Digital badges have become a powerful tool to validate individual success, abilities and skills, and interest in different learning settings.
Much like traditional paper certificates, digital badges are a record of your accomplishments but they also allow you to openly share your success to social media platforms and have your portfolio digitally available online.
Simply put, a digital badge is an indicator of accomplishment or skill that can be displayed, accessed, and verified online. These badges can be earned in a wide variety of environments, an increasing number of which are online. | Source: eLearningIndustry.com
The term “badge” or more specifically “digital badge” in some circles has become a catchall term for any form of digital credential. This isn’t accurate however, and is often a source of confusion. Digital badges are just one subset of digital credentials, and this fact is worth diving deeper into.
Digital Badges are just one part of the larger credentialing ecosystem. There are many ways to recognize an achievement, and many forms of proof for a variety of needs. A digital badge serves both as recognition of learning or achievement AND digital proof of that accomplishment. | Source: Accredible
Digital credentials are digital forms of any type of physical credential. These range from driver’s licenses, passports, tickets to membership certificates, online certifications, training completion certificates, and countless other examples. Digital credentials are simply digital versions of these traditionally paper credentials, that shows proof of some kind of qualification, completion, clearance, or competence. On a practical level, these digital credentials should be verifiable just as their paper counterparts. All should contain the individual’s name, what the credential is for, who issued it, and if necessary, when it expires.
Because of the wide array of credentials and industries adopting the term “digital credential” it is often difficult to determine exactly what is meant when someone references digital credentials. For example, some tech industries consider a password or user ID as a credential. In the online learning industry, a digital credential is often associated with a digital version of a traditionally paper certificate used to designate course completion or competency.
We’ll be exploring digital credentials as they apply to some form of learning or achievement. This includes higher education, continuing education / executive education, MOOCs, associations, online learning, training programs, certifications, bootcamps, awarding bodies, and more.
Following are the 3 forms of learning-associated digital credentials:
Like the name suggests, test-based digital credentials are awarded to individuals who can prove competency in some subject through a proctored exam. Often times this exam is done online, but it’s not uncommon for individuals to travel to physical test centers to complete their examination. This is common for higher stakes credentials. For example, to receive one of the various certifications offered by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), individuals schedule either an online or in-person examination through the IAPP website. These testbased credentials are very similar to online certificates (see below), the main difference being they require an exam to pass. The output -a digital version of a completion certificate- is often the same, however.
Digital certificates are essentially the same as test-based digital credentials, but they don’t require a proctored exam to receive. Often these digital certificates are issued for completion of a course or seminar, or might be the digital equivalent of a certificate of membership of a group or association.
Badges are still very much in their early stages of growth, and as a result are much more ambiguous in their application (which is one of the reasons why we created this guide). Sometimes they’re awarded for higher stakes accomplishments, such as completing a rigorous examination or passing a course. Other times they’re given out for low stakes tasks such as watching a video or going through an HR training program. Whereas test-based digital credentials and digital certificates are are designed to look similar to their physical counterparts, digital badges have a more unique look.
In addition to the image-based design we think of as a digital badge, badges have meta-data to communicate details of the badge to anyone wishing to verify it, or learn more about the context of the achievement it signifies. Together these data should provide all the information needed to understand what the badge signifies: Who received the badge? Who issued the badge? What was the criteria for issuing the badge? Does it expire?
Some or all of this information will be displayed in a visual format wherever the badge is displayed, but it is also stored within the digital badge’s meta-data so it can be verified any time – even if you only have the image!
Other information like tags, expiration date, whether or not the credential was revoked are optional fields that may or may not be displayed with the badge image, but will always be included in the meta-data if they are relevant to the badge.
Example badge (issued using Accredible) with meta-data shown. The badge image shown here will contain copy of all the information on display (issue date, badge name, etc) that can be retrieved later, even without visiting the webpage. | source: Accredible
In order for a digital badge to be Open Badge Compliant, it needs to have certain required meta-data:
Other meta-data is optional, but very useful to help explain to anyone viewing the badge its context and current state.
If you want to know more about earning badges and becoming certified we would be happy to help.