Accredible - Certificates and Badges

When and How to Issue Digital Badges

This post is an excerpt from our new, comprehensive ebook on Digital Badges. You can download your free copy here


The Many Functions of Digital Badges

One of the first questions we usually receive from organizations first diving into digital badges is “Why do people typically issue digital badges?” The answer is “lots of reasons.”

Just like their real-world counterparts, digital badges serve a wide variety of purposes depending on the issuing body and the individual. For the most part, badges’ functions can be bucketed into one of five categories.

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When should I use a Digital Certificate and Digital Badge?

Credentials are changing. The advent of digital credentials promise automation, verification, security and cost savings but the new paradigms can be a stark change from the traditional paper-based model. In this guide, we’ll help you to understand what the digital credentialing options are and when it’s appropriate to use them.

Digital Certificates and Digital Badges

Digital credentials come in two forms: digital certificates and digital badges.

Digital Certificates are very similar to a paper certificate and look visually the same. They are available at a unique web link (URL) that can be viewed like paper. They allow for additional information such as a transcript, work sample or reference to be attached.

Digital Badges are similar in appearance to a physical badge or medal. They usually follow the Open Badge standard so that they can be used by different software platforms.

 

 

Perceptions, Function and Form

Credentials are the main outcome that third parties see from achievements and so it’s very important that they represent the outcomes appropriately and communicate as much as possible as quickly as possible.

One reason for using these two formats for different achievements (courses, events, memberships, accreditations) is that they have different perceptions for people viewing them. It’s expected to receive a certificate for something like a university degree but a badge for completing a module in an online course.

The two formats act differently for their recipients. An Open Badge is focused on a small visual representation of an achievement that can be easily embedded in different places. A digital certificate is focused on clearly communicating the achievement in a recognized format.

 

Guidelines

To make it easy to know when it’s appropriate to use each format we’ve put together some guidelines based on what most credential issuers are doing today, what recipients expect and what is simple for third party viewers to understand.

 

Use a Digital Certificate when:

  1. Your achievement takes a long time to complete. For example: a course that takes more than 40 hours to complete.
  2. Assessment of the achievement is formal (summative). For example: a course that has a proctored and assessed examination.
  3. The achievement is ‘high stakes’. For example: membership of a professional association that’s required to work in that particular domain.
  4. Employers are likely to view the achievement. For example: professional certification of a skill.

 

Use a Digital Badge when:

  1. Your achievement doesn’t take too long to complete. For example: an online course that takes 2 hours to complete.
  2. Assessment of the achievement is informal (formative). For example: a course with an unmarked quiz.
  3. The achievement is ‘low stakes’. For example: attending a conference.
  4. Recipients complete many achievements of a similar type. For example: a set of modules within a university degree.

 

Using Accredible you are able to create, deliver and manage credentials that combine both of these formats in a single, convenient package. If you’d like to combine the portability of Open Badges with the recognition of Digital Certificates then we recommend using both of these formats for your credentials.

7 Ways to Streamline Your Online Learning Program

When it comes to your online course, do you find yourself doing the same tasks over and over again? Are you looking for ways to automate some of the repetitive tasks of your course? Let’s discuss how to cut the fat and make your online learning program more lean and efficient.

[content_upgrade cu_id=”135″]Download this checklist for simplifying and improving your online learning course.[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

1. Start Here

The first step to streamlining your online learning or certification program is to understand your course’s main learning objective. Hint: Your course should be the ultimate solution to your student’s problem.

Articulate what your student will gain by taking your course.

[bctt tweet=”Get specific with your learning objective and focus in on its direct benefits to the student.” username=”accredible”]

Get specific with your learning objective and focus in on its direct benefits to the student. Whether the objective of your course is to help the student prepare for a new career or to learn a skill to help her excel at her current one, make sure that all of your course components align with that stated goal. Cut out any extra course material that may distract your students from accomplishing the main objective.

It may be difficult to know whether you’re hitting your stated objective. For this reason, welcome two different reviews:

The first review will be from a subject matter expert. This individual will be very familiar with the course material (but not the creator of the course). He or she should be able to tell you if your course is presenting the subject in a comprehensive and well-rounded manner.

The second review will be from a group of beta testers. Invite a small group of individuals who are not familiar with your course material to take the course. Ask for specific feedback that will determine if you’ve met your course’s objective.

2. Consider Hiring Outside Help

To teach your online course, you’ll likely use text and visuals. But what if you’re not a writer or a graphic designer?

Many course makers create the course anyway. They cobble together inferior visuals and boring text and end up creating an unappealing and ineffectual course.

Don’t let this common mistake happen to you.

You may be brilliant at conceptualizing ideas and developing a winning course, but not so brilliant at articulating your knowledge into the written word or creating compelling visuals to go with it.

Fortunately, you can hire someone to do that for you. Consider hiring a professional writer to transform your detailed outline into a student-friendly text. Then, hire a graphic designer to add visual context.

3. Set Up an Informative Landing Page

Where do prospective students go when they need to learn more about your certification program?

Ideally, you’ll create a landing page and direct interested traffic to this all-inclusive page. This landing page may be nestled within your website, or it may be its own one-page website (with a course-specific domain name, i.e. www.YourCertificationProgramName.com).

Provide your prospective students with the information they need to make an informed decision. Here are a few suggestions on what information and which elements to include on your landing page:

  • The name of your certification program
  • A compelling graphic (This can be an image of your course materials or a conceptual graphic that articulates one benefit to taking your course.)
  • A testimonial from someone who’s completed the course (If your course is still new with no testimonials, use a testimonial about your company.)
  • The course’s start date
  • How much the course costs
  • What types of payment you offer
  • A list of frequently asked questions
  • An introductory video
  • A signup form (If you’re not accepting signups yet, include a form for collecting emails.)
  • An invitation to share the page with others (Set up social media buttons with pre-written text to make it easy for your students to share.)

Whatever you use to setup your landing page, make sure you can at least view basic web traffic and conversion metrics to know if you’re successfully generating sign ups and where those are coming from. If you can find a tool that offers split A/B testing and keyword optimization, that’s even better.

4. Set Up an Automated Email Series

Automate as much of your course as possible. The best place to start is with email.

Email is crucial to communication. You can’t always wait for students to come to your site. Sometimes, you have to reach out to communicate. The inbox is a great way to keep students engaged with your course and support them along the way. Here’s how to streamline your emails to provide maximum benefit to your students:

Welcome
Always send out a welcome email immediately after the new student has signed up for your course. The purpose of this welcome email isn’t simply to thank them (although do that, too). It’s also to prepare them for the upcoming course.

In this welcome email, provide a course syllabus and a schedule of classes. Also direct them to relevant resources, such as your help files, your course support, and any associated forum.

Finally, set expectations for how many emails you’ll send and when. It’s always a great idea to get started on the right foot.

Remind
On the day(s) before your lessons start, send out a reminder to your students. Share the link to the course material and remind them where they may go if they need help with the course.

After the lesson ends, you can also send any course material to the student. If you conducted a live class, you may opt to send the student a recording of that class, too.

Motivate Along the Way
If you offer a more flexible course where students work at their own pace, you can still keep them engaged. Send weekly emails that include relevant tips or videos to support the student.

You can also send any downloadable resources or deliverables via email. This includes course-related homework or study helps.

5. Invite Feedback

Feedback is perhaps the best way to know if your course is resonating with your students. Don’t just welcome feedback, actively pursue it.

At key milestones within your course, ask students the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1-10, what overall rating would you give this course?
  • Do you feel like this course is organized effectively?
  • Do you feel like the instructions/ content in this course was clear?
  • Do you feel like the assignments were clear?
  • What do you feel is the biggest strength of this course?
  • What do you feel is the biggest weakness of this course?
  • Would you recommend this course to others?
  • What feedback do you offer to help us improve this course for the future?

Alternatively, you can ask for this feedback via email, too. If you have the budget, think about offering some kind of monetary incentive for in-depth responses or interviews. If you don’t, you can always offer discounts on future courses instead.

6. Limit How Many Students You’ll Accept at One Time

Even if you don’t offer “live” classes with your certification program, you may benefit from limiting class size. When you try to accommodate a larger group of students, it can put a strain on your customer service or technical support. More students equals more questions, more tech problems, and more demand for your attention.

If you’re spread too thin, you won’t be able to offer quality service.

Consider limiting how many students you accept at one time. You may offer twice-a-year registration, for example. Or you can stagger your start dates so that not all of your students register (and overwhelm you) at once. This strategy will alleviate quite a bit of your pressure as an administrator.

As a sidenote, this type of exclusivity is a powerful motivator and may actually influence more prospective students to sign up for your course.

7. Secure Your Credentials

What type of certificates do you offer? This is another area to check for efficiency.

Instead of traditional paper certificates, issue digital certificates. Not only will this reduce your costs by up to 85%, it can also reduce labor. With a digital certificate, such as the ones we offer here at Accredible, issuance is automated. Certificates create themselves upon course completion. You don’t have to step in and manually create (and double check) certificates.

Another huge benefit of digital certificates is that you are in complete control. You can issue, revoke, and edit certificates from your account. Click here to learn more.

Over to You
What do you think is the most important consideration when streamlining your certification program? Let us know in the comments below.

[content_upgrade cu_id=”135″]Don’t forget to download this checklist that will help you simplify your online learning course.[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

How to Leverage Your Certification Program to Increase Word-of-Mouth Referrals

Have you created a certification program but now find yourself struggling to raise awareness of it?

Even if you have an excellent certification program, it won’t market itself. It requires an intentional and carefully planned marketing strategy. But what if you don’t know where to start?

Start with relationship-building. Word-of-mouth marketing is the best type of exposure you can hope for, and it all begins with relationships.

Next, focus on education. Equip your current students with the content and resources needed to share your information with others.

Let’s discuss how to create an intentional word-of-mouth marketing strategy for your certification program.

Make the Certification a Big Deal

The first step in relationship-building is to be a cheerleader.

When your students complete their certification program, celebrate with them. Applaud them for their efforts. Encourage your students to spread the good news with their social circles.

One of the benefits of Accredible is that social sharing is built-in. Graduates can share the good news on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and over 100 other social media sites. They can also proudly embed their certificate on their website and add it to their email signature.

This serves two purposes.

In addition to students sharing the good news, they’re also sharing your brand. You get exposure every time someone sees your student’s accomplishment.

Another way to celebrate your students (and gain social proof, which is another form of word of mouth) is to post about it yourself. Advertise how many people have taken your course on your website in a pop-up or banner. Include it in your social media or search engine ads. Interview a student and share it on your blog and social media posts.

Celebration can also be as simple as taking a photo of your newly certified students and posting it to your social channels. (Be sure to tag them in the photos for added exposure).

Everyone wins when you celebrate your students.

Stay in Contact With Your Students

You may only offer a one-time certification, but that doesn’t mean you have to end your relationship with your students. If you cultivate an ongoing relationship with your former students, you can build a successful referral network.

How can you continue to serve your former students? Continue to provide them with useful information that they’ll find valuable even after graduation. You can position yourself as an educational resource.

Blogging, email, and social media are all excellent ways to stay in contact with former students.

On your blog, you can create content about your industry, including expert insight. It can serve as a news resource as well as an educational guide.

With email, you can remind students to return to your blog whenever you upload a new post. You can also create content for subscribers-only, adding to the exclusivity of your blog.

On social media, you can stay top-of-mind while posting realtime updates about industry-related news. You can also interact with your students and answer questions.

Remember that your students signed up for your course because you’re an authority, so prove your authority.

Focus on Case Studies

[content_upgrade cu_id=”103″]Need help creating a case study? Here’s a list of resources.[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

Case studies are word-of-mouth marketing in package form.

Case studies, also known as expanded testimonials, will help you sell your certification program better than any glossy advertisement. Why? Case studies showcase real people who have actually succeeded with your certification program.

To create a successful case study, choose the students who represent your target audience. Seeing similar pain points and personas can be inspiring and influential for prospective customers.

If you have five different target personas, create five different case studies. Then, share them everywhere: on your website, on social media, to your email list, and on your social media and search engines ads.

In your case study, address the who, what, why, and how you helped.

When you share case studies in your marketing, be sure to link to an optimized landing page — one for each persona. Sending prospective customers to an optimized landing page is a gentle way to address common pain points and present your certification program as the unique answer to these problems.

Create Videos

When prospective students are first introduced to your program, you only have a few seconds to make a winning impression. Even if you create a compelling website, many prospective students will first find you through social media campaigns or direct referrals. Wouldn’t you like to control that impression?

One of the best ways to do that is to create a video that explains how you can help the prospective student succeed.

Videos are increasingly important for word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of relying on your students to come up with their own words when they tell others about your program, ask them to share your video.

A video is self-contained and instantly engaging. And because most of us are visual learners, videos are a great way to introduce yourself to others quickly. Within the first 10 seconds of a video, you can pull your audience in and provide all the necessary information to them in a visually appealing format.

And videos are very shareable. For example, Facebook makes it easy for your followers to share videos with their social circles. Post a video and then ask for shares. It’s really that easy.

Not sure what type of videos to add to your certification program? Take a cue from NQA Certification. NQA Certification created a video case study and uploaded it to YouTube.

This video can be embedded on blog posts, social media posts, landing pages, and promotional content. It can also be shared via email. In fact, YouTube itself is a great marketing channel. It’s the second largest search engine on the Internet (behind Google).

Turn your case study into a video. If you can’t do in-person interviews, Skype is also an option. Keep your videos short (10 minutes or less). You want videos that are bite-sized and that get to the point quickly.

Give Away Promotional Items

Have you considered creating promotional gifts for your graduates? Branded T-shirts, hats, pens, tote bags, and coffee mugs are more than just simple marketing gimmicks. Promotional gifts can also be used as an integral part of your referral marketing strategy.

Here are three things that promotional items do well:

  1.  Promotional products serve as a symbol of your appreciation and will generate positive sentiment for your business.
  2.  Promotional products provide continuous exposure for your business whenever in use.
  3.  In presenting such gifts, you get the opportunity to ask for a favor in return.

Number 3 is perhaps the most important for actively generating word-of-mouth referrals. When sending promotional gifts, also include a handwritten note.

On your note, thank them for taking part in your certification program and encourage them to spread the word. Don’t use vague language. Be specific. Depending on your industry, you may ask them to share their experience on a crowd-sourced review site like Yelp or spread the message on social media using a brand-owned hashtag.

Promotional gifts help to keep your business at the top of mind and can effortlessly generate leads long after your student has completed the course.

Final Thoughts

Always remember that when compared to slick promotional ads, simple one-sentence recommendations always win out. Don’t be afraid to simply ask for referrals.

[bctt tweet=”When compared to slick promotional ads, simple one sentence recommendations always win out.” username=”accredible”]

[content_upgrade cu_id=”103″]Don’t forget to download this list of resources for creating a winning case study[content_upgrade_button]Click Here[/content_upgrade_button][/content_upgrade]

How you can boost adoption by increasing certificate accessibility

This is the final article in our five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Accessibility is King

If you don’t have an online delivery mechanism, then this problem is more straightforward. How likely is it that your students will end up remembering where they placed their certificate if they needed to reference it? Chances are if it wasn’t thrown away, it’s sitting under a pile of papers or in a binder of other documents. Printed certificates may be a nice touch when they are received, but they are difficult to retrieve, the information is not easily shareable, and if I asked you to produce proof of your certification, you would have to travel home and find it. Digitally issuing credentials allows the recipient to share and verify this information much easier that traditional delivery methods.

If you are issuing some kind of digital certificate or badge, it’s imperative your members or students can quickly and easily access them online. Here are some best practices to follow:

1. Remove Sign In Walls or Accounts for Users

People don’t like having to create a new account every time they use a service. By forcing your users to create an account and sign in, you’re only adding barriers to them getting to and sharing their digital certificate. A login might be more secure for repeated visits, but there are other methods to increase security, and the burden of creating an account is often not viewed as worthwhile from the recipient’s perspective. Forcing them to sign in or create an account to simply verify someone is credible is an unnecessary barrier. Additionally, avoid long and complicated URLs for your certificates and badges.

2. Make it Easier for Third Party Verifiers

It is of significant importance that third party viewers (friends, professional colleagues, clients) and verifiers (recruiters, employers) can see the digital version of your student’s certificate or badge. Having these third parties request permission or create an account to see details of your course offering, and the marker of success is simply too much friction for a viewer to overcome to look at a certificate.

Conclusion

You spent a lot of time, energy, and money meticulously planning your program. Don’t let up at the finish line. You should put the same amount of thought into your Recipient Experience. By simply fine-tuning your process and focusing on shareability, timely delivery, verifiability, and ease of access, your program will reap the benefits. When implemented properly, a smooth Recipient Experience will differentiate you from your competition, yield higher post-program engagement, increase visibility, generate more referrals, reduce costs, and save your organization time. For your recipients, it’ll be a smoother, more delightful experience and maximize the value they get your of your program.

 

 

 

To recap:

  1. Shareable certificates and badges provide better brand exposure, increased engagement, and maximize student referrals.
  2. Timely delivery means that people are more likely to share their experience with others when they’re most excited.
  3. Verifiable credentials are the only credentials worth anything. When a third party can verify your students really earned their certificate, you provide real, tangible value while protecting the reputation of your brand.
  4. Easy accessibility is crucial to making it simple for individuals and third party verifiers to get to their digital credentials, so remove any unnecessary sign in screens.

This is the final article in our five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.

Ensure value through trusted verification

This is part four of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Provide Clear and Reliable Verification

The person who completed your course spent a lot of time and energy to become certified or credible, and they did that for a reason. They want to be able to show other people – typically their peers, existing employer, or future employers – that they have legitimately learned something new. The only way your certificate is valid to them is if a third party can quickly and easily verify the credential is real. If it isn’t secure, then they can’t trust the credential, and that means they can’t trust your organization nor your members.

Fancy designs, watermarks, and foil or wax seals used to be enough to keep forged certificates a rare occurrence. With the rise of tools like Photoshop, the barrier to faking credentials is extremely low. And if you think people don’t often lie about credentials, you’re very wrong.

Digital issuing of credentials offers some relief to these problems. Now most providers of digital certificates or badges boast bank-level encryption, so in order to produce a fake, the perpetrator would need to hack into highly secure servers to manipulate data or issue fraudulent credentials.

There are three key best practices to ensure credential verification goes smoothly.

1. Make sure all the information and data is correct and up to date.

This seems minor, but misspelled recipient or organization names immediately make people suspicious (rightly so) about certificates. That’s one of the main benefits of issuing digital certificates – the ability to immediately edit information if needed. Additionally, make sure that you clearly define dates for certificate expiration (if they do expire) and if needed, revoke certificates if someone is no longer certified.

 

 

2. Make sure the organization hosting the credential is secure

Many digital credential platforms have great security, just make sure that your certificates are securely hosted and will be available for years to come. For example, credentials we host at Accredible are securely hosted with bank-level encryption for at least 10 years (and the blockchain makes them un-hackable). At a quick glance of the certificate, a third party should know a digital certificate is up to date and valid.

3. Leverage new security technology whenever possible

There are new advancements in security and encryption technology happening all the time. Most recent advancements have allowed companies to start issuing various types of certificates and credentials via the blockchain. In short, it’s an un-hackable method of issuing credentials that a third party can verify with confidence in one click. Stay on top of these advancements to ensure your organization is safe from the myriad of hacking attempts.


This is part four of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. Continue on to part five here. You can access the other articles below. 

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.

How to maximize member engagement with timely delivery

This is part three of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Strive for Timely Delivery

The most effective way to create a lasting good impression of your program is to reward participants immediately upon completion with recognition of their achievement. This does two things:

  1. It provides a more seamless experience of your program and organization
  2. It maximizes the likelihood that he or she will share their achievement with others

You want to reward people when they’re still excited and when the accomplishment is still fresh in their minds. Most paper certificates won’t get into the hands of the recipients for 4-6 weeks after completion, and that’s assuming it’s not lost or damaged in transit and there are no spelling or printing errors. By that time, individuals have either completely forgotten about the program, or have “moved on” and aren’t nearly as excited to share their achievement.

Here are some things you can do to ensure timely delivery of your certificates or badges.

1. Cut down on the time it takes to receive their certificate

This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how long it takes some organizations to get a certificate or badge in the hands (or inbox) of their members. There is an inverse relationship between the amount of time that passes and the likelihood of someone sharing or recommending the course to another individual, which means lower word-of-mouth marketing and fewer program referrals.

Steps for identifying where to improve:

  1. Sit down and map out, in detail, the process your organization goes through from the time you know who has completed your course until the time a certificate is sent out. These can be things like, downloading a spreadsheet of exam results, scanning sheets of attendees from a seminar, or emailing a printer.
  2. Identify the longest time gaps within that process and rank them from longest to shortest.
  3. For the longest steps, see if there are small adjustments you can make to cut down on delivery time.
  4. Try and see if there are ways to automate a process or completely remove a step by implementing tools or software.

2. Consider switching away from paper

There is a case to be made for physical, paper certificates. High quality, printed certificates can invoke a feeling of quality and value, however, you will pay a premium in both the time and money it takes to go with paper. For higher stakes credentials where these cost of these certificates is baked in, the cost is not a typically a major factor because it’s already covered. For most programs, especially free online courses, eating $10 or more per person to print and mail a certificate (that may never be displayed or worse, thrown away) can be prohibitive. Irregardless of price, there’s no escaping the time it takes to print, package, and ship the certificates

3. Adopt digital certificates or badges

The best option for issuing in a timely manner is through digital certificates or digital badges. Both provide a way to quickly, and sometimes instantly, issue a certificate of achievement in a way that’s an order of magnitude cheaper than paper certificates (and as you’ll read, has significantly greater value). Some organizations decide to issue digital certificates and badges instead of paper, and others issue them as an additional bonus. It’s up to you to determine how much value is coming from your paper certificates. Consider surveying a representative sample of your members or students asking what they did with their paper certificate, or if they would be likely to adopt digital.

 

4. Streamline or automate the delivery mechanism

There are plenty of ways to automate this process by using tools like Zapier, or by selecting LMSs that have built in integrations to platforms like Accredible. Regardless of how, the timely delivery of your certificate or badge is an immediate reward your recipient will receive at the height of their excitement in completing the course. The short period between the completion time and certificate issuing also means they are exponentially more likely to share their achievement. Not only is this better for the program, but it can save your employee’s hours of time.

There are many ways you can increase your technical automation ranging from low-er-tech to complex.

Leverage plugins – Many training programs or courses rely on an LMS (Learning Management System – software that makes it easy to create and deliver online courses) to handle enrolment and access to learning materials. Being able to deliver this content online, at any time, is an enormous time-saver, and you are able to automate tasks like course completion notifications. Often, LMS software will have other plugins that will allow you to handle other pieces of your workflow, like feedback surveys, or issuing digital certificates. This is a great way to handle all of your workflow in one place.

Explore workflow apps – If no specific solution exists for your desired automation, try IFTTT (If This, Then That) or Zapier – tools that work like glue between two pieces of software. They work with existing software like Google Drive, Dropbox, and some LMS or CRM systems to automate repetitive tasks like adding an email attachment (report of exam grades) to a shared folder, or automatically saving things in a spreadsheet (students who have completed a course to a mailing list). Maybe you would collect the results once a week before mailing completion certificates because you didn’t want to waste time collecting them every day. You could automate that process and have the results as soon as the happen.

Consider custom integrations – If you have a complex certification system, have lots of data in a lot of places, or you just have a unique technical integration, look for platforms with an available API (an accessible language for your course software to communicate with) to leverage.


This is part three of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. Continue on to part four here. You can access the other articles below. 

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.

Tips for increasing word of mouth program referrals

This is part two of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Enable Social Sharing

There is a lot of competition in the online learning, certification, executive education, and training spaces. Whether you’re providing a free online course to learn a skill like social media marketing or whether you’re issuing a prestigious professional certification, praise from happy students is the gold standard for referrals. Given the overlap between many personal and professionals makes this praise an excellent source for new certificate-seekers. Word of mouth and individual referrals have a much lower cost of acquisition when compared to paid advertising or paid lead generation. In short, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to download and share their certificate, as this can be an effective and inexpensive lead generation tool for your organization.

There are a number of ways individuals share their achievements. Most common are:

1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the largest professional social network, and for many, their one place to showcase professional achievements. Most certifications and course completions will get posted to LinkedIn if you provide the right share link. It’s important to note that new changes to LinkedIn have made it more difficult to share with one click. This means you need to make the process as seamless as possible, and provide detailed instructions on how to add achievements to a profile.

2. Twitter

We’ve noticed Twitter, although for many considered a more personal social network, is one of the most popular places for people to share their achievement. The key is to make sure you make it easy to do with two clicks, and it shouldn’t take them more than a few seconds. The first click should bring up the Twitter posting form, and the second click should be to Tweet the message. Yes, some people will want to tweak what’s written, but it is up to you to make sure the default message is clear, concise, and ready to go to eliminate as much friction as possible.

3. Embed Options: Website and Email Signatures

Many professionals have personal websites where they showcase their resumes, CVs, or other skillsets and domain knowledge. Being able to easily embed the digital certificate on their website, or link to it in their email signature, is hugely important. Professional email signatures get lots of visibility by colleagues and clients, and this is free visibility for your organization to exactly the people who you should want seeing your certification. In contrast to places like Twitter or Facebook where old posts are buried quickly, a personal website has a much longer lifespan, continuing to show your certification. Again, it’s important to make sure that your embedded code or link follows good best practices:

  1. Make sure the URL is permanent. The last thing you want to do is provide a URL that ends up being broken or taken down.
  2. Ensure the certificate is mobile friendly. Now more than half of internet traffic occurs from mobile devices, so you want to make sure your design looks good even when it’s on a phone or tablet.
  3. Know that your online certificates are compatible with all major browsers. Since a lot of people are doing their work-related browsing from work devices, it’s not uncommon for them to be using older or more dated versions of web browsers. Just because your certificate looks good on the latest version of Chrome doesn’t mean it will look good on a two year old version of Internet Explorer.

4. Facebook

It’s not as common for people to post work-related items to Facebook as it is LinkedIn, or even Twitter, but considering over 2 billion people are now on Facebook, it’s good to provide the functionality. Much like Twitter, you want to make sure that the default share message is ready to go with the proper organization names, URLs, and other information.

 

5. Other Social Networks

The truth is various professional industries end up having their own unique sets of social networks. When you’re providing sharing options, only supporting LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter won’t suffice. Make sure to use a sharing widget that can offer a wider variety of sharing options depending on who the end user is. For example, a graphic designer may want to post his certificate to a different location that a teacher.

6. Print

Print is dead! Long live print! Sure, for many organizations the need for printed certificates is no longer a given. However, some organizations still want (or need, for compliance reasons) to provide physical copies, and that’s important to remember. When you’re choosing a digital issuing service, make sure you choose one that has the options for creating high-resolution designs that can be printed professionally or from home.

Wherever you encourage sharing, make sure to always give detailed, step-by-step instructions. Take time and put effort into crafting well thought out default messages to make sharing as frictionless as possible. Don’t forget to show your support for your recipients by liking, commenting, or sharing their posts. It’s a great way to show you care and it goes a long way in building rapport.


This is part two of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. Continue on to part three here. You can access the other articles below. 

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification 
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.

The Recipient Experience: An in-depth guide for differentiating your program and delighting your members.

This is part one of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. You can access the other articles below.

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.


Introduction

You’ve probably read best practices guides on how to launch, streamline, or revitalize your certification, elearning, or online training program. For the most part, these guides cover the same important topics… Who are you marketing your program to and what do they stand to gain from it? How will you structure your content and what will you cover? How will you create, distribute, grade, and update the content for your program?

These are all great questions, and their importance can’t be overstated. However there’s one topic almost every best practices guide leaves out – it’s what we call the Recipient Experience. That is the way someone who has signed up for your program feels as they the complete the last step and receive their certificate or badge. Whether or not they feel a sense of accomplishment and pride has a lot to do with the effort you put into conveying the importance and prestige of your program.

The Recipient Experience

Individuals invest non-trivial amounts of time (ranging from hours to years) preparing for some programs. Often times they also spend significant amounts of money (sometimes into the thousands) working towards finishing a program. It all culminates in one single moment when he or she finds out if all the hard work paid off. Take a moment and ask yourself what that experience looks and feels like for those enrolled in your program. Would you be excited to find out you passed? Would you be likely to share your achievement with others? Would you feel like it was worth it?

We’ve worked with hundreds of organizations with online training or certification programs, and if you’re like most of them, this wasn’t even considered after delivering the course content. That’s a shame, because it’s one of the most crucial moments of the entire process, and it’s one of the easiest ways to differentiate your program and maximize your return on investment.

The idea of investing time into the recipient experience is neither novel nor new. When students graduate from college or university, they and their families take part in an entire ceremony dedicated to completing their degree. Students dress in formal gowns, line up, and then get their name called and experience a moment in the limelight as they walk cross the stage to receive a diploma. Granted, your program might not cost thousands of dollars or take years to achieve, but that doesn’t mean the moment isn’t just as crucial. It’s the culmination of an effort, an experience, and it deserves the same amount of attention you put into crafting the program itself.

You should have one simple goal in this scenario: to delight your recipient and provide them with a way to share their success. What are your students receiving right now? An automated email that tells them their course “has been completed”? Perhaps they get sent a piece of paper in the mail 4-6 weeks long after they have completed the program, and they’ve forgotten they were supposed to receive a certificate, and their name has a typo. Imagine spending weeknights after working a full day – for months – on your course work, only to receive a canned response or an unattractive paper certificate. You are not going to forward this email to anyone. You aren’t going to hang your certificate on a wall. You are going to be less likely to become a promoter for the organization you did your training with. You are less likely to share your accomplishment with similar individuals in person or over social media.

It’s not a delightful experience and it doesn’t provide any ROI for your program.

This guide is going to focus on what we call the Recipient Experience. The culmination of your program where an individual gets to enjoy the moment when his or her hard work pays off and they receive their certificate or badge. From our experience working with a wide variety of organizations over the years, this is far and away the most overlooked part of their process. You know more about the training and demands of your industry than anyone else, but we can share what we focus on – the Recipient Experience.

This guide will provide you with best practices in establishing a strong Recipient Experience along with practical things you and your organization can do to successfully implement it.

If you are limited by budget, human resources, or just plain, old time, don’t worry – most organizations are in the same boat. The good news is that implementing a great Recipient Experience is not as difficult nor time consuming as you think it is, and there are lots of things you can do to incrementally improve your processes without spending a lot of time or money.

There are four core tenets of the Recipient Experience: Shareability, Timely Delivery, Verifiability, and Ease of Access.


This is part one of a five part series on the Recipient Experience. Continue on to part two here. You can access the other articles below. 

Part 1: The Recipient Experience
Part 2: Generating word of mouth referrals through social sharing
Part 3: Maximizing member engagement with timely delivery
Part 4: Ensuring value through trusted verification
Part 5: Boosting adoption by increasing accessibility

Download the entire ebook for free here.