Why Academic Certificates are Going Digital

    Higher education is all about adaptation. As the world evolves, so too does students’ learning needs and expectations. Recent digital transformation is no different. As businesses continue to deliver more experiences across multiple digital and in-person channels, colleges and universities are exploring how they prepare students for the new, modern workforce and help them stand out with recruiters.
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    Academic certificates are a perfect example. Paper certificates may look good framed on an office wall, but they do little to elevate a professional’s personal brand in a world that primarily exists in the digital realm. On the contrary, digital credentials are instantly verifiable, highly shareable and tell a more complete story about the students’ real-world skill set. Higher Education institutions that prioritize job placement for students and career growth should consider digital credentialing for their academic certificates to showcase not only the qualification itself, but the skills and knowledge gained. [Discover in-depth the hidden costs of paper certificates in our blog]

    What are digital academic certificates?

    Digital academic certificates are digitized version of a credential or certification, and can take the form of digital badges that serve as a unique and portable representation of an academic certificate. They can be posted on webpages and profiles that promote the student and their skills (such as LinkedIn and email signatures) and allow potential employers to grasp a deeper picture of the student’s skills—just what they need to make better, data-based hiring decisions. These marketable, real-world skills can be anything from an accounting certificate to certification in a specific product or coding language.

    How do digital academic certificates or badges help with job placement?

    Many organizations are moving to a skill-based people management strategy to better meet their evolving workforce needs. This allows them to identify the skills they need today and in the future, where gaps exist, and put a plan in place to bridge these skills gaps through upskilling and reskilling. Digital academic certificates are an easily verifiable way for HR professionals to take a data-based approach to creating a skills-based organization. Rather than rely on outdated proxies on resumes and HR files, digital credentials put science behind staffing decisions, making it much easier to adapt and evolve to changing market conditions. According to a survey conducted by Wonderlic's National Soft Skills Consotium, 60% of employers are more inclined to interview graduates that have earned job-specific skills badges while in school. And 83% said that digital versions of academic certifications were more helpful and desired than traditional academic transcripts.

    Madison College has been an early adopter of digital credentials and is continually expanding its academic certificate program and increasing the number of badges issued by 25% each semester. According to Lesley Voigt, director of the school’s digital credentials institute, digital badges give its students a roadmap for what to talk about in an interview with a recruiter—allowing them to focus on the specific, practical skills they would need in the specific role.

    Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) has also used digital credentials to make students more marketable in a tight job market. Particularly for skills softer skills that were in high demand in their local labor market, such as critical thinking, communication and innovation, students were able to qualify and document their ability through the digital credential. “The badge really is the right way for our students to communicate to employers what they’ve learned and how they’ve demonstrated proficiency,” said Melissa Moreno, Dean of Educational Programs for SBCC.

    How do digital academic certificates or badges provide long-term career growth?

    Badges also label students as lifelong learners and people who aren’t shy about bettering themselves through upskilling and reskilling—traits that recruiters value. As students continue to value job placement and career growth when making enrolment decisions, institutions of higher learning need to make sure they are giving students everything they can to show they value these priorities as well.

    How do digital academic certificates or badges improve course completion rates?

    Let’s be honest, many students need additional motivation to complete certifications, and digital badging has proven to provide that extra incentive to follow up and finish a course. Badges become a point of pride, something that students can continuously highlight throughout their career as they move up the ladder. Lesly Voigt is seeing this incentive take shape at Madison College: “Students are driving demand for new badges. They want that digital badge to add to their portfolio—and they want to know how to earn more”.

    How do digital academic certificates or badges help elevate a school’s status or brand?

    Digital badges can help boost a college or university’s brand with prospective students, professors, and employers. With the school’s crest or emblem festooned across digital credentialing sites, career networking platforms, and academic journals, digital credentials help spread prestige and elevate the school’s standing in the community. Badges earned by students can be pasted into an email signature or highlighted on a resume or profile on a career networking platform—further boosting the school’s brand.

    How do digital academic certificates provide insight into learning trends?

    Digital credentials are chock full of rich metadata that provides information about learners, courses, and their ability to predict earners’ future success in a specific job role. Skills tags can be tracked and tied to job placement and other accomplishments, helping academic advisors provide course recommendations and specific learning paths determined by academic or career goals. Schools can point to specific credentials or academic certificates that lead to success in recruitment materials, grant applications, and other marketing assets.

    How can I set up a digital academic certification or badge program at my school?

    If you’re thinking about setting up a digital certification or badge program at your institution, Credly Acclaim can help support you on your journey. By taking our Credentialing Mastery Assessment, we’ll be able to advise you in three key areas of your digital credentialing strategy: foundation, delivery, and sustainability & scalability. This will be followed by a detailed and personalized report with rich resources to help you transform, adapt, and lead your way to mastering the world of credentialing excellence.
    Why wait? Discover how you can build a successful program unique to your organization’s needs with our Credentialing Mastery Assessment.
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