How to Choose Digital Credentialing Software

Cody Gondyke
April 26, 2023
Estimated read time: 5 minutes
Table of Contents

Whether you are implementing digital credentials for the first time or looking to move from an existing platform to a new digital credentialing solution, comparing available services can be time-consuming. This article will help you break down the process of evaluating digital credentialing platforms to identify the most suitable option for your organization.


Outline Requirements: What Does the Platform Need to Do

Before getting into the selection process, first take a moment to detail the specific goals you want to achieve using a digital credentialing solution. For example, do you need to offer only digital certificates or only digital badges/open badges? Or will you need to issue both badges and certificates? Do you need support for blockchain credentials? Do your recipients need the option for different formats such as PDF downloads or to print their credentials? 

There are also internal considerations: 

  • How many users within your organization need to issue credentials? 
  • Will credentials be issued per department or organization-wide? 
  • What does success look like for your digital credentials? 
  • Is it only important that they are received instantly or do you want to encourage shares and engagement to supplement your marketing efforts? 
  • Is it easy to get started, does the digital credentialing software offer assistance with onboarding? 
  • Is there a library of certificate designs and badge templates? 

Create a detailed requirements list for each of the key profiles that will be using or benefiting from the platform. For example, the credentialing manager, the marketing manager, and the candidates. Consider their use case from onboarding through to launch and potential scaling. Use this list to help narrow down platform options as you go through the initial selection process. 

Questions to consider:

  • What does the credentialing process look like?
  • Who will be using or benefiting from the platform?
  • How do recipients use their credentials?
  • What sort of criteria will be used to determine if a credential is issued?
  • What control will the organization need after the credential has been issued?
Example of Accredible’s Digital Credential Creation and Delivery Workflow
Example of Accredible’s Digital Credential Creation and Delivery Workflow

Assess Pricing: What Budget Are You Working To

Assessing pricing goes beyond simply identifying the cost of the platform. It is a combination of the time required for training users, costs for additional features, time needed for creating designs, and putting together resources for informing recipients. Contract lengths should also be taken into account when building an expense evaluation as being tied into a longer contract will increase the minimum cost. Longer contract lengths may also incur an exit fee if the platform doesn’t meet the expectations and the organization needs to break the contract early. 

Pricing for digital credentialing solutions is often charged on a per-credential or per-user basis. Per-credential means the organization will pay for each credential that is delivered, while per-user is charged for each recipient. When comparing digital credentialing platforms for professional certification, per-user is more cost-effective. Especially if recipients are encouraged to take multiple courses or you are issuing multiple micro-credentials throughout a program. 

Don’t forget to assess the time and costs saved as part of your budget evaluation. For example, the organization delivers 1000 physical credentials a month at $5 per credential including materials, packaging, and postage. It is taking two administrators two full days to print, post, and manage the physical credentials at $20 per administrator per hour. The total monthly cost is calculated as 1000 credentials x $5 = $5000, plus the admin time of (($20 x 8 hours) x 2 admins) x 2 days = $640 for a total monthly cost of $5640 and a yearly cost of $67,680. 

Questions to consider:

  • What is the total cost of implementation including training time, design and resource creation, and costs for additional features?
  • What happens to the cost as you scale the number of recipients?
  • Is the contract a one-off cost or subscription based? Is the subscription paid annually or monthly?
  • How long will the implementation take and how many users will need to be trained?
  • Is there an exit fee if you need to break from the contract early?
  • Is support and training offered as part of the package and are there ongoing costs for support?

Feature Set: Identify Must-Have vs Nice-to-Have

At their core, digital credential platforms are used to deliver digital badges and digital certificates and showcase competency. Most platforms that meet this need seem similar at first, but there are often key features that improve the process for issuers or enhance the experience for recipients. Some of these features may be a necessity to your organization, such as the ability to set allowances per department. Other features may be nice-to-have, like the option for branding or white-labeling the entire recipient experience. Take the time to research feature lists and identify which advertised features fall into the categories of essential, desirable, or unnecessary for your organization. 

Consider future-use as well. If you were to greatly scale the number of recipients you are delivering credentials to, will you want additional features down the line? Can these features be added later without interruption to the credential workflow? If you are integrating into another platform such as an LMS (learning management system) or LXP (learning experience platform) what happens if you need to change the integration? If you need additional security, can blockchain technology be added and retroactively applied?

If there is a feature that isn’t advertised across any of the platforms you are assessing, what is the feature request process like? Are there any costs for adding specialist functionality and how open is the platform to discussing additional features? By asking the question, you might discover that the outcome of your requested feature can be achieved using existing functionality. This process may also highlight how communicative or non-communicative the platform support team is. 

Questions to consider:

  • Does the current feature-set meet the needs of your organization and recipients?
  • What is the future development roadmap for the solution?
  • Are the necessary essential features part of the package or chargeable add-ons?
  • How easy is it to add additional features later? 
  • What features are currently in use by other organizations within the industry?

Digital Credential Software Features to Consider for Industry Needs

Aside from the core functionality of delivering digital badges and digital certificates, there are certain digital credentialing features that are key to an organization’s credentialing initiative. For example:

  • Associations commonly use directories that give them an overview of their members and can be used by recruiters or third-parties.
  • Higher education institutions need the ability to build learning pathways that capture all of a program's requirements from simple modules up to university degrees/diplomas with optional courses. 
  • Corporate training providers may want a learner directory that enables them to better track skill gaps across organizations or departments. 
  • Professional certification providers want the ability to increase the visibility of their courses and credentials by targeting a highly engaged audience.

Consider how you would like your credentialing ecosystem to look and function from the perspective of you, the issuing organization, and your recipients from initial delivery through to a year after issuance. This can help you ask the right questions during a platform demo and find the features and functionality beyond delivery that hadn’t previously been considered.

Integrations: Does the Platform Work with Existing Systems

Depending on how the credential eligibility of a candidate is determined, the chosen digital credentialing solution may need to integrate with existing systems. Integration allows the organization to automate the issuance of digital certificates and digital badges based on chosen criteria such as passing an exam, completing a module, or registering as a member. Automation through integration helps to reduce administration overheads and refocus time to other areas of the business.

Example of integrations available through Accredible including Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, WordPress, LearnDash, Webassessor by Kryterion, Brightspace, Azure Active Directory, and Zoom
Example of integrations available through Accredible

Integration to other platforms can be done in several ways, through dedicated integration, via a connective app like Zapier, or using an API (application programming interface). When comparing different solutions, it should be easy to research what integrations are available and how the integration works.

Questions to consider:

  • Does the platform provide integration for all of the relevant existing systems?
  • What workflows does the integration allow you to automate?
  • What target or goal criteria can the integration trigger on?
  • Is integration included in the core functionality or an additional feature?
  • Is there documentation or case studies showing the integration in practice? 
  • What support is provided for integration initially and ongoing?

Evaluate Security, Privacy, and Accessibility

Digital credentials use personal information to create credentials so it’s important that data security and privacy is a top priority. Assess what measures the platforms have in place to protect data. Does the platform meet the requirements for data protection legislation such as GDPR and EU Model Clauses? How is data stored and backed-up, and what recovery procedures are in place to prevent a worst-case scenario? High-level security isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it process but requires ongoing security assessment including frequent testing and audits. 

Accessibility is another basic necessity that should be built into the core of the platform. Recipients should be able to access their credentials from their preferred devices without unnecessary barriers. There should be compatibility with assistive technologies including screen readers and speech recognition tools. Quality digital accessibility includes regular updates to the platform to ensure compliance to Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. 

Questions to consider:

  • How does the digital credentialing solution ensure the security of data?
  • What is the disaster recovery procedure and projected time to resolution?
  • Does the platform meet the requirements for data protection legislation?
  • Is the platform compliant to Section 508 and WCAG 2.1?
  • How is digital accessibility maintained?
  • What security and accessibility measures can be determined by looking at the current customer-base?

Analytics and Reports: What Can You Do With Data

Analytics provide insight into how credentials are being used by the organization and how they are engaged with by recipients. Reporting enables you to communicate credential management back to the organization. The value of analytics comes from how easy the data is to understand and act on. 

Basic analytics should allow you to track the number of unique recipients that have received a credential across preferred time periods. Commonly these include the last 30 days, the last quarter, and all-time. It should also be easy to view comparisons and see how activity has changed over time as a way to track program growth.

Accredible Analytics Overview Dashboard Example
Accredible Analytics Overview Dashboard Example

Engagement metrics show how credential recipients are interacting with their credentials. For example, are credentials being viewed, shared to social media platforms, added to LinkedIn profiles, embedded in email signatures, or downloaded as a PDF. Issuers can use engagement data to identify if more information or guidance needs to be provided to recipients to encourage views and shares. The ability to track referral clicks is helpful for marketing departments. Referral data can be used to improve the recipient experience and encourage increased engagement to reduce marketing spend in other areas such as paid ads.

Accredible Recipient Activity Analytics Dashboard Example
Accredible Recipient Activity Analytics Dashboard Example

Analytics data should be easy to understand and draw conclusions from. The clearer data is presented, the easier it is to create actionable reports that can be used to improve the credentialing program. Visual dashboards improve the process of tracking and reporting on analytics without the need to become a data scientist.  

Questions to consider:

  • How is analytics data presented?
  • What data is tracked and can requests be made for additional metrics?
  • Is there an example of analytics data available for review?
  • Can credential data be exported and in what format?

Support: What Level of Support is Provided

Support provision can vary greatly between platforms. Some providers will offer a dedicated account manager that will meet periodically to discuss current progress and potential improvements. Other providers may provide comprehensive support during the onboarding process before directing support queries to a call center number or ticket submission form. Support can also be delivered in various forms, such as a comprehensive help center with step-by-step instructions and video guidance. 

Research the available support beforehand by looking at the platform’s website for a ticketing system or instant chat, and where necessary, reaching out to the support team if no help center is available. Is there thorough documentation of processes with clear guidance or video instructions? Are there dedicated FAQs for both issuers and credential recipients? What is the response time and attitude of the support team? A positive response to these queries is a good sign the team behind the platform will support you to achieve success through credentialing. 

Questions to consider:

  • What level of support is provided, onboarding only, ongoing, or dedicated help center?
  • Is there a service level agreement around support, what does it guarantee?
  • Are support hours limited in the contract to a certain number of hours?
  • If a help center is available, what level of detail is provided for guidance?
  • Will a dedicated account manager be allocated for periodical review of progress?
  • How easy is it to reach out to the support team with a query?

References & Testimonials: What Success Have Others Achieved

The best way to understand the suitability of a service is to look to the current customer base. Research the availability of testimonials, case studies, and customer reviews for the solution and see how others are using the platform and what success they have achieved. Compare the readability of company-written case studies vs true customer testimonials on review sites. Are both written in an easy-to-understand manner or are the case studies wordy and difficult to discern true results? Are there customer testimonials or quotes available that describe the user experience? Are there reviews available from different points in the contract, do customers feel the same way about the solution at onboarding as they do 6 or 12 months on? 

Review references and testimonials from customers across different industries as well as your own. It also helps to review feedback from companies of different sizes - is the feedback as positive when dealing with an enterprise-scale customer as a small-medium business? This will provide insight into how well the platform will continue to meet your needs should the business demands grow. 

Questions to consider:

  • How easy is it to find customer testimonials, case studies, and reviews?
  • What sort of other customers does the platform serve within your sector or industry?
  • Is there feedback available from companies that have a similar project size?
  • Are customer references available on request from companies within and outside your sector?
  • Is there any response to platform feedback, positive, negative, or neutral?

User Experience: Request a Demo or Free Trial

The best way to test the fit of a platform or service is to see it in action or get hands-on experience. See if there is a demo available that walks you through the process of using the platform, how it solves your pain points, and how intuitive the solution is. Does the use of the platform sound simple or more like a chore? Is the guidance easy to understand or unnecessarily complicated? What is the response to questions raised about the platform, process, or additional features?

A free trial allows you to test the ease of navigation, review the process itself, and evaluate necessary accessibility for yourself and team members. A well designed platform is not only encouraging to use but will reduce the training overheads and speed up the onboarding process, helping you to get started faster. It will also provide insight into the experience for recipients and help you plan the information or guidance you will need to provide them. 

Questions to consider:

  • What level of training or guidance will be required for issuers and recipients?
  • Is the platform easy to navigate and accessible? 
  • Is the recipient experience accessible and engaging? 
  • Does the platform allow for levels of customization and branding?

In Summary

When it comes to identifying the best digital credentialing solution or digital badging software for your organization, the above guidance can help you narrow down the options based on your needs. We recommend creating a scoring sheet that will simplify the process further and speed up comparison. Score each of the platforms between 1 to 5 for each of the sections above and choose the top 3 based on the scorecard results. Once you have filtered down to a few different options that meet basic requirements and feature-sets, you can then reach out for a demo.

Want to learn more about Accredible’s digital credentialing solution? Request a demo or sign up for a free trial account.

Further Reading

Discover the full feature set of Accredible’s digital credentialing solution with the Digital Credential Feature Checklist. The print-friendly checklist enables decision-makers and stakeholders to research the suitability of their physical credentials, simplify the comparison of digital credentialing platforms, and identify must-have features.

Download the free checklist now.

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