Anabella Laya is shaping the future of academic and professional credentials. She is passionate about Edtech, digital learning and the future of work. Listed on the 200 top women CEOs leading global Edtech startups by HolonIQ in 2021, she is the winner of “Women That Make an Impact in Colombia” Endeavor 2021. Latitud Fellow LF4, Anabella is currently participating in Endeavor Scale Up 2022 and SuperCharger Ventures Program. She is listed between the 100 Edtech Digest Influencers in 2022.
No two students are alike. Good teachers have long recognized this reality and can describe each student’s individual growth and performance, yet this has not been reflected on report cards, nor have the skills, behaviors or habits for which any student has excelled.
According to ISTE, K-12 educators, especially at the secondary level, are rethinking whether today’s scoring metrics are able to provide a solid picture of who students are and what they can do. This is precisely why schools, universities and other non-formal education stakeholders are creating digital badges: evidence in the digital world of verifiable achievement, skill and proficiency online and in real time.
Traditionally, performance has been recognized with trophies or diplomas that validate skills, values or effort. However, just as methods evolve and adapt to modernity, digital badges have emerged as a new way to give recognition and endorsement.
Issuers and the importance of digital credentials
Organizations such as Microsoft, Bayer, the IDB and IBM today issue digital badges to recognize skills, industry certifications and participation in special projects. On the other hand, some universities such as Tecmilenio (MEX), Northeastern (US), or the National University in Colombia use them to certify hard and soft skills in undergraduate, graduate to recognize outstanding students or to certify specialized continuing education programs.
In schools, they are generally awarded in addition to the report card. One of the most important benefits of badges for this particular segment is that they provide a more complete view of student achievement by linking them to evidence of learning outcomes.
In this sense, it is of interest to think about new areas of assessment that traditional tests do not measure and award digital badges around these concepts. For example: creativity to solve problems, empathy, perseverance or teamwork.
Based on this premise, the badges become a statement of purpose for the school: they represent what they value, what they want students to achieve, and priorities inside and outside the classroom.
While K-12 still has a long way to go in this area, we have early adopters such as Aurora Public School in the United States where they offer recognition for granular skills to their students, such as critical thinking and teamwork. In Latin America, Innova Schools Colombia is also embracing this form of certification to provide portable, verifiable and lifetime portable credentials to their students.
Benefits of using digital credentials
As the badge ecosystem grows, more educational organizations and companies will start using them, as they establish a common framework for the recognition of skills and competencies among employers, professionals and educational providers.
According to the IDB, “when these credentials are accepted and used by all parties, they become an important communication channel that establishes common standards and a common language for defining and describing professional achievements.”
Schools, parents and students benefit in multiple ways, including:
- Saving time and money vs physical certificates, even more so in the virtual framework we are living in. In addition, as badges are sociable, they make visible to the world what the school values and prioritizes, creating opportunities to generate more prospects or parents interested in their offer.
- Students can create a digital identity of their skills and competencies from an early age, giving a much more complete picture than a report card and in a portable, lifetime, globally accepted and Blockchain-enabled format.
- Parents can see in a more granular way their children’s skills and have a digital record of their achievements.
The global digital credentialing market is projected to grow to $5.3 billion in 2028, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22%. This market is primarily driven by the increasing demand for digital badges as an alternative form of authentication and authorization.
According to Credential Engine, only in the US there are almost one million unique credentials across four types of credential providers: postsecondary educational institutions, MOOCs, non-academic providers (half of the use cases) and secondary schools.
While this means that we need to improve transparency in the credential marketplace to provide a better understanding of the value and meaning of each credential, it also means that this framework of recognition is here to stay. HolonIQ affirms that 85% of Higher Education institutions see alternative and micro-credentials as an important strategy for their future.
Security in Blockchain: the future of digital credentials
Blockchain is best known for its connection to cryptocurrency. But a simple way to understand it is as a public ledger that allows anyone to record transactions. What makes it special is that it is lifetime, time-stamped, transparent, and decentralized. These characteristics are equally useful for managing financial transactions as for a system of students’ reputation.
The blockchain technology has come to the education sector with the promise of providing tamper-proof credentials that facilitate student ownership and use of academic records. This means students will be empowered to share their verifiable records directly with anyone and have them be trusted as authentic.
This is exciting because it is not only a better way to deal with the way certificates work today, but it is also an opportunity to revisit ideas about more inclusive and diverse credential systems. Digitizing learning credentials will broaden the talent pool, create more diversity in the workplace, and allow easier access to individuals with niche skills.
The introduction of blockchain technology is improving today the way education is accessed, represented, and verified. Educational institutions that fail to embrace blockchain technology will restrict the opportunities students have when seeking employment and risk losing a competitive advantage.
Educators today are committed to creating well-rounded, curious learners. Digital credentials offer a flexible and inclusive ecosystem that precisely enables certifying formal and informal learning, skills and competencies. It’s time to take a new approach to recognition and give our students more tools for their future.