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.
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:
- Your achievement takes a long time to complete. For example: a course that takes more than 40 hours to complete.
- Assessment of the achievement is formal (summative). For example: a course that has a proctored and assessed examination.
- The achievement is 'high stakes'. For example: membership of a professional association that's required to work in that particular domain.
- Employers are likely to view the achievement. For example: professional certification of a skill.
Use a Digital Badge when:
- Your achievement doesn't take too long to complete. For example: an online course that takes 2 hours to complete.
- Assessment of the achievement is informal (formative). For example: a course with an unmarked quiz.
- The achievement is 'low stakes'. For example: attending a conference.
- 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.