Alternative Credential Guidelines


Activities with external professional accreditation must meet predetermined and defined standards set forth by the appropriate external accrediting organization. In the case of activities that award Continuing Education Units (CEUs), certificates (non-credit bearing), badges, and other non-academic credentials and program offerings, the standards to determine creditworthiness are less clear. For example, not all CEUs are created equal. The term “Continuing Education Unit” is in the public domain and used by organizations for their continuing education or professional training hours. However, organizations that do not use national or professional standards risk inconsistency in the definition and awarding of CEUs. The same is true of certificates, badges, and other micro-credentials.

Having a set of standards and best practices will give learners greater confidence in the quality of education or training programs offered by the University of Minnesota. It will also provide assurance to employers, credentialing associations, licensing bodies, and others that a learner has completed a program that meets a standard for continuing education and training. Faculty and staff will benefit from having a set of tools and information they can use to consistently assure quality and consistency.

Alternative Credentials: Consideration, Guidance, and Best Practices (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, 2022).

*Note: The following recommended Standards and Best Practices pertain to alternative credentials (e.g. microcredential certificates, badges, CEU's, etc.). This guidance is not applicable to credit-bearing Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Plans approved by the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota and other credit-bearing certificates and academic degree program plans.

Recommended Standards

The following standards are recommended, at a minimum, for all types of alternative credentials offered by the University of Minnesota:

1. Adherence to the standards set forth by relevant accrediting bodies.
Adherence to these standards allows credential earners to be admitted to practice and/or admission to membership of, or association with, the professional body.

The following practices are recommended as guidance for the following alternative credential offerings: 

2. Use of an enterprise system or a platform integrated with University tools.
When possible, use an enterprise system or platform integrated with University tools. This ensures the system or tool has been vetted to meet the needs of the University’s teaching and learning goals, operates reliably, and is managed in conformance with technology, privacy, and policy standards.

3. Adherence to University branding standards.
The University of Minnesota is a large and complex organization, and our diverse audiences are inundated with marketing and communications messages from all directions. The brand platform reflects the University’s mission, attributes, and benefits statement, distinguishing its value proposition. Branding standards also provide consistency and alignment in messaging.


A working group of individuals from across the University of Minnesota was convened and has been meeting since October 2017 to research, define, and draft recommended standards and best practices for the issuance of CEUs, certificates, badges, and other non-degree credentials offered through units at the University of Minnesota. Colleges and business units currently have different sets of criteria in place for administrating and awarding these types of credentials. A broad set of standards would allow flexibility for different types of continuing education units, as well as differences associated with external accreditation groups.

The work of this group is supported by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and Office of the Registrar—Academic Support Resources and includes collegiate directors of professional development, non-credit program staff, and business analysts. The working group is now in the process of seeking broad input on the draft standards and best practices. Once finalized, institutional processes will be developed to support and promote recommended standards and practices.

Alternative Credentials Community of Practice Contact List