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Credly Is the New King of Digital Badging

Digital badges have quickly becoming an important signifier of IT learning.Acclaim was Pearson's digital badging initiative created to leverage Pearson's industry relationships with leading IT training and certification vendors. Based on Mozilla's open source standard known as Open Badge, Acclaim touted itself as a simple and desirable way for tech companies to install digital badging into their existing recognition programs.


Acclaim was officially launched in March 2014, and rapidly made an impact on the IT industry. In a Fast Company article from 2015, Acclaim reported it had issued more than 1 million badges through its tech sector customers including Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk, and IBM.


Just over four years later, Pearson accepted Credly's offer to purchase the Acclaim business. Pearson received a minor equity stake in Credly, and one of its executives was given a seat on Credly's board of directors. The purchase was lauded by both companies as a win, though it's unclear why Pearson was willing to give up a successful business that appeared to be on its way to greater gains in the future.


In a move to ensure the Acclaim purchase's future success, Credly brought over long-time Pearson employee Jarin Schmidt to be Credly's new Chief Experience Officer. Schmidt, an 18-year Pearson veteran who began in customer service and advanced through the ranks to a product strategist role, was made the Product Lead for Acclaim the same year it was launched. Schmidt was working as the Senior Director of Acclaim when Credly made its move to buy Acclaim from Pearson.


One Badger to Rule Them All?


The acquisition of Acclaim has given Credly the lion's share of the digital badging market. And, digital badges continue to gain in popularity with professionals who want to display their latest training and certification accomplishments.


This is no more apparent than on LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social network with its mission to help working professionals and their ideal employers find each other. LinkedIn profiles are teeming with digital badges these days, and the profiles of IT professionals are particularly well decorated. The recent addition of tech industry association CompTIA to Credly's badging program is hugely significant — CompTIA has awarded over one million A+ certifications alone, on top of its other tech credentials.


The fact that Credly currently controls as much of the digital badging market as it does may well cause the IT industry's top training and certification vendors some concern.


Credly is a relative newcomer when compared to Pearson, and while a smaller company like Credly arguably has more agility than a multinational publicly-traded megacorp, Credly also has the privileges accorded to private companies concerning transparency and accountability. It's difficult to imagine industry giants like Microsoft, CompTIA, ISACA, VMware, and IBM being comfortable with having a private third-party vendor controlling a significant component across the gamut of the IT industry's certification programs.


Finally, there is the following consideration. There has been a lot of recent media buzz and chatter around tech monopolies, and the usual suspects — Facebook, Google, Apple, and others — have had to power up their defences against political accusations and unflattering large-scale incidents involving data privacy and control.


Credly is now positioned to collect personal data from millions of IT professionals worldwide through its majority control of digital badging services. This is a thought which should give IT companies pause to consider what the attendant risks are with such an arrangement, and if it makes sense to have all of their digitally badged eggs in Credly's basket.



Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer based in Canada.ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer and knowledge management specialist based in Edmonton, Canada. His work has appeared in titles from Que Publishing, and on many tech blogs and websites. His professional writing site is