Podcast: Product Spotlight - Official Transcripts & Endorsement Features

Hear from Credly’s Chief Experience Officer, Jarin Schmidt about new product features on Credly’s Acclaim platform that add value to digital credentials and empower earners: official transcripts and endorsements. Jarin shares the thinking behind developing these features and their importance to earners, registrars, accreditation bodies, and standards bodies.

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 Jarin Schmidt. Jarin is our chief experience officer and coordinates all things product right now. And we're going to talk about some exciting features that are coming out. So hi Jarin.

Jarin Schmidt:
Hey Susan, great to chat with you today. Really looking forward to going over some of these new features.

Susan Manning:
Yeah, so we're going to talk about endorsements and transcripts, but I'm going to start with transcripts. Can you paint a picture of what's going to happen for our earners?

Jarin Schmidt:
Absolutely. I think to talk about transcripts, we really have to talk a little bit about the overarching strategy that Credly has been pursuing for some time now. And what I mean by that is we have really been focusing on taking any sort of learning outcome, any sort of achievement or recognition that could improve someone's life or career, and documenting that in a way that is structured and accessible.

Jarin Schmidt:
And why I start by pointing that out is because transcripts should really get at the heart of why we've been on that mission for these last few years. Not because we just want to document these achievements for the sake of documenting them, but because we want to make sure that they turn into currency. What I mean by that is that we want to make sure that these credentials can actually be applied in multiple sets of contexts to improve someone's life for career.

Jarin Schmidt:
And that's really where transcripts comes into play because transcripts allows us to take the credentials that we're documenting, turn them into a transcript, and then offer them into settings like an academic institution where they can be applied towards credit, and ultimately propel someone into the next phase of their life or career. So it's been a long time coming, but we're really excited about this because this is one of the most tangible ways that we can say, "Because you have these credentials, here's how you can apply them."

Susan Manning:
How is a transcript different from me just sharing my profile link?

Jarin Schmidt:
I think the difference here would be that as we've spoken with academic institutions and registrars and even a lot of our partners, that public link is valuable and it still offers that same real time verification that you would expect in a transcript. The differences working within the infrastructure and the current workflows, or best practices that are prevalent right now within higher ed. So this is really a way of us looking at, we believe over time the data will flow to these institutions seamlessly and in a variety of different formats. And today that format tends to be within a PDF and an official transcript. And so that's what we're offering.

Susan Manning:
I've heard the term comprehensive learning record batted around. Is that what this is?

Jarin Schmidt:
I think it is and it isn't. So when I think about a comprehensive learner record, or sometimes referred to as CLR, that is intended to be a comprehensive story around what someone's skills or capabilities are. And while the transcripts as it exists, a portion of that, I think what we're going after with CLR initiatives is much broader than that. It stands an academic setting, a professional setting, and even on the job training sort of context. And so what we have here is maybe it would be considered a stepping stone to a CLR, but I think there's still a lot of work to be done to get to that gold standard. That ambition that we have around I as an individual have access to all of my learning achievement data, regardless of the context it was in and can send it to whomever I want in a variety of different maybe data formats, or maybe not formats is the right word, but standards.

Susan Manning:
Okay. We also have endorsements coming out as a new feature. Tell me how that fits into all of this.

Jarin Schmidt:
Yeah, so endorsements actually came out of work that we've been doing for a year or two now with ACE, the American Council on Education and we think endorsements have a ton of potential. They really are allowing third parties to come in and endorse existing credentials within our network. And why that ties nicely with the transcripts work that we're doing is because it allows groups like ACE to evaluate credentials and stamp their approval on it and really link back to, "Here's the criteria under which we did an endorsement."

Jarin Schmidt:
Endorsement is a term that's been thrown out quite a bit within the open badge community and well I've always liked what it was building towards, the one concern that I always had is that I didn't want it to turn into, or we didn't want it to turn into a like button. Where anyone can come in and press something and say, "I endorse this", but the context under which they gave that endorsement was different. Meaning if you think about on LinkedIn you can endorse someone for project management, well that endorsement means a whole lot more coming from someone that maybe has a PMP or some sort of background within project management. Versus my neighbor who doesn't know anything about project management.

Jarin Schmidt:
So endorsements is a fantastic, because it allows you to reference the criteria under which you're giving that endorsement in the first place.

Susan Manning:
So an endorsement really does go above and beyond an ordinary credential. It layers on some additional validation, if you will. Is that how you're looking at it?

Jarin Schmidt:
Yeah, I think so. I think if you look at the metadata within a credential, it is intended to help someone differentiate that credential, value that credential, really have context to understand how they should perceive that credential. And an endorsement does the exact same thing as the metadata. The difference here is that instead of it being within the metadata coming from the org that is issuing it, it's a standalone third party that's coming in and adding another piece of information, to allow you to infer value for that credential.

Jarin Schmidt:
And what's great about it is that we actually see it coming into play in three different ways. First and foremost is the way that ACE will be using it to provide credit recommendations. So that when that transcript gets generated you can also dig in and see what a third party did in terms of evaluation and a recommendation for college credits. But we also see it being relevant perhaps within other accrediting bodies.

Jarin Schmidt:
So for example, there are quite a few bodies that have standards under which they evaluate credentials, the ANSI accreditation, or the ICE has their NCCA accreditation. We think that those would be great examples of where again, a third party comes in and evaluates a program or a credential and can go ahead and lend their brand to it and offer a bunch of context under which they would be giving that.

Jarin Schmidt:
The third example that we see endorsements playing a role in would be with continuing education. We have many programs and partners where they're issuing and overall certification, or achievement. And they also then have credential maintenance where they will go about evaluating training from a variety of their partners, or others within their industry and they want to be able to know whether or not that counts towards credential maintenance, whether it has a CEU's, credential education units associated with it. So again, this is why it makes a lot of sense for us to roll this out with transcripts given that ACE example, but we see endorsements reaching well beyond just that one use case.

Susan Manning:
I think it also opens up a world of collaborations between organizations to start working together.

Jarin Schmidt:
Absolutely.

Susan Manning:
Yeah. Toward products and services that benefit our credential earners. That's exciting.

Jarin Schmidt:
I think one of the notions that we've had from the start is that credentialing and isolation, like one program in isolation is valuable and can move the needle for a professional. But truthfully, as the labor market evolves, we're seeing that there's a need for more collaboration between organizations. So we have plenty of use cases emerging now where groups want to have credentials from perhaps one or two institutions come together to represent an even different signal to the market. And whether that's a standalone credential that is earned basing off of two other credentials from isolated programs, or it starts to come in play through endorsements and collaborations on endorsements and standards bodies and so on. We have yet to see, but we're putting all of the pieces out there to see how then our network and our ecosystem collaborates with one another. So I think that's a great observation.

Susan Manning:
Great. Then in six months we'll come back and find out where we are. Right?

Jarin Schmidt:
Indeed. Hopefully in three months. Who knows.

Susan Manning:
Perfect. Thank you for your time, Jarin.

Jarin Schmidt:
Appreciate it, Susan.

Susan Manning:
Thank you listeners for joining us. If you'd like to suggest upcoming topics, feel free to write us at info at info@credly.com.

By Susan Manning