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Digital credentials, which include digital badges, visually represent skills and achievements earned by an individual through specific projects, programs, training, on-the-job experiences, or other activities. Digital credentials empower individuals to take their learning with them wherever they go to build a rich picture of their lifelong learning journey. Digital credentials are unlike a traditional learning history for several reasons. Traditionally, learning histories have been in the form of a college or university transcript or a paper certificate of completion from a workshop, training or non-credit course. Additionally, these traditional learning histories were challenging to share once an employee or student leaves their organization.
In contrast, digital credentials are portable and transferable in that they can follow a learner through multiple organizations or within departments in global organizations. The credentials provide consumers* with access to the underlying data embedded within the digital icon which is referred to as metadata. As the earners** move between engagement teams, lines of service, territories, or even different employers, digital credentials make it easy to share their knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences. Digital credentials connect the issuer*** and the earner through verification of that earner's learning, achievement, or skills based on the credential criteria and evidence. Numerous organizations across the world already issue digital credentials, including non-profits, professional organizations, employers, and all levels of educational institutions. The practices that make up a credential system will need to make the recommendations about the learning that happens and measure it in the appropriate way.
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*Consumer is a person or group who is the intended audience/viewer of a badge Earner's badges. Someone viewing a badge awarded to an earner. Examples could include supervisors, commanders, instructors and potential employers.
**Earner is a person who has met the necessary requirements to earn a badge or micro-credential. Earners can apply for badges through issuing organizations or individuals (also referred to as issuers). Someone who has earned or is seeking to earn a digital badge. The person receiving the digital badge.
***Issuer is a person or organization who creates/offers badges and issues them to earners. Issuers can be individuals or organizations. The person or organization who awards digital badges once evidence is provided demonstrating the criteria has been met. In some cases, the issuer also serves as the validator. The entity creating the badge (educational institutions, government agencies, private organizations, etc.).
A digital badging system that adds value to the organization includes the functions below:
Recognizing learning - Organizational decisions regarding what learning matters and how the learning will be packaged so that earners can take advantage of their value
Assessing learning - Organizational decisions regarding how recognition is or isn't paired with appropriate assessment practices that trigger credentials and is paired with decision regarding how (if) the organization is collecting the appropriate evidence associated with the assessed learning.
Motivating learning - Organizational decisions in Recognition and Assessment impacts how learners will be motivated to participate and the social dynamics that will affect the credential ecosystem.
Studying learning - Organizational decisions in Recognition, Assessment, and Motivation determine the appropriate research practices to figure out how the overall credential system will operate, as well as how to improve and inform the organizational knowledge about how the new digital credentials function in the wider credential ecosystem.