A Personal Journey – Digital Badges, Micro-Credentials and Meaningful Evidence

For many credential badges, it’s not clear what underlying skills or knowledge the micro-credential represents. What makes digital credentials meaningful in the current global economy? In this blog post, Dan McFadyen, Managing Director of Edalex, shares part of his personal journey that ultimately led to the development of the world’s first Credential Evidence Platform – the award-winning Credentialate platform.

Last year my parents presented me with a collection of treasures I’d stashed in their basement for the better part of 35 years. One artifact grabbed my eye: my old Boy Scouts sash with the merit badges I had proudly earned on the way to becoming an Eagle Scout. And one of those badges jumped out at me: Computers!

Let’s just say the image combining a punched card and magnetic tape has not aged well. In my defense, while I’ve seen punched cards (Wikipedia is your friend, for those with no idea), I fortunately never had to use them. However, I certainly did store early BASIC programs on a cassette tape (and no, I’m not going to explain BASIC or cassette tapes!)

Achievements Based on Evidence

I remember poring over the Scout Handbook, looking at different merit badges and exploring what I would tackle next. Each badge had specific requirements to demonstrate the associated skills or knowledge, which had to be certified by an authority based on evidence that proved my ability in that area.

The badges were somewhat stackable, or at least milestones and prerequisites for advancing rank: you had to follow pathways with certain core badges, as well as a minimum number of optional badges. Any record of what I actually did or learned for these badges is lost in the sands of time (or an as-yet unexplored corner of my parents’ basement!) – all that remains is the badge. And in some cases it’s not clear even to me what the badge represents: I’m pretty sure I never learned how to play the harp, yet there that badge sits!

The Modern Merit Badge – Digital Badges and Micro-Credentials

Fast forward 35 years (you can probably guess where I’m headed), and the more things change, the more they stay the same. More than 43 million digital badges have been issued through 2020, according to an IMS Credential Engine survey. There are specific requirements to earn each credential badge, and many of them represent certain skills or knowledge, certified by an authority. Some things have improved: digital badges are verifiable, can be tied to blockchain, can have clear expiration dates, and other advances. Platforms such as Badgr support stackable badges and learning pathways.

But for many digital badges, it’s not clear to the viewer (or even recipient) what the underlying skills, knowledge or expertise are that the badge or micro-credential represents. Most digital badges don’t present personalised, meaningful evidence tied to each individual.

From a badge earner, I’m now very proud to be part of a team helping organisations issue their own evidence-backed digital credentials. Nearly 3 years ago, Edalex was privileged to become an industry partner to the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney) on a multi-year research project focused on making professional skills recognition possible in undergraduate programs.

In a true spirit of collaboration, the UNSW team under Professor Patsie Polly were fantastic design partners, informing the design of Credentialate – the world’s first Credential Evidence Platform. Credentialate brings meaning to micro-credentials, and gives learners a voice, by providing validated, personalised evidence of their workplace-relevant skills. Skills and a voice they can use to highlight their strengths and set them apart from other applicants.

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The Source of Personalised Evidence

Credentialate extracts student performance data from the Learning Management System (LMS) and assessment platforms, applies a range of models to determine which learners have demonstrated mastery of a particular skill or competency, and then awards a micro-credential through a digital badging platform, with personalised quantitative and qualitative evidence attached, as shown below.

A Personal Journey - Digital Badges, Micro-Credentials and Meaningful Evidence - Personalised Evidence

We’re also looking at the bigger picture, and the concept of a skills passport (skills sash?) that an individual carries with them. It would transparently reflect the relevant skills and verified meaningful evidence they’ve earned through both formal and informal training, the workplace and other activities. Some skills will expire, others will last a lifetime. This concept is much larger than just Credentialate or Edalex, which is part of why we’ve recently joined the Open Skills Network. But more on that another time.

Sharing Your Badges

I’m proud of the badges I’ve earned. Some have been more foundational and meaningful throughout my life: Scholarship, Reading, Citizenship, Personal Fitness, and yes, Computers; others, not so much: Basket Weaving, Pottery, Harp Playing (ok, Music), and, sadly for my family, Cooking. We all should be proud of the skills we’ve earned, through formal and informal learning, as well as through work and other activities.

What treasured badges or recognition have you earned? Is it stuck in a basement (real, or digital)? How is it tracked, and what evidence do you have that you’ve earned it? What’s still on your bucket list? Share in the comments below.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep my eye out for a micro-credential in Harp playing!

Connect with us

Credentialate assesses, monitors, promotes and validates learners’ attainment of evidence-backed skills, supporting the transition from learner to earner. It is a secure, configurable platform that assesses and tracks attainment of competencies and issues micro-credentials in a digital badge to students.

If you’d like to learn more about Credentialate, we invite you to Learn More or Schedule a Demo

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