Traditional degree or macro-credentials has served various purposes over many years, the important being employability. However, the employers today are dissatisfied to conclude with academic qualifications as an employability factor.
As an alternative, some institutions provide co-curricular certification of employability skills. However, these are of lesser value. Employers today seek demonstrated learning. This drive for future-focused learning has instigated a better alternative learning program. Eventually, the use of digital technologies in education and training is complementing traditional qualifications repositories.
The candidates are acknowledged with digital credentials or badges for their achievement in these programs. The digital credentials act as a more visible and granular system for the employers regarding the validation of demonstrated skills. A digital badge or a digital credential is nothing but a clickable graphic that comprises an online record of achievement, evidence of work needed for the achievement, and details about the credentialing body.
Digital badges provide a technological solution to represent learning beyond qualifications. These badges may be collected through social media, formal associations with established institutions, multinational corporations, etc. Digital badges in higher education close the gap between the skills that employers seek and the skills they see on digital badges.
The International Council for Open and Distance Education defines a credential as ‘a testament to a student’s competence, capability, skill, or ability to do something relevant to the workplace that is issued by a higher education institution.’ It is portable, transferable, useful, and easily understood. It can be distributed over digital networks that the earner intends to.
The skills at the workplace are changing at a rapid pace. A study suggests that 60% of new jobs in 2020 will require less than 20% of the skills the professionals carry today. Such is the fastness of the professional landscape. Though the prediction may seem hyped, the fact is that the skills we have today may not be needed tomorrow.
Moreover, the traditional learning model does not offer a lifetime professional value. At this juncture, digital credentials are promising and help in the advancement of careers and the expansion of skillsets.
To summarise, digital badges motivates the participant, recognizes learning and signals their achievement, captures the learning path and contributes to the student retention. It represents the discrete skill sets of the participant. The participant can group or stack digital badges to form a macro-credential.
Moving forward, modern universities have realized the value of micro-credential to refine and evolve skillset of a professional on a continual basis, as against rigid multi-year chunks. The forward-thinking universities and institutions have started to adopt micro-credentials for expanding curricula.
For instance, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Wisconsin-Extension are posting micro-credential-based learning programs through a third-party digital learning portal. Wharton online, the digital learning platform of The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania offers digital credentials for its online business courses.
As a concluding note, digital credentials are integral in higher education and business schools. The transparency and portability of the expanded skillset of the credential earners help in professional career success.