Are Your Credentials Future Ready? Making the Case for Badges and Micro-Credentials
Credentials matter. To move their careers forward, professionals need ways to differentiate themselves from their competition and ultimately stand out in a crowd. They also need others to understand the rigor, time and effort devoted to developing their professional expertise. Moreover, in today’s digitally connected world, professionals share practically everything online in ways that can be publically searched and viewed. As such, they must have ways to communicate their verified advanced skills and expertise on the web beyond just putting a few additional letters after their names or providing a static paper certificate.
Additionally, in order for professional associations and training providers to stay competitive and continue to both retain and grow their membership or participant pools, they too must find innovative ways to extend their reach and further engage their stakeholders by providing them with additional value.
Enter digital badges.
Sometimes referred to as digital credentials, digital badges offer associations and trainers a meaningful way to recognize their stakeholders’ certifications, awards and other continuing education experiences in a format that can be readily shared online. A digital badge is more than just a visual image or logo. Rather, it is a dynamic portable icon that is embedded with qualifying information such as who issued the credential, where and how it was earned and a detailed description of the competencies met. It can also include expiration dates and continuing education units – if applicable, and links to multimedia artifacts such as pictures, websites, videos, or documents. When the badge icon is clicked, the information is revealed and the accomplishment can be authenticated and verified by the viewer.
Digital badges are gaining significant traction in the credentialing industry because they are secure and verifiable, thus protecting the integrity of the credential. They also deliver significant additional value to certificants because they can be easily shared via email or on email signatures and on social networks, websites or digital resumes. Depending on the vendor, earners can also create an individualized digital badge portfolio to store and manage one or many of their earned badges.
As earners, or certificants, share their digital badges with others, namely employers, colleagues or licensing boards, they essentially act as ambassadors by extending the brand of the issuing organization to a wider network. Once shared, the issuing organization can track the sharing and opening of badges, accruing vital data about the impact of their programs.
Typically, the issuing organization creates a digital badge for each course or credential. This involves designing the front facing image and information associated with the accomplishment. Thereafter, upon completion of the credential, the organization would issue the badge– via a software platform–to earners. Earners receive an email or similar communication informing them of the issued badge and how to access the profile page. Thereafter, depending on the vendor implementation, it can be shared with the earner’s social networks or via email.
Digital badging offers earners tremendous value including:
Digital badging also offers issuing organizations a number of significant, quantifiable benefits including:
Digital badges provide secure digital proof that recognizes achievements. They are a verifiable demonstration of competencies and skills and are a component of identity. In addition, badges can be readily shared on digital media such as social networks and allow the earner to publicly demonstrate and advertise their competency. And moreover, they offer the credential issuing organization the ability to gain brand awareness and viral marketing as a result of the earner’s desire to promote both the accomplishment and the organization from which it was issued.
Once posted on social media with comments such as “I’m happy to share my achievement,” the network is compelled to chime in “congratulations” with waves, thumbs up, and additional commentaries. Each of these represents meaningful engagement for both the earner and the issuer of the credential.
Our study of several recently shared digital badges on social media as shown below showed that on average, a posted badge received 500-1k impressions and 25 interactions, of which, 4-5 were actual comments. We found that the number of connections and days since posted lead to increases in the number of interactions. Engagement seemed to plateau around 4-5 days and those with several hundred to 500+ connections were most likely to receive numerous interactions. Location – whether the US or abroad did not seem to matter, suggesting the power of social media is universal when it comes to engagement.
These observations are strong evidence of engagement via social media using digital badges and represent a meaningful way for organizations to gain recognition and brand awareness via digital badge initiatives. Unlike paper certificates that sit in one’s office (or desk drawer), cropped in the corner of our Zoom screen, a digital badge remains an active component of our online identities while driving brand awareness.
As stated earlier, professionals are eager to find ways to further differentiate themselves in today’s competitive job market. They want to be recognized for their areas of expertise, specializations and competencies, which may not be directly represented by their current certifications. As organizations constantly strive to provide additional value to their stakeholders, while also identifying alternative ways to generate revenue, they have begun to develop specialty certificates, or “micro-credentials.”
This nomenclature has caused significant confusion within the credentialing industry. To set the record straight, the term “micro-credential” is often associated with the term “digital badge,” but they are not the same thing. Digital badges can be used as a tool or currency to represent a micro-credential, but they are not micro-credentials. The confusion may be related to the fact that the concept of micro-credentialing and digital badging emerged around the same time. As organizations began to develop micro-credentials to grow their program offerings and support the needs of their certificants, they also decided to adopt the most current way to represent these smaller, more competency-based certificates.
Digital badging technology also facilitates the ability to automatically “stack” or “level-up” badges to represent the hierarchy of developing skills and knowledge. This ability enables organizations to be quite creative as they consider how to develop new specialty programs and certification offerings. Along this line, one of the newer applications of “stackable” digital badges involves a professional requesting an “endorsement” from a manager who can attest to applied competencies or skills in the workplace. Much like a letter of recommendation, an “endorsement” badge enables a professional to be recognized in a verified manner for their advanced level of expertise.
Micro-credentialing has also been a concept used by training providers and higher education institutions. Instead of issuing a paper certificate for successful completion of continuing education courses and competency- based activities, these organizations use digital badges to represent and validate the accomplishment. As mentioned earlier, when all stakeholders within an ecosystem (i.e. professionals, certification providers, training providers, employers) adopt badging as the common currency, the resulting utility for all parties is significant.
Finally, a recent advancement in recruiting technology has contributed to the movement towards adopting digital badging as a currency and essentially propelled it to the proverbial “tipping point” in the career development space. Many job boards are now making it possible for candidates to include their verified credentials on their profiles, and are also enabling recruiters to search for candidates who have validated or authenticated certifications and skills. Now that digital badging is emerging as a highly valuable currency for key stakeholders in workforce development, what was once a “nice to have” technology is quickly becoming a “must have” strategic tool.
Digital credentials are forms of digital evidence that third parties use to certify the acquisition of a skill or set of skills. Digital badges are visual images that act as vehicles for transmitting that information.
Digital badging clearly delivers value to both organizations and individuals. However, not all badging platforms are created equal. As such, before choosing and investing in a specific digital badging software platform, an organization needs to consider its overall objectives and goals.
Some questions the organization will want to consider:
BadgeCert is an enterprise-class platform for creating, issuing, storing and sharing digital badges that verify earners’ skills, credentials and continuing education experiences. With its enhanced functionality ensuring 100% real-time authentication for viewers, BadgeCert is the proven credentialing solution for associations, trainers, regulatory agencies and educational institutions.
Headquarters: Northbrook, IL
Credly helps people connect their verified skills to opportunities, and organizations make better and more equitable human capital decisions. Credly is a Pearson company.
Headquarters: New York, NY
Accredible is a digital credentialing platform that helps organizations securely issue, manage, track, and verify credentials.
Headquarters: Mountain View, CA
Badgr, now part of Instructure, is a digital credentialing platform where anyone can issue unlimited badges. Badgr has been at the forefront of the digital credential space since its origination and continues to be one of the key players in the market.
Headquarters: Eugene, OR
Badge List helps educators, companies and professional development organizations create Open Badges to guide learning and recognize achievement. Each badge is backed by expert reviews and a portfolio of evidence. Badges are linked together to form pathways guiding learners to their academic and professional goals.
Headquarters: San Francisco, CA
Badgecraft offers a multilingual platform and complimentary mobile applications to manage any achievements using Open Badges.
Headquarters: Baile Uí Bheoláin, Clare, Ireland
Bestr is a digital platform based on Open Badges: the meeting point between learners, employers and trainers.
Headquarters: Casalecchio di Reno, Bologna, Italy
Hyland Credentials provides a complete system to issue official records using a blockchain-anchored format. Digital credentials are easily shareable and instantly verifiable anywhere in the world.
Headquarters: Westlake, Ohio
Moodle is an ecosystem of learning solutions built around Moodle LMS, the open source learning management system used by hundreds of millions of learners worldwide.
Headquarters: West Perth, Western Australia
Today, with the advent of blockchain and other verification technologies, it’s possible for anyone with sufficient proof and evidence to earn a digital badge that represents their skills and knowledge. There are plenty of ways to get a digital badge in this day and age. Let’s go over some of them and how they work.
Typically, when you’ve completed a certain number of tasks, a badge-issuing organization or person may award you a form of digital proof that you’ve done the work. For example, if you received passing scores on 20 written exams, you might be awarded a digital badge for ‘Outstanding Written Assessments.’
You can also get badges by completing courses or other learning modules. Sometimes these badges are issued by the instructors themselves; other times they’re issued by an agency or accrediting body that oversees the course.
In addition, some organizations may require that you perform a project before they will award you a badge. This is often true for coding projects, where your final project is usually used as proof that you know how to code well enough to enter the field as an employee.
If you’re an accredited institution or organization, you can design and issue digital badges through a platform like BadgeCert or Credly, Accredible, Badgr etc. These platforms allow you to create your course badge so your students can show off your badges (and add additional context about what they learn and where). Let’s see the main steps.
Many of the largest and most prominent certification providers in the world have decided to adopt digital badging to represent their certifications.
They do so for a variety of reasons including:
When it comes to upskilling and reskilling, or frankly any L&D program, learner engagement has been an age-old challenge for learning leaders. One great way to address this is through incentivizing learning. And what better way to make learner engagement activities more fun than to implement digital badging in your employee training!
To put it simply, a digital badge is a proof of an accomplishment or skill that a learner can display, access, and verify online. But it’s only one kind of digital credential (e.g. digital certificates and test-based digital credentials).
Interestingly, there are a lot of benefits to implementing badging in your L&D strategy aside from boosting learner engagement. Digital badging:
Badges can be used to encourage learning and motivate students, particularly those who may be struggling or remote learners. Students enjoy collecting badges and take pride in their digital portfolios. They also make it easier for students to share their achievements. There are thousands of courses providing digital badges, for example with Coursera and Udemy.
As the quality of teaching has become recognised as a crucial component of student learning, we’ve seen an increasing emphasis on teacher professional development. Numerous studies explore the characteristics of effective teacher education programmes in low- and middle-income countries but few pay attention to how teachers’ professional learning is evidenced and recognised outside the award of formal qualifications. Most professional development programmes merely distribute certificates of participation or completion. However, capturing and validating improvements in teachers’ classroom practice is important. It rewards teachers who engage actively with professional development, supports their planning of future learning and provides evidence for career advancement.
That’s why it is so important that schools and colleges invest in global digital badging initiatives to support the recognition of teachers’ skills and competencies acquired through their participation in various professional development activities (including online courses). What’s more, badges are recognisable images that can be shared across social networks. They allow for the articulation of specific competencies and achievements and can be used to construct identity profiles, highlight skills, build personal reputations and demonstrate one’s commitment to lifelong learning.
There are two simple ways to add a digital badge to your LinkedIn profile:
Check if the email you received for your badge has the LinkedIn ‘Add to profile’ button. If so, click on the “Add to profile” button in the email you received.
Visit badgecert.com or your platform private area and log in with your credentials. Click on the badge -> Click on ‘Share’ button -> Click on ‘Add to Profile’ button.
May 24, 2022
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