With more learners questioning the value of higher education, new regulations around gainful employment, and employers concerned they aren't finding applicants with the skills they need, the pressure to prove higher education prepares learners for future success is now greater than ever.
One of the most promising solutions is to offer microcredentials or badges as a way to enhance the traditional transcript. It can feel daunting, but it doesn't have to be. The 1EdTech community developed the Open Badges standard for microcredentials to help cut through the chaos and confusion by being transparent about what knowledge and skills any given microcredential actually represents.
Once your institution embraces the transparency Open Badges can bring to your current offerings, you will find it easier to answer the questions and doubts about higher education's value, create clearer pathways to success for your students, and show firm connections to employment.
When I speak with people in higher education who aren't involved with microcredentials, they seem to think that they need to add to their offerings to offer credentials or a badge.
You don't have to, but you can.
Instead, Open Badges are a way to help you showcase the value you already offer to your students. The standard, created by 1EdTech members in higher education, educational technology suppliers, and K-12 districts, is designed to help institutions and learners showcase what a credential, course, or degree actually means.
By laying out the skills and knowledge gained in any given course or program, students will better understand what they'll bring to the workforce and be more equipped to explain those skills when asked by a potential employer. It can help them gain a greater appreciation for what they're expected to take from the experience, how they can benefit from it, and plan the rest of their educational journey.
Knowing the marketable skills they will gain from the credential also opens up new and different opportunities for students. They can find a job based on the skills they've acquired while continuing their education or pick up where they left off on their educational journey instead of starting over, making their goals more attainable.
Calming the Chaos
Not only will your student have this information, but by embedding it within the Open Badge, there is more clarity about what the credential means outside the issuing organization.
Right now, millions of credentials are offered by thousands of different types of institutions and businesses in many ways, including everything from a printed certificate to a digital diploma and everything in between.
However, not all digital credentials are created equal.
The Open Badges standard provides a consistent data format, so issuing institutions and organizations can provide contextual information within the badge, helping to automatically answer questions a receiving organization may have about that credential. Because it's verifiable, it can be trusted.
This format allows receiving organizations to quickly gain meaning and value from the credential beyond the brand of the issuing organization. This information will enable them to understand what a learner achieved to earn the credential and see how that relates to their requirements.
Finally, Open Badges is an open and interoperable standard, making it easy to share wherever a learner needs or wants to go. The badges can also hold their value for learners even after they leave the issuing institution or organization.
An open and trusted standard allows an Open Badge to be shared across institutions, organizations, industries, states, and even countries.
They give the learner agency over their own credentials, sharing what they want and with whom while allowing the credential to maintain its data integrity and verification abilities.
This is vital for success because without interoperability, learners, organizations, employers, and others will each be tied to proprietary credentials that may not work in different systems, reducing the future value of each credential.
So how can you make sure your institution's microcredentials can be trusted, open, and verifiable? Talk with your supplier partners and make sure they are 1EdTech-certified or working on gaining certification in the Open Badges 3.0 standard.
You already offer the value and the curriculum. Open Badges 3.0 will help you and your learners share it.
Learn more and find where you fit in the collaboration at our Digital Credentials Summit, the premiere event for senior education leaders, employers, and innovators to work together on providing a better path to the future for all learners.
I will also be at WCET and Convergence conferences for those attending. A complete list of 1EdTech and industry events we will attend can be found here.
You can also check in on 1EdTech's digital credentials workstream page for more information on our community's work.
About the Author
Kelly Hoyland serves as the director for higher education at 1EdTech, where she works with members to meet the challenges they face in the rapidly growing and evolving digital teaching and learning landscape. This includes working across K-12, higher education, and corporate education to make life achievements more accessible, personalized, and equitable from the start for every learner.
Kelly began her career in K-12 education, serving as a teacher, virtual school coordinator, and technology director. She then transitioned to higher education as the Director of Learning and Client Technology Services at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where her department was responsible for supporting academic technology and end-user support. Her focus has been to find ways to use technology to support teaching and learning.