What’s the difference between digital credentials and digital badges?

Also available in | También disponible en: Español

The question

I’ve been talking about digital badges with different people in the last couple of weeks. Some of them didn’t know what I meant (others did). At most, they guessed I was talking about traditional certificates in pdf format.

So I ended answering the same question again and again: What’s the difference between digital credentials and digital badges?

The answer

Last Saturday I listened to an episode of Leading Learning titled Diving into digital credentials with Jonathan Finkelstein. Jonathan is the founder of Credly and was interviewed by Celisa Steele.

She addressed the same exact question to him: What’s the difference between digital credentials and digital badges? His answer was something similar to this:

  • A digital credential is any form of (digital) evidence with which a third party certificates the acquisition of a skill or set of skills by someone.
  • A digital badge is a visual image that represents a digital credential, a vehicle to transmit that information.

As simple as that. A digital credential is something not self-reported used to certify (a pdf version of a traditional certificate, a LinkedIn review, etc.), while a digital badge is one type of digital credential.

Why digital badges?

Despite being only one type of credential, digital badges are powerful and I’m sure will be very popular in the coming years. Look at the following one:

Digital badge

Easy to put anywhere, very visual, but… it’s only an image, right? Now click on it, please…

Do you see it? Every digital badge has to have this kind of attached information to be valid. This is where it’s shown what the badge means, who the issuer is, why has it been issued and to whom, if it expires, etc.

So a badge has two different parts:

  • The badge itself: it’s the graphic visualization of the achievement. People can include it in their curriculum vitae, email signature, LinkedIn profile, etc. It’s very easy to do it.
  • The metadata attached to the badge: it’s what gives all the details and proves the veracity of the bagde. The value of a badge will depend on who issued it, the achievements described and the expectations of who is looking at it.

In summary, what proves the previous image?

  • Who earned the badge? me.
  • What did I achieve? I completed the course Teaching with Moodle.
  • When did it happen? In January 2016.
  • Who says it? Moodle.

This is only the beginning, but there is a lot more to talk about digital credentials and badges. Stay tuned!

Picture: Badges (Ellen Munro).

share...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook2Share on LinkedIn5Share on Google+1Pin on Pinterest0Share on Tumblr0Email this to someone

Also available in | También disponible en: Español

  • Nice one, Javier. I think badges are going to be big too.

  • Martin

    There is additional nuance here – Open Badges is a technical standard which is designed to represent all forms of digital credentials, not just digital badges. Trying to manufacture a distinction is just one vendor’s way of justifying keeping your credentials locked in their silo.

    • Thanks for improving the definition, Martin. I don’t think Jonathan was trying to “manufacture a distinction” but just to make it easy for everybody to understand. But of course I am not under his skin, so it’s good you came to add this relevant information.