What Are Micro-Credentials and Digital Badges?

In my education work it seems like everyone wants to talk about digital badges micro-credentials.

If you do a google image search you get 77 million hits. The image above doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Here’s a short overview if you need to get up to speed fast.

What do I need to know?

  • Many organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally are moving towards using digital badges and micro-credentials.
  • One reason for doing this is to allow for alternative ways of indicating achievement or competency for learning and development.
  • In contrast to regular qualifications, this approach lends itself to much smaller chunks of learning or assessment.
  • You can also use digital badges and micro-credentials to recognise prior learning (RPL).
  • Details about the skill, accomplishment, competency, prior learning or assessment event are encoded into the badge.
  • Badges are digital images and software allows you to encode the data in ways that make it shareable with employers and others and via email and social media.

What’s the jargon?

  • Different people use different terminology for badging and micro-credentials. This can be confusing.
  • We prefer the term badge or digital badge. This is to avoid confusion with other work happening in the education sector.
  • We use the term micro-credential to describe a collection of badges combined for a particular purpose and context. Others may use these terms in different ways.

What’s the value of a badge?

  • Badge value is tied to the brand and mana of the issuer and their quality assurance processes.
  • You can think of an NZQA unit standard as a kind of text-based badge that is backed by the NZQA brand, mana and government authority. NZQA unit standards are based on a credit system where 1 credit = 10 assumed hours of learning.
  • Digital badges are often based on evidence-based achievement rather than time. In other words, when you can prove that you can do something you get the badge.

What does the design process look like in brief?

Before you can start badging your learners, clients or others, you need to:

  • Decide on your focus.
  • Write learning outcomes.
  • Create a graphic.
  • Upload the metadata to a badging platform and “bake” the badge.

What else should I be thinking about?

Here are some questions to think about if you want to explore digital badges further:

  • What are the specific needs of your clients, learners, customers and context?
  • What kind of approach fits best with your organisation? For example, do you need to explore this from a Māori, Pacific or co-design perspective?
  • What kinds of learning or other outcomes will create the most value for your organisation?

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

2 thoughts

  1. I was on the EWG for PrITO for the Wool Harvesting Industry for expiring U/S which started this May. PrITO are in the process of implementing Micro Credentials for our Industry. My husband and I have been workers, employers and trainers in this industry for over 40yrs. Our company Mahi Toa ShearTraining Ltd aka(my husband and I) is the only training entity left in the Wool Harvesting Industry NZ that delivers and assesses U/S leading to quals in Aotearoa. There are no others. We don’t get govt(PrITO) funding at all. When we do courses it is user pays ie: star funding or gateway for schools or non U/S courses for contractors.
    My reason for the reply is in the badges you are talking about.
    On the outset it looks like it could be a working module for our industry. The closure of the only PTE for our industry in 2013 was the down fall of training in our industry. We have had a couple of other entities since then but none have been able to gain sufficient funding to carry on. We are the only one remaining since then.
    Could you tell me a little more about the badges please
    nga mihi Jo

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