credentials may be renewed and approved on a periodic basis.
Alternative Credential Platforms: Non-traditional and digital credentials are offered through UT Dallas' partnerships with approved third-party vendors. These alternative credentials may be viewed as pathways to obtain attainable and accessible education. Such courses or modules may be used as supplemental materials to instruction provided within UT Dallas graded, organized courses or may be offered as a stand-alone program. Digital badge awards do not come with letter grades upon completion, and therefore, do not add or subtract to an enrolled student's GPA, or produce a GPA for non-enrolled students. The following section on Transfer Credit provides additional information regarding credit earned within these platforms.
Students may petition for transfer credit when they provide documentation of their awarded digital badges to the program head and/or school of their declared majors or academic certificate programs after being admitted to UT Dallas. Petitions should ideally be completed within the student's first semester at UT Dallas, but no later than the first day of the student's graduating term. Upon admission, academically qualified UT Dallas faculty in the program and/or school will review the student's documentation to determine the content provided by the alternative credential platform(s) to ensure non-credit work is comparable in both content and rigor for the awarding of an equivalent credit in the respective certificate and/or degree program. As credit is petitioned after admission, academic credit for awarded digital badges will not be considered as part of an applicant's transferable GPA or transfer hours for admission. The Schools' Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education or the Associate Dean for Graduate Education will provide final approval of individual cases based on recommendations from their program and/or school faculty. Some schools or programs may opt not to allow individual petitions for awarded digital badges as specified on their departmental websites.
Before an academic certificate or academic micro-credential program that meets the definitions can be advertised or students enrolled, the program must be approved according to the school's curricular approval process; the Chief Academic Officer; the Office of Institutional Success and Decision Support; the Graduate Council or the Council for Undergraduate Education, as appropriate; the Committee on Educational Policy; and the Academic Senate. An assessment plan must accompany every proposal request for an academic certificate or academic micro-credential program. In addition, all graduate academic certificate programs that require more than 15 semester credit hours of graded, organized courses, and all undergraduate academic certificate programs that require more than 20 hours of graded, organized courses, are subject to review and prior approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). Certificate programs, regardless of semester credit hour length, may only be offered in areas and at levels authorized by an institution's Program Inventory in adherence to Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 5, Subchapter C, Section 5.48.
Changing the academic certificate program's length (semester credit hours) may be subject to the THECB approval process and/or Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) approval in accordance with the SACSCOC Substantive Change Policy.
Templates for academic certificates and for assessment plans can be found online on the Forms and Templates website at: https://provost.utdallas.edu/academic-program-proposals/new-certificates#.
Approvals should be secured for professional certificates and/or professional micro-credentials before offering them. Schools who are interested in offering these types of credentials are encouraged to review the Professional Certificate template.
Recognition of Certificate Completion on Student Transcripts
Undergraduate academic certificates: The student's transcript will reflect that the student has completed the undergraduate level academic certificate program, if the student (a) has a grade point average of at least 2.0 in the organized courses that constitute the undergraduate academic certificate program, (b) meets all academic standards as required by the school and stated in the catalog, (c) the certificate program and the courses constituting such program are listed in the catalog, and (d) the student declares to the RUO of the Program their intent to complete the certificate.
Graduate academic certificates: The student's transcript will reflect that the student has completed the graduate level academic certificate program, if the student (a) has a grade point average of at least 3.0 in the organized courses that constitute the graduate academic certificate program, (b) meets all academic standards as required by the school and stated in the catalog, (c) the certificate program and the courses constituting such program are listed in the catalog, and (d) the student declares to the RUO of the Program their intent to complete the certificate.
Recognition of Earned Credentials on Other Institutional Documents
The official academic transcript remains as the official document and will list the degree and major, and if applicable, second major, double degree, minors, concentrations, designations, academic certificates, and academic honors. Other institutional documents may include the following:
- Digital badge: an official record that recognize competencies, skills, achievements, and participation earned by learners and awarded upon completion.
- Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR): an official portable document that captures different methods of learning, both in and outside of the classroom, by recording career ready skills and experiences earned by learners. The document may include one or more credentials, such as badges, degrees, certificates, courses, and experiences.
Closing a Certificate Program
In accordance with the University and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Substantive Change policies, an academic certificate or an academic micro-credential program may not be closed until UT Dallas has received prior SACSCOC approval of a teach-out plan. The dean of the school must submit to the Office of Institutional Success and Decision Support (OISDS) a memo that includes the rationale for closure (such as low enrollments or shifts in market demand) and a teach-out plan for currently enrolled students. OISDS will submit the request to SACSCOC.
A teach-out plan is not needed when closing a professional certificate and/or professional micro-credential program; however, the dean of the school should notify the OISDS if the professional program is closed so that the office can update the University's comprehensive authorized offerings list.
Declaring Admission into a Certificate Program and Reporting
In order to automate the academic certificate program and the academic micro-credentials completion audits, students will be required to declare admission into a certificate and/or micro-credentials program in order to be tracked within the University's student data system as a certificate/micro-credentials program student. The Office of the Registrar will certify that all undergraduate certificate programs requirements have been met and will award the student's certificate. The Office of Graduate Education will certify that all graduate certificate program requirements have been met and will award the student's graduate certificate.
- Issued: 2023-02-06