Who are your learners, what do they do, and where are their interests? Imagine the success if you could answer that as a training provider. In this episode, Kevin Streater, Vice President of ForgeRock University, describes why and how ForgeRock entered the world of digital badging. Among the wins: being able to lay out meaningful pathways to promote lifelong learning, thereby engaging a customer beyond just-in-time technical training.
Listen to the full interview here:
Susan Manning: Welcome to the Credly Podcast where we touch base with our issuers, earners, and partners and explore themes of interest in digital credentialing. I'm Susan Manning. Today I'm talking with Kevin Streater, the vice president of Forgerock University and Kevin, I'd like to welcome you.
Kevin Streater: Thank you very much, Susan.
Susan Manning: As you might guess, Kevin is in the UK, and I'm going to let you explain what Forgerock University does.
Kevin Streater: Okay, so Forgerock University, it's the training home of Forgerock. We're an access and identity management company and a lot of us are ex Sun Microsystems employees so we picked up a product like that didn't continue, position of Sun by Oracle and built it into a new global business. So we've been going about eight years now and during that time I've built Forgerock University up from the ground up.
Susan Manning: Excellent, and recently the way I came to know you was that you had done a keynote about lifelong learning and digital badges and I thought this might be an interesting topic to explore and kind of get your background on, at what point did you introduce digital badges and what do they mean for you, for your earners, and for the program? Now I don't expect you to answer all of that without me prompting you a little bit so let's just start with, when did you become aware of digital badges?
Kevin Streater: I guess I've been aware of digital badges for several years now because in between Sun Microsystems and Forgerock, I spent four years working for the Open University in the UK which was one of the early pioneers in the [mookweld 00:01:49] and there was certain discussion around badge but I didn't really see any relation between digital credentials and the technical training world. I could certainly see it in the academic learning world but I've never really seen anything that said yes, this is something for the technical providers.
Kevin Streater: Then about a year ago, I'm part of an organization called CEdMA which is Computer Education Management Association. CEdMA Europe had a conference on digital badging and we had a number of people talking about just how they've come across badging and it really made me think this is something we could start engaging with. So we've been working with Pearson for our certification program and have done for a number of years and through that got introduced to the acclaimed badging platform and started to hear a bit about how it could be used in the technical world.
Susan Manning: So then when you began to apply this, what outcomes did you see? What have you observed?
Kevin Streater: Well what really drove it was the fact that many of our partners, and we're a very partner centric organization. Many of our partners were saying, we don't understand your curriculum. We don't understand the pathways through your curriculum. You've got all these courses, how do we find our way through it and that, working together with our, my partner program manager, the two of us had to think about, how could we make this easier to understand and that's where we really started to look at, well actually could badging help us? Because what we're interesting in is progression and I'd seen this from the university world. Workplace academic learning is always driven by lifelong learning. It's the idea that you should be continually learning and improving your skills and have clear destinations to aim for and clear steps on the way.
Kevin Streater: We sat back and really thought about how does our curriculum look if we were to say, let's have two pathways. So we did that and then, well let's start applying a digital badge to each of those significant steps, what does it give us? It actually gave us two very clear pathways through our curriculum which we presented to a few partners at our global partner advisory board at the end of 2017. The response at that point was, yes it looks good but can we see it in practice? We sort of picked it up from there and started building our program from that point. So it was really to solve a problem that we had in our partner community but the implementation we've done has allowed us to expand that right the way across all our audiences. So it works just as well for our customers as for our partners.
Susan Manning: Wonderful, and as we were chatting before I hit the record button, you were telling me that this really is life long learning. In the technical world it's not just about the just in time training, but having a whole plan and goals. Can you talk a little bit about your ideas around that?
Kevin Streater: Yes I was saying to you, everyone in the technical world lives by sort of turning up for a class the week before they need to go and apply the skills but when you're working with a partner community, you actually want to help build capability and that's more structured. It needs to be more planned. But if you want to get partners to engaged with that, you have to lay out a road map that makes sense.
Kevin Streater: Taking the sort of distance learning university models, they all lay out very clear sort of individual modules and then modules build up into a stage and a stage over sort of maybe two or three stages that will build up into a bachelors degree or something like that and there's clear sign post with well let's see if we can lay out some destinations that are of value and we've ended up with the, we have a Forgerock accredited consultant level. So what does that look like and in the end I was able to map out sort of what are the five stages you need to go through in order to become one of these Forgerock credited consultants that could go out and say, I really understand this technology.
Kevin Streater: So it actually brings some of the ideas of lifelong learning together with this sort of just in time technical training world and I think the, I first did a blog post back in June and we've just gone back to that article so often because it lays out very clearly, if you want to become an expert in Forgerock products, heres how you do it and it's entirely driven by the badging structure.
Susan Manning: What do you know about the typical earner? Who are they? At what level in their career are they?
Kevin Streater: So it's actually, some of the things we've been able to learn since we started the badging program is it's helped us to understand out learners better. In general, our learners are mid 20s to mid 30s. They are technical. They're no longer doing entry level technical roles. They are looking for specific technologies to become expert in. They are complimentary to a lot of other technologies so we do identity and access management along side that, they may have a number of deployment platforms. They may have some developer skills. They want to build up a portfolio to be able to say, this is who I am. This is what I can bring to your business as a skill set.
Kevin Streater: It's generally those people who are technically competent and they want to continue their technical skills and apply it to large, generally enterprisal mission critical problems. So these are people that work in ways, our customer base is the Fortune 500, it's people that are either working for those companies or working for those companies such as system integrators or technology partners but it's people who are highly technical but they're looking to be able to demonstrate their capability over a huge breadth of technologies and all just is one piece of that.
Susan Manning: And I think even for those who are not in a technical field, being able to amass a collection of digital badges that speak to your own capabilities or maybe your nuanced skillsets. Nobody has the same collection. My profile is different from your profile is different from somebody else and it seems to me that the world of work moving forward is about capturing and surfacing your unique profile through your lifelong learning to continue to succeed.
Kevin Streater: Yeah, and I've, in the UK we have a lot of [chance 00:09:36] institutes and over the years I've actually collected a number of different institutes. I'm a member of a number of different graves and I always put this on my profile on LinkedIn, on my email signature. That's been one way of describing who it is that I am and what I can do and it's really taking that same idea and putting it into the form of digital credential and it's great to be seeing a number of the individuals we work with, within days they were already putting the badges on their email signatures, on their LinkedIn profiles.
Kevin Streater: I can just see an email coming in and immediately I know what this person is capable of doing which, six months ago, we didn't have that ability. Now it's really clear but it also means it's very clear for our customers and for their customers to see what are they capable of. So it really has opened up the ability to see, what can this person do? Where are they specialist, and I say it could be across a whole range of technologies or project management but it gives you a good feel of who that person is so that's the real strength of digital badges is to provide that profile in a very consistent way.
Susan Manning: I love that you've told your story about this and I hope we'll follow you moving forward to see what happens in year three, year four, year five, because you're really building with a good deal of momentum here.
Kevin Streater: Yeah, and it's been a great program for Forgerock and I think, we're only six months in but it's already had a huge measurable impact on the business. We understand who our learners are now. We understand what they do and where they are and what they're interested in. So yeah, do it'd be great to come back in a year or two and see where we got to.
Susan Manning: I hope you will. Thank you Kevin.
Kevin Streater: Pleasure, thanks very much.
Susan Manning: Thank you listeners for joining us. If you'd like to suggest upcoming topics, feel free to write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.