Published: April 26, 2022
By Hanna Aronovich, CAE
Digital badges have long been a topic of interest, particularly in the education and credentialing industries, and they have only grown in popularity with the acceleration of technology and online platforms.
According to IMS Global Learning Consortium, the stewards of the Open Badge standard, there was an 80% increase in badges issued from 2018 to 2020. Additionally, according to their 2020 Badge Count report, 43 million badges have been issued and 475,000 badges are available to be earned.
If your organization is ready to make the move and introduce digital badges, here are five things to keep in mind:
1. What are digital badges?
Digital badges are visual indicators of skills or achievements, such as completing an educational program or earning a credential. Open Badges are a type of digital badge that follows a set of standards to ensure the badge is verifiable, portable and encoded with details to affirm its meaning and validity. Many digital badge platforms use the Open Badge standards.
2. What are the benefits of digital badges?
There are numerous benefits to offering digital badges, both for the badge earner and the issuing organization. Digital badges provide earners with a strategy to share their achievements online in a way that is simple, trusted and verifiable. It allows earners to stand out as leaders in their field and showcase their knowledge and expertise. Digital badges also help connect badge earners with employers and job opportunities.
For organizations, offering digital badges demonstrates their investment in their credential holders and provides them another vehicle for recognition. Offering badges can help enhance an earner’s pride in the credentials they hold and may even increase certification renewal rates. When earners redeem their badges and share their credentials within their professional and social networks, it increases the visibility of the issuing organization and their programs.
3. Which digital badge platform is right for my organization?
Selecting the right digital badge platform for your organization is an important decision. The platform your organization uses shapes the experience of your credential holders, as well as your employees who are implementing and managing the issuance of your badges. Here are a few things to look for in a digital badge platform:
- Type: Selecting a platform that uses the Open Badge standard helps ensure reliability and portability of your badges. There are more than 30 Open Badge platforms certified by IMS. View the list.
- Cost: The costs associated with offering digital badges is another important consideration. Depending on how many badges your organization will offer and the number of badge earners, your costs will vary considerably. You’ll want to understand the up-front costs, as well as the ongoing fees. Low-cost options exist, but the features and support may be limited. Some badge platforms post the pricing plans on their websites, while others require you to call for a quote. It can take some legwork to get the information you need to make a sound decision. Asking for a demo and understanding all the features available can help you compare different platforms.
- Features: Like costs, the features offered by the badge platform can vary widely. Again, understanding what your organization needs from its badging platform will help you wade through the options. Some questions to consider are; “What branding and customizations are available with badges?”, “Can the badges be easily shared across social media?”, “Does the badge platform offer job market insights?” and “Does the badge platform send communications to earners, such as emails prompting earners to redeem their badges?”
- Reporting: The reporting and analytics of your badge platform will help you benchmark your badge program’s success. Ideally, the platform you select will offer reports or dashboards on essential metrics, such as how many badges were issued, redeemed and shared.
- Integrations: For certification organizations, especially those that issue high volumes of credentials that require annual renewal, integrating your badge platform with your credentialing management system will streamline your process. When evaluating systems, include your technical team in the discussion so that you understand the level of effort to integrate with your current systems.
- Support: Some badge platforms offer extensive onboarding plans and provide a wealth of training documents, while others provide fewer resources. When selecting a badge partner, understanding the initial and ongoing support they will provide will help you determine what staff can expect when it’s time to implement the badges.
4. What should an organization expect when launching a digital badge?
Depending on the number of badges your organization plans to offer, the work and time involved in launching your digital badges may vary. However, it is reasonable to expect the launch process to take anywhere from four to eight weeks. Be prepared to have a cross-functional team involved in the development of your badges, including credentialing, marketing, design and IT. Some badge platforms require inputting detailed information for each badge to identify what earning the badge means. If your organization is issuing numerous badges, you’ll want to set up your badges in a way that makes the structure or hierarchy of the badges clear, especially if you’re offering stacked credentials.
5. Where can an organization seek out help?
The badge platform you select may offer guidelines and training to help you navigate this project. Consider connecting with other organizations that are already using the badging platform to ask for their advice and to learn about their experience. Additionally, the Institute for Credentialing Excellence offers resources on digital badges and how to maximize their potential.
If digital badges sound like the right move for your organization, doing your research and following these guidelines will help make the transition a success.