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5 Things Higher Ed Institutions Can Do to Launch a Successful Digital Badging Program

Students today are expecting a totally new experience from their investment in postsecondary education. No longer are they content to sit through hour-long lectures in a 300-seat auditorium, exclusively study subjects in theory, and wait four years to apply what they learned. Instead, they want real-world experience over the course of their education that eventually leads to job placement. This need to get in on the action and learn marketable skills is increasingly impacting their higher education decisions–forcing colleges, universities, trade schools, and other institutions of higher learning to compete with each other for enrollment.

In order to compete, institutions of higher learning have been partnering with private companies to offer students real certifications in a skill. It may be a computer science major earning a professional certificate from IBM in Data Science. Or a graphic design student getting certified in Creative Cloud by Adobe. Creating learning opportunities with leading companies allows students to get the experience they need to succeed right after graduation and verify their skillset to employers.

But not all higher ed certification programs are created equal. Learning managers need to get the word out to students, prospective students, faculty and staff to help promote the numerous opportunities available and build momentum.

Digital Credentials are a Great Way to Get the Word Out

Everyone likes to be recognized, and digital badges can serve as a point of pride and accomplishment for peers, advisors, colleagues, and prospective employers. Digital badges can be shared on social media, email signatures, and resumes–serving as verifiable proof that the student has mastered a skill and is qualified to do a job or provide a service.

But building a digital credentialing program for a higher education institution can be fraught with roadblocks, pushback, and false starts–especially if the program takes too long to be rolled out or requires too much effort from the learner. Students may decide the effort isn’t worth the reward and simply lose interest–allowing the digital credentialing program to lose traction before it gains the necessary momentum to be successful.

Here are five tips to help you create and roll out a successful digital credentialing program for your higher ed organization:

1. Tie badging to education goals

One way to prove the program’s value is to tie badging to the institution’s business and education goals. Show stakeholders within the institution how badging can help boost enrollment, graduation rates, and placement rates. Educate students about how they can use these programs to learn a new skill, show off that knowledge and proficiency, and use it to get an internship or job. Inform recruiters, admissions personnel, faculty, and administrators about how you’re using verified data via digital badges to help them do their jobs more effectively. If you do, they’ll be more likely to assist with course development and marketing.

2. Build proficiency into your badges

Education can be extremely competitive. Hundreds of thousands of students graduate each year, and every differentiation can help them land their dream job, be accepted to graduate school, or secure a research grant. Students need to show that they have advanced proficiency above and beyond their peers. Build different levels of proficiency into your digital credentialing program. Education is already laid out in proficiency levels (100/200/300/400 level courses, for example), making it a natural extension to set up badging in a way that differentiates expertise on a granular level. This encourages proficiency by building additional incentives for continuing their education journey past the initial stage.

3. Communicate the value of your partnerships

Students want to work for the best companies, so it is imperative that you promote the partnerships you’ve created for your credentialing program. Having a single credentialing hub can centralize all the information learners need–providing details, value and incentives all in one place. You can also get the word out through published case studies, student spotlights, student, alumni, and faculty publications, and blogs, while a creative PR campaign in the media and on social media help build credibility. Invite participating companies to campus to talk to students and get them excited about being credentialed through their program.

4. Tie credentials to grants

Certification and certificate credentialing partnerships with private companies allow institutions of higher learning to win federal and state grants that have been set up to encourage public/private partnerships. This is especially true of two-year colleges and trade schools. Offering students a certificate in a skillset that the government deems in need qualifies many organizations for grants. This can be green skills such as solar panel installation, engineering certifications for women and students of color, or certifications in underserved healthcare areas.

5. Don’t go it alone

Designing a bunch of badges and issuing them to students may seem straightforward, but a successful credentialing program needs to be more than that. Building and maintaining momentum, tying digital credentials to education goals and student value, and communicating with learners requires nuance. Credentialing experts can provide you with the research, guidance, and expertise to create a badge recognition strategy, develop a competency framework, and build out governance and communication processes.

Get Started with Credly Today

Our team of credentialing experts work with higher education organizations to design credentialing programs that meet education goals, align to a business case, and drive positive outcomes–such as increased enrollment and graduation and placement rates. From best practices and onboarding support to a range of professional services, Credly offers a variety of support to start their credentialing journey. Schedule a demo with our higher education team to learn more.

Jim Daniels is an accomplished education and credentialing program professional. Before joining Credly as the Director of Professional Services, Jim spent 16 years with IBM leading the design, implementation, and business strategy for the company's award-winning digital credentialing program.