A Model for Membership Organizations to use Both Digital Badges and Certificates

The question of where to use badges and where to use certificates can be challenging. Should an organization use just one, in which case which one, or should they use both? In our recent webinar with The International Association of Privacy Professionals, this very question came up, and they have developed a great model that we think is worthy of consideration by all membership organizations.

First of all, let’s recap on the two credential types.

Digital Badges

A digital badge is really a digital representation of a physical badge. It enjoys all the benefits of being digital, such as being sharable, verifiable, trackable, and having embedded metadata. Badges issued with Accredible are also compliant with the OpenBadge 2.0 standard, so they can be ported easily between platforms.

Designs typically resemble physical badges, as in the following example (although they do not have to):

Digital Certificates

Digital certificates are similar to paper certificates and usually look visually the same. They are available online and can be downloaded and printed, as well as enjoying the digital benefits described above for badges. Unique information (such as the recipient name, course details, etc) is usually visible on the certificate, unlike a badge. Additional information such as a transcript, work samples or references can also be attached.

iapp example certificate

How to use Both

To answer this question, let’s look at The IAPP again. In common with many membership organizations, the IAPP offers a range of formal training and certifications to its membership. An example is their “Certified Information Privacy Professional” certification. Before switching to Accredible, paper certificates were issued. It makes sense to use certificates (rather than badges) to recognize member achievement because:

  • Achieving the certification requires considerable effort over a period of time, and for the majority of users, a certificate with their name on it is perceived as more appropriate recognition than a badge
  • Traditionally this kind of achievement would have been recognized with a paper certificate and so there is better continuity when switching to this format
  • Many members wish to download and print their certificate for display, or to show to clients as evidence of their qualifications
  • Additional evidence such as work samples, transcripts, references etc can be attached
  • Details of the recipient, the course, the dates, etc can be displayed on the certificate

 

So how about badges? Most membership organizations engage with a variety of other people, be they members or not. They could be volunteers, employees, presidents, people who develop exam material, or volunteer board members. In other words they are people engaged in more specific service roles. For these people, badges makes more sense because:

  • They are a great way to recognize the contribution of these individuals
  • There is unlikely to have been anything in place beforehand, so there are no expectations to be maintained
  • They are less formal than a certificate

 

In using both, the distinction between the formal training and certification programs, and the less formal (but still important) recognition of contributions is maintained.

Accredible allows both certificates and badges to be designed, issued and managed from a single platform, so the above model can easily be adopted.

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