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Seven Digital Badge Myths: Debunking Common Misconceptions

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They’re too expensive. They compete with learning management systems. They take too much time to implement. Our earners prefer paper certificates.

Incorporating digital badges into a product certification program builds brand awareness, increases earner engagement, and solidifies the program in its market. Organizations that certify their partners, customers, and industry professionals in their products have been using digital badges for years. Yet, there are still some misconceptions about what a digital badge can do and be used for.

We’ve highlighted seven of the misconceptions we’ve uncovered in conversations with people new to digital credentials about their use and understanding of digital badges.

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Myth 1: Digital badges = gamification

Shiny, bright visuals and a strong focus on increasing employee engagement—it’s no surprise that people relate digital badges to gamification.

Workplace gamification is the concept of using game-like apps to drive employee engagement. Organizations have created games like digital scoreboards that measure and reward employees who make the most sales calls in a week. While gamification can be successful in the short term, many organizations already have rewards in place and the process doesn’t necessarily foster growth or offer additional learning opportunities. And, more importantly, the value of these measurements of success only exist within the organization.

By contrast, digital badges prove an individual’s knowledge, skills, and abilities, and are recognized by colleagues in the industry and employers that are hiring for open positions. Issuing badges for real, meaningful achievements like a product certification allows earners to use their badges and new skills in their current and future workplaces.

screenshot of labor market insights on the Credly platform that shows earners the related badges and job titles for the skill, "written communication"

Digital badge earners get value beyond gamification—they get access to labor market insights aligned to the skills they just mastered, allowing them to see recommended badges for their career path.

People who are running a product certification program can avoid the gamification of their digital badges by carefully selecting earning criteria, creating high stakes exams, and double-checking to make sure you’re not issuing a digital badge for the sake of offering a badge.

Three people looking at a tablet and having a conversation

Myth 2: White labeling is necessary for brand awareness

White labeling is a popular tactic across different industries, especially SaaS products, as it allows organizations to purchase the right to rebrand or make slight customizations to a product or service.

While the consistency this customization brings supports a company’s branding efforts, it eliminates the opportunity to generate brand awareness with new, prospective earners who are actively searching to upskill. When an organization white labels their badges, they silo their badges out of the credential network and don’t show up in the search results on the platforms where earners spend their time.

For organizations that issue digital badges through a third-party digital credentialing platform that embraces a network approach, like Credly, its earners will encounter a few different branded touchpoints. One touchpoint is the digital badge itself, which is designed by the issuing organization and will always remain under the product certification provider’s name and brand, whether the product certification provider designed the badge on their own or received assistance from their third-party platform.

When an earner shares, embeds, or links to their badge, potential employers and colleagues in the earner’s network can click on it to verify its validity and see more information about that specific badge and certification program. If your main goal is to maintain brand consistency and your organization receives a satisfactory amount of website traffic, then white labeling may be for you. However, if you’re looking to reach new earners, join an active ecosystem of brands, and drive traffic to your website without expanding your marketing team, you may want to reconsider white labeling.

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Myth 3: Employers don’t care about digital credentials

When an earner can use their digital certification to get a raise, a promotion, or even a new job, the value of that certification increases. And that requires product and certification buy-in from employers too.

The skills gap is a real concern for employers. Are the skills entry-level candidates learned in school relevant to the workforce? How does a certification compare to actual work experience when evaluating mid-to-senior level candidates?

These questions, and many more, pass through the minds of HR and hiring managers as they’re also focusing on making their workforces more diverse. In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that only 26% of Black Americans hold bachelor’s degrees compared to 40% of their white peers, a disparity much starker for women of color. By including education requirements with job postings, employers are effectively eliminating 74% of Black Americans from consideration. Higher education isn’t the only path to developing the marketable skills employers are looking for to fill the gaps.

Courtney Jacobsen, CSG Senior Product Manager at Tableau, discussed how employers recognize this barrier in a webinar hosted by Credly, The Power of the Network: How Digital Credentials Transform Product Certification Programs:

“Lots of employers have taken the stance of removing higher ed and degree requirements from their job postings, and that’s really because of the systemic barriers that are in place of people getting formal higher education.”

—Courtney Jacobsen, CSG Senior Product Manager, Tableau

In mid-2020, the White House implemented a policy that reduces the minimum education requirements for federal job opportunities in an attempt to combat hiring bias. Many leading organizations, like Google, IBM, and Oracle, have followed suit. Employers are now focusing on skills and continuous learning rather than degrees, using digital credentials to verify their candidates’ skills and upskill their employees’ knowledge.

One example of an organization that uses digital badges to promote its product certifications is CompTIA, the global leader in vendor-neutral technical certifications for aspiring and experienced IT professionals. In a survey conducted by CompTIA in early 2021, 543 professionals were asked about how they use CompTIA digital badges to make hiring and promotion decisions for IT employees:

  • 70% value the easily verifiable nature of CompTIA digital badges
  • 62% value the portability of CompTIA digital badges
  • 46% value the adaptability of digital badges in the ever-changing technology industry
  • 41% value the flexibility in where and how IT professionals earn digital badges (can be issued within a company or from a training provider or professional association)

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Myth 4: You need a digital course to offer a digital badge

A digital badge can be awarded for any skill that your members, earners, or customers consider valuable and will help them professionally.

Some organizations offer badges for soft skills to recognize individuals who have completed on-the-job training, volunteered, or became a member of their organization. The issuing organization has the power to create their governance because their earners can find value in leveraging these digital badges to receive a raise or promotion, or enter a new industry. For skills like soft skills that are a little more difficult to measure, issuing organizations develop tests to show earners’ progress to avoid gamification.

An organization can also offer digital badges for in-person training, courses, and assessments, so their earners can more easily and effectively share their accomplishments with their network and employers.

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Myth 5: Digital badges compete with learning management systems (LMS)

Digital badges augment, rather than compete, with learning management systems (LMS). An LMS can have a variety of capabilities, like hosting content and the ability to usher people through content and introduce them to the next level. Digital badges come in on the back end of these educational systems to alter how earners are recognized for their achievements.

While a digital badge isn’t an LMS, it should work with one. One way to sync digital badges with an LMS or learning experience platform (LXP) is by setting up a trigger within your LMS to automatically issue a digital badge to an earner who has met your predetermined requirements. Many LMS and LXP platforms, like Canvas, Skilljar, and Degreed, are already supported with a digital badging integration with Credly so you can issue badges without disrupting your existing workflow.

A frustrated worker sits back in his chair with his hand over his forehead

Myth 6: Issuing a digital badge takes a lot of work

There's a common misconception that a lot of work goes into issuing the digital badges themselves. While the exact process can vary across digital credentialing platforms, it can be quite simple.

For example, the Credly platform offers two ways to issue a digital badge:

The first is by bulk uploading via a CSV file.

The second is through integrations that work with your existing LMS or LXP testing platform and many other applications. As covered above, an integration can automatically issue a digital badge based on a trigger on your side. Because of the ability to automate, digital badging can save organizations time.

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Myth 7: All digital badging platforms are created equal

While digital credentialing platforms are designed to issue badges, the platforms are built to solve different problems within the industry. For example, when approaching product certification needs like generating brand awareness, Credly’s approach was to build the most connected global network of issuers and earners, which we refer to as the Credly ecosystem.

Global corporations like Facebook, IBM, Oracle, and CompTIA as well as professional associations, higher education institutions, and training providers issue digital credentials on Credly. Once onboard, Credly customers have the benefit of learning from other Credly customers, creating an unmatched network of trusted issuers. We’re also the only credentialing platform that verifies our issuers.

Beyond the network, there are other factors such as security, success, analytics, and discovery to consider when looking for a platform that will solve your needs.

Fact: Digital badges are the future of product certification

If you found yourself nodding along with each of the myths, you’re not alone.

Digital badges are a powerful tool for product certification providers who want to generate earner-driven demand, reinforce their brand, and increase customers’ lifetime values. And they’re recognized by earners and employers alike.

Credly is the world’s most connected digital credentialing network, empowering earners and organizations to grow. Our platform is the most comprehensive global solution for recognizing skills, capabilities, and achievements, reaching everywhere learning takes place and skills are assessed.

Still have questions or want to see Credly in action? Get a free demo today.