Language matters – use this handy glossary of skills terms that defines language relevant to digital badges, micro-credentials, recognition, skills data, the skills ecosystem and more:

Credentials – verify, validate, confirm, or corroborate a person’s learning achievements, knowledge and preparedness for performing tasks. Credentials are diverse with regard to their scope, status and purpose.

21st-Century Skills – generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem solving that advocates believe educators need to teach to help students thrive in today’s world.

Competencies – represent the knowledge and behaviours required to perform the skill.

Digital Badges – a visual representation of the achievement gained from a micro-credential and are an indicator of accomplishment, skill, quality or interest that can be displayed, accessed and verified online. They’re visual emblems of achievement in digital format. Digital badges are earned in a variety of ways, for a variety of achievement levels – from ‘low stakes’ event participation to ‘high stakes’ achievements, such as successfully completing a collaborative project. Digital badges have embedded metadata that provide richer validation of qualifications. They contain shareable information about the badge issuer, receiver, criteria for issuing, issue date, expiration date, standards adhered to and evidence of achievement.

Digital Credential – an object comprising an Open Badges standard digital badge issued with an embedded Credentialate learner evidence record.

Employability – to most educational institutions, employability is defined as the number of learners who go on to be employed after graduation. To learners, employability focuses on the value of their education, the ROI in learner’s education, opportunities to land in a preferred job (not just any job) after graduation and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and experience. Employers consider a candidate with employability skills as someone who can prove or verify their skills against the job requirements and can develop further job specific skills with additional training. Workplace skills such as communication, teamwork and critical thinking are employability skills prized by employers.

Employability Data 
– focuses on learner and performance data (typically found in assessment data) that show what skills – including technical, workplace and transferable skills – learner’s possess that align to current job markets.

Employer/Corporate Education
 – also referred to as industry education. This is education developed or co- developed by businesses and employers and delivered to employees. Corporate education can range from regulatory requirements, such as training in occupational health and safety to management training courses offered to executives. Typically recognised within the business, recognition of corporate education can be difficult to transition to other businesses or industries.

Employment Data – essentially tells us which career path a learner took and is usually limited to a set period of time after they graduate.

Formal vs. Informal Learning – whereas formal learning happens in a training- based organisations, workplaces, mobile devices, classrooms, online over the internet or through eLearning portals, informal learning is based on practical and lifelong learning. Formal education is often assessed and recognised by some form of credential, whereas informal learning is often not assessed or recognised by a credential that can be used by the learner.

Higher Education – education undertaken after the completion of secondary education, including university and postgraduate study, typically delivered by traditional education providers.

Learner – this is defined as any learner in an educational environment, whether that is formal or informal learning, high school, university, or even lifelong learning.

Personal Evidence Record / Learner Evidence Record – showing alignment to a global standard skills description through rich skill descriptors (RSDs), qualitative and quantitative evidence of skill achievement, frameworks and occupational and job market data. With a Credentialate rich personal evidence record, learners’ skills become visible and are positioned in context with job markets.

Macro-Credentials – generally, these include degrees, diplomas, certificates and licences, often awarded by accredited, recognised or regulated educational and other institutions or organisations. They indicate learning achievement of a broad body of knowledge, transferable skills or technical proficiency and may take a number of years to complete.

Micro-Credentials – assessed, short-form courses that are typically developed to meet a specific skills gap, rather than replace the learning a full degree provides. They usually focused on a set of learning outcomes in a narrow field of learning and are achieved over a shorter period of time. As such, skills are integral to the creation of micro-credentials. It is usually skills that are recognised upon completion in the form of a digital badge. For micro- credentials to have meaning in the market, and provide currency for learners, they must first be mapped to skills and competencies. The skills and competency data is then aligned to industry and/or National frameworks and to labour market data, providing visibility and transparency to all in the skills ecosystem.

A micro-credential: i) is a record of focused learning achievement verifying what the learner knows, understands or can do; ii) includes assessment based on clearly defined standards and is awarded by a trusted provider; (iii) has stand-alone value and may also contribute to or complement other micro-credentials or macro-credentials, including through recognition of prior learning; and (iv) meets the standards required by relevant quality assurance.

Micro-credentials are offered by commercial entities, private providers and professional bodies, traditional education and training providers, community organisations and other types of organisations.

Professional Skills – career competencies that often are not taught (or acquired) as part of traditional coursework. Professional skills such as leadership, mentoring, project management, and conflict resolution are value- added skills essential to any career.

Rich Skill Descriptors (RSD) – human and machine-readable skill definitions that can be referenced from digital credentials, learner records, pathways, and job profiles. RSD’s are published by skill authors, and conform to a standard global schema. They contain the context around skills-rich metadata and alignment to provide a universal skills vocabulary.

Skill data – is any data point that is in reference to an individual’s skills and includes data that measures what someone can do (Miller, 2021). Some examples of skill data include skill assessment results, experience details, skill proficiency levels, information on what skills people are learning, skills developed through degrees, certifications or licenses and training. Skill data is a snapshot of skill sets at any given time and can be measured any way you need it.

Skills Ecosystem – comprising sectors within the education industry that facilitate the recognition, validation and sharing of learners skills rather than blanket qualifications. Sectors include learning management systems (LMS), assessment platforms, badging agents, credential exchanges, skills standards and certification authorities. The Skills Ecosystem is an evolving space as skills gain traction across education and employer groups and as technology develops to better meet the needs of learners.

Skills Recognition Continuum – the process education providers must undertake to identify, align and recognise skills in a meaningful way for the other stakeholders in the Skills Economy. It defines not only what must be done and in what order, but also how each step can be accomplished utilising existing systems and technologies.

Skills vs. Competencies – these two terms have become quite muddied, in large part because the difference means a lot in academia, but is not defined the same way by employers. We tend to think that skills are merely behavioural and demonstrable, though it has become normal to use the word skills in place of competencies. Competencies are more broadly defined and include knowledge, skills, abilities and even innate talents. But when we’re referring to an open skills network, matching of skills, or skills based hiring, we are generally using the word skills in place of competencies. But when we’re referring to academic programs established with learning outcomes that are competency statements, it’s important to use the term competencies. Skills badges, for example, can be joined with various credentials, but the higher education community understands competencies to be different from skills. This creates additional confusion when communicating about skills across organisation.

Skills-Based Learning – most skills-based learning is taking place in the lifelong learning environments that come either after, alongside, or in some cases in place of formal education.

Soft Skills – a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients, among others, that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills.

Talent Mobility – a learner’s ability to move between positions within their company, within businesses within their industry and between industries. How well the learner can collect, organise and share proof of their skills, knowledge and capabilities.

Workplace Skills – the basic skills a person must have to succeed in any workplace. They are the core knowledge, skills and attitudes that allow workers to understand instructions, solve problems and get along with co-workers and customers. They can comprise a mix of soft skills (such as teamwork, leadership) and domain specific skills (such as digital literacy, programming or first aid).

Disclaimer: The list of resources above are provided in the spirit of knowledge sharing and as a handy reference list. The resources listed are the intellectual property of the Author / Publisher listed and Edalex make no claim to copyright. The information on this page may contain copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorised by the copyright owner. We make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding in the industry. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in local laws. If you wish to use copyrighted material from the above for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. All information posted is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any of the above information, you do so at your own risk. While the information above has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors. We invite you to Contact Us with any queries.

Get across the skills basics

Get across the skills basics

Skills are the building blocks, the translation piece and the common language at the intersection of learners, learning institutions and employers. How can you put skills and the Skills Ecosystem into context?

Browse Credentialate solutions

Digital Badges

Digital badges recognise skills or workplace achievement and are flexible and easily shared. Manage complex awarding criteria


Make learners' skills visible and show proof of what they can do through quantitative and qualitative data and artefacts of learning

Skills Data

Create order from data chaos. Unleash skills data from disparate systems. Surface insights for the institution, learner and employers


Enable comptency-based education (CBE), mastery-based and other types of learning models. Recognise progression of learning

Learner Dashboard

Dynamic 24/7 display of provisional and earned badges, cohort comparison and feedback accessible by the learning community

Learner Passport

Provide a holistic portrait of a learner that supports employability in their current learning journey and throughout their lifelong learning
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