This article explores the future of credentialing and how widespread adoption of digital credentials for achievement delivery and verification will eliminate credential fraud.

The risks of credential fraud

In an ADP analysis of 2.6 million self-submitted background checks, it was found that;

  • 23% of individuals had falsified credentials or licence details
  • 41% of individuals had lied on their resumes about their education
  • 44% of individuals had lied about their work history on their resume

This high percentage of credential fraud has turbulent repercussions. How many high risk positions are currently held by someone that has lied about their work and education history? It is one thing for a porter or secretary to have lied about their experience, but what about a surgeon, electrician, or someone directly responsible for another person’s safety and wellbeing? 

How much harm is being incurred by issuing providers where their credentials are being falsified? The risk isn’t only to employers but to brands that are trying to fill skill gaps and meet professional development needs. If someone lies about receiving their credential and then causes harm or puts safety at risk, this reflects badly on the quality of the brand’s education. 

In an example from the UK, a senior manager in the NHS earning upwards of £100,000 was found to have lied about his education history. Not only was this a blow to the NHS (the national health service that is funded by taxpayers), the ex-manager was charged with fraud and sentenced to two-years in prison. 

Credential fraud is a worldwide issue and the solution lies in the digital transformation of the credentialing process. 

What does the future of credentialing look like?

One of the key aims of digital credentials is to eliminate credential fraud. 

Currently the barrier to credential fraud for paper-based qualifications is the ability to use photoshop or similar editing software. Although high-stakes awards are issued on special paper often with a holographic official seal, these can be easy to damage or lose, and expensive to replace. This encourages recipients to take copies to use for verification processes, storing the original for safe-keeping. Verifying the legitimacy of these ‘copies’ (real or spoofed) is often costly and time-consuming for organizations which leads to false credentials being accepted without further checks.

For achievements recorded on a resume or CV, the barrier to fraud is even lower and relies on the ability to verify that credential. Similar to copies of official documents, if verification is costly, time-consuming, or unavailable, the chance of acceptance for a false credential rises. 

Greater adoption of digital credentials will eliminate these two points of failure, preventing credential fraud and by extension - protecting the achievements of recipients. 

Long Term Validity

It’s rare to expect the issuing body for a certification to go out of business but it is a growing problem, not only for students midway through their education but for past graduates as well. In 2020, 174-year-old institution MacMurray College was forced to close permanently, in part due to the pandemic. This loss may be closely followed by a number of British universities that were on the verge of bankruptcy towards the end of 2020. 

If closures come unexpectedly, computer systems and records risk being wiped without backup and past certifications become difficult - if not impossible - to verify. This is a harsh blow to graduates that worked hard for their certification, only to lose the credibility of their efforts. 

There are several high-profile institutions already exploring a future of university credentials delivered as digital certificates. Replacing traditional paper certificates with digital credentials that are hosted outside the institution systems to protect students' certifications. This way, if the issuing body was to close, graduates are able to provide a verifiable credential for employment or further education. 

Contextual Data

Consider the current format of a degree or diploma certificate. It is a single page that details the graduate name, the name of their qualification, and a signature or seal to denote it as an official document. There is little room on the certificate to provide evidence of experience, knowledge, or skills. Supporting information can be requested as a transcript but this incurs additional costs. 

Digital credentials are hosted on their own credential page and include space for as much contextual data as necessary. Rather than simply list grades or marks for individual modules, written detail can be included that demonstrates an individual’s mastery of certain areas or topics. Alongside curriculum documents that inform the requirements that have been met to pass certain modules. This makes it easier for employers to make informative hiring decisions supported by a greater understanding of the value of a candidate’s education and the level of their knowledge.

Market Standardization

Further to contextual data is the standardization of information stored on digital credentials from educational and training institutions. As the demand to close skill gaps increases, as does the number of providers offering training, education, and micro-credentials. Employers need an easy way to understand the context and value of an Excel qualification from company A compared to company B. Skill-tags, meta data, and uploaded evidence all contribute to understanding the capability in a subject or topic and can be added to digital credentials. 

Automatic Verification

Students and learners are required to submit their college and university work through strict plagiarism processes to ensure their efforts are genuine. Currently, there is no way for employers to automatically authenticate qualifications. The greater implementation of digital credentials will transform this process. Rather than submit costly and time-consuming background checks, resumes submitted through online portals will have education history verified at the time of submission. 

Automatic verification reduces stress for candidates that are currently expected to provide proof of knowledge. Delivering proof is an issue if their physical certificate has been lost or damaged and is costly to replace or cannot be replaced due to the provider closing. This will also save employers spending time interviewing candidates before proof of experience has been sufficiently background checked - a process that normally happens after a hire has been made.  

In Summary

The future of representing qualifications, experience, knowledge, and skills lies in the implementation of digital credentials, open badges, and micro-credentials. The adoption of digital credentials by education providers benefits every party involved. From ensuring the long term validity of recipient certifications and fulfilling skill gaps to protecting the integrity of credential providers. 

Join the digital credentialing movement and be a part of a better future. A future in which graduates needn’t worry about struggling to justify their knowledge and where credential fraud is eliminated. Start a trial with Accredible and see how easy it is to start using our digital credential management software to issue digital certificates and digital badges. 

Further Reading

Get started in digital credentialing with the Accredible Digital Credential Buyer’s Guide. Using this guide, organizations gain an understanding of:

  • What digital credentials are
  • How they benefit organizations
  • How they compare to other delivery methods
  • How different platforms should be assessed for suitability
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