"Digital Badges and Enhancing Employment Potential," Your Questions Answered Part 2

During our last webinar, "Digital Badges & Enhancing Employment Potential," we got asked a lot of meaningful, thoughtful questions about where to begin, and how to engage with employers in the community.

Brenda Perea, Director Education and Workforce Strategies at Credly, is a badging veteran. She has unique insight in what it takes to create a badging program that uniquely benefits the community where badges are earned.

Read below for the questions that were asked during the webinar:

Q: Do Employers have the ability to validate digital badges?

A: What is unique about digital badges is anyone can validate a digital badge due to the OB v2.0 standard. The short answer is that digital badges protect the integrity of your credential by providing a link to verified data (metadata). Digital badges built on the OB v2.0 code are secure, web-enabled credentials that contain granular, verified information employers can use to evaluate an individual’s achievements. A longer answer with details on why digital badges can be validated is that the Open Badges standard describes a method for packaging information about accomplishments, embedding it into portable image files as digital badges, and establishing resources for its validation and verification. In other words, while digital badges are digital image files, they are also uniquely linked to data hosted on a digital credential platform. The data is all inside the code behind the digital image file. Digital badges issued on the OB v2.0 standard Badges contain detailed metadata about achievements such as who earned it, who issued it, the criteria required, and in many cases even the evidence and demonstrations of the relevant skills.

If an individual can’t share their badge, and if a third party can’t verify it, then the value of the underlying credential is significantly diminished. A digital badge’s link to verified data makes them more reliable and secure than a traditional paper-based credential or certificate. Representing skills, abilities and knowledge within a digital badge gives the learner/earner the ability to broadcast their credentials and tell professional story online with single-click access to validated credential information. Many employers are learning about digital badges, so displaying an online portfolio of digital badges, places the badge earner at the forefront of what will become a convenient circulation medium for communicating validated professional skills to employers.

Q: Three questions/areas of concern: how to convey the value of badges to individuals, how to convey the value to employers, and standards (is a badge from institution A the same as a badge from institution B?) What is being done in these areas?

A: Right now, most of the effort in badge ecosystems involves issuing and collecting, and most of the issuing happens within institutions like education, associations and corporations. The current situation is that digital badges can empower an individual learner/earner to collect and display many badges, but at times it is difficult to assess value across different organizations and institutions.

The core issue I assume sparked this question, is the "value problem" in digital badging. This “value problem” is not unique to digital badges, the same value judgment occurs when “valuing” an identical degree from an Ivy League University verses a local state university verse a community college. Some states have imposed a second validation with professional licensure requirements trying to mitigate the question of which degree is more valuable? The same “value argument” happens with digital badges. Which digital badge is more valuable? The answer to the question is more questions such as: Who recognizes and accepts digital badges as evidence of competency in exchange for more opportunities such as job advancement, increase in pay or obtaining higher level digital badges, credentials, certifications, or degrees? And for a learner, those answers then begin drive the answer to what is the value of digital badges. Simply the “value” is dependent upon which digital badges will help the learner/earner actually progress toward lifelong goals of employment, self-discovery and future learning goals. While that is a long answer to the first part of this question, it also starts the answer of the value of digital badges for employers.

A simple answer is that digital badges unlike grades or other traditional credentials, carry metadata that links to evidence of the underlying accomplishments and skills. You can value a badge by looking at the metadata evidence on how and why the learner/earner obtained the badge. Digital badges enable a sharp departure from the traditional model of screening applicants through the use of degrees as gatekeepers. Digital badges allow employers the opportunity to take a more evidence-based approach to screening applicants to better predict fit and performance. In other words, if digital badges have robust metadata with industry driven skills and abilities written with employers in mind, employers can easily find the right candidate for the right position.

Another benefit for employers which isn’t talked about very often, is digital badges are excellent talent management tools inside an organization. Take for instance all the aerospace engineers who work on launching a satellite. While most of the engineers have similar degrees and human resource titles containing engineer, digital badges can be used to find out within the pool of engineers, who is a specialist in satellite flight telemetry data processing software or who specializes in satellite electrical subsystem circuits operating in zero gravity, or which engineer specializes in payload performance optimization. While that is a high-level example, let’s look at something employers tend to complain about today’s workforce, 21st Century or soft skills. If the employer intentionally utilized digital badges within their internal training to identify high priority soft skill competency, the employer would be able to immediately access, by way of issued digital badges, those employees who had the specific critical thinking or problem-solving skills applicable to a specific project.

Or if we look at a larger picture, say the issues with disaster recovery in the instance of tornados, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes or fires. Many times, recovery is delayed or drawn out because finding the right skilled workforce for the job is difficult because there is no national database of skills. Just think of the possibilities if during the aftermath of a storm such as Super Storm Sandy, instead of the population waiting up to 12-20 weeks for the power to be restored due to the need for electricians to inspect and test every residence and business breaker boxes for possible degradation from salt water, the mayor of Hoboken NJ, could have searched for validated skills via digital badges to find workers with that skill set who could aid in the inspection and testing. Think about it, the skills needed for recovery from Super Storm Sandy taxed the surrounding communities but the areas west of the Mississippi had pools of talent which remained untapped because their skills were undiscoverable.

While digital badges and their value are still in the emerging stage, it is the possibilities for future learner/earner engagement and workforce utilization which will be a driving force in creating the “value” of digital badges.

Q: When a student is applying for a job do they have to display them on their resume? Or is there a place where these can go to clearly demonstrate the skill on the official transcript?

A: A badge earner is in control of their digital badges, yet the importance of sharing and the verification of an individual’s digital badges is usually tied to a specific purpose, either general self-improvement, but more often it’s because they’re trying to show current or potential future employers that they are continuing to grow or have acquired new skills. Digital badges can be shared through a website, an email signature, posting to a social network, added to applications or a resume.

All OB v2.0 compliant digital badges have a unique URL which ties the credential to the earner and to the issuer. A student can add each individual digital badge URL to a resume or they have the ability to add the unique URL of their badge portfolio or “backpack” to their resume or an employment application.

Remember: each OB v2.0 compliant badge must contain metadata. The content of that metadata ranges from clearly articulated skills, abilities, competencies and knowledge to hyperlinked evidence. The additional evidence can be a document, an image, a student’s portfolio, or a link to industry, national or state standards which the badge earner had to meet to earn that badge. So, you see a student has the power to share that information through multiple means and with one simple click, employers and other interested parties can easily view and verify the credential and the skills and experience required to earn it.


If you're interested in learning more about how to start a digital credentialing program, fill out the form below and we'll be in touch shortly:

Topics: Higher Education, Human Capital Management

By  Brenda Perea