How to Drive Learner Engagement with Micro-credentials and Open Badges

by | Jun 15, 2016 | Articles | 0 comments

Geoff Chapman of eCom Scotland explores how micro and digital credentials could help L&D teams drive engagement with learning opportunities and demonstrate value.

In today’s fast moving world, the skills needed for the workplace change with ever increasing speed. It is estimated that by 2020, 60% of new jobs will require less than 20% of the skills we currently possess.*

To equip people with the right skills and competencies, at the right time, more agile learning solutions are needed.

Organisations must ensure their staff become competent in a swift, structured and pertinent way. With further education and traditional qualification regimes falling behind, how can workplace learning fill the gap?

What are micro-credentials and Open Badges?

Micro and digital credentials give organisations the ability to increase the value of their learning and reduce time to competence, resulting in more engaged learners and better productivity.

A micro-credential is an accreditation of a small chunk of learning, often used to endorse achievement of a specific piece of knowledge, skill or competence. They are good for providing descriptive, rather than prescriptive, accreditation and particularly useful for soft skills, skills for specific job requirements and informal learning.

Digital credentials are increasingly being used as a way of recognising workplace accomplishment. They have been around in various forms for some time, but often organisations have digital credentials that can only be used in their own systems and not validated, transferred or accessed outside.

Open Badges are digital credentials which offer transferability. Learners collect badges in a free Mozilla ‘backpack’ to create a comprehensive digital record of their learning experiences, behaviours and achievements, which can be used in e-portfolios, CVs, social media and other digital resumes. Since their personal backpack is not linked to any badge provider, they can add to it as they move around different organisations.

Develop the right skills and reduce time to competence

As new knowledge and skill requirements emerge in the workplace, businesses must ensure that staff development keeps pace. Micro-credentials can be developed far quicker than traditional qualifications and targeted to specific skills or competencies. They are also useful for breaking larger areas of learning into staged achievement, helping employees become project-focused or task-ready in a shorter timeframe.

Open Badges are a valuable motivational tool for recognition of experiential learning and evidencing that learning has been put into practice. Rather than employees simply completing a piece of discrete learning, badges give the ability to reward the demonstration of desired organisational behaviours.

Recognise the value in workplace learning

Recognition is a key driver in learning. 62% of learners find professional certification or completion certificates a motivating factor when undertaking learning (see Towards Maturity’s report, Embracing Change).

Micro-credentials using Open Badges give the ability to credit employees for the skills and knowledge that are important to the business. Accrediting learning confers value and demonstrates that organisations are serious about fostering in-house talent.

Recognising with Open Badges provides validation which employees can retain over the long-term. The metadata in an Open Badge allows anyone to identify the issuing organisation, view the badge standards and verify/evaluate the learner’s achievements.

Engage and motivate learners

For many organisations motivating learners is seen as a major L&D challenge. 94% want to improve their staff’s engagement with learning and 83% want to encourage self-directed learning (Embracing Change). By personalising learning journeys and recognising achievements, learners can be empowered to take control of their development.

Micro-credentials support self-directed learning by enabling non-linear development. They allow staff to determine their own path, gaining competence in a staged approach. Open Badges are stackable, providing small steps towards a larger goal. With 37% of learning now taking place outside Learning and Development’s remit, Open Badges are also an effective way of rewarding informal learning, particularly useful for recognising employees’ CPD.

There are significant benefits to be realised by organisations developing micro-credentials using Open Badges. They not only offer a more agile way of credentialing changing skills and knowledge but they enhance the value of workplace learning. Helping organisations to address the widely-held aspiration of engaging and motivating learners.

8 tips for implementing micro-credentials with Open Badges

1: Develop a strategy that identifies the specific learning functions, required performance level and lifespan of each badge.

2: Identify standards of training and link to sector relevant competencies, in order to increase the integrity of the award and the perceived value to employees.

3: Seek external backing for your micro-credentials from professional institutes, CPD providers, authorities or training partners to enhance credibility.

4: Develop learner journeys within your training plans to identify how learning will be assessed within stackable badges.

5: Choose a badge issuing system which is compliant with the Open Badges standard (OBI) to allow badges to be backpacked.

6: Ensure the micro-credential and badging system is fair by training in-house staff to manage, deliver and validate the evidence.

7: Engage staff with credentialing by developing a comprehensive internal marketing programme that reinforces the training message across the organisation.

8: Ensure your strategy covers the way micro-credentials will be revised as needs change. Standards can be updated with prior knowledge and skills recognised so only new elements need be achieved.

Read a case study on using micro-credentials:


Geoff Chapman heads up the Business Development Team at eCom Scotland and is responsible for growing eCom’s client base in new and existing sectors. He has over 15 years’ experience of working on educational technology projects for government bodies, awarding organisations and institutes, and financial services companies. Geoff is a regular speaker at international e-Assessment events and shares his insights on Twitter at @eAssessmentChap.


* EY, Who holds the key to closing the skills gap?

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