The IT Certification Resource Center

Featured Deal

Get CompTIA, Cisco, or Microsoft training courses free for a week.
Learn More ❯

Is Digital Badging Gaining a Foothold in Certification?

Digital badging has been on the leading edge of IT certification for a couple of years now. Is it finally moving into the mainstream, or are we still in the "working out the kinks" stage?

Boy Scouts BSAThe generally recognized view from a historical perspective is that “merit badging” in the United States dates back to 1910. That's when the Boy Scouts of America, following the lead of its British progenitor, adopted this approach in identifying specific activities its membership had achieved.1


In 2017, badges have migrated from the Boy Scouts to the IT realm. Recent history relative to the idea of badging comes as the result of a number of initiatives that relate specifically to badging platforms, as well as the perceived and actual value of badges.


It is this perceived and actual value of badging issue that is of concern, and is complicated by the simple fact that there are a large number of badging platforms that cloud the resolution of what “badging” means in terms of skills identification and value. The “Badging Alliance” recently served in a voluntary role, providing information relating to badging platforms as that list grew and became more challenging to define.


Its website provides a list of 18 different platforms, issuing a variety of badges that may (or may not) have recognition to a wide range of audiences.2 This past January that role was transferred to the “IMS Global Learning Consortium,” now tasked with carrying this activity forward.3


The unfortunate reality is with the large number of “badging platforms,” confusion has resulted in attempting to determine who has the responsibility for quality educational control. At my college, that primary responsibility rests with the Academic Senate (sometimes referred to as the faculty senate at some colleges)4. As an accredited higher education entity, we are limited in the sort of credentials we can issue.


Those limitations specifically relate to the issuance of skills certificates, certificates of achievement, and associate degrees. Limitations relating to issuance are purposely present to insure that quality control is available to insure that issuance has some effective constraints to insure quality and value of credentialing is maintained.


In general, when viewing this broad spectrum of “badging platforms,” I believe it fair to state that badge quality control does not rest at this level. Perhaps down the road the IMS Global Learning Consortium will fill this role, but that does not appear to be its current focus. Credentialing quality based upon perceived value, is better viewed as the responsibility of the credentialing issuer entity.


This evidences itself in the information technology (IT) industry, where a number of credentialing issuer entities have been providing industry recognized certifications for a long time. Their entry into “badging” is not for the purpose of increasing the perceived value of their certifications, but simply serves as a cost effective method of validating an individual’s credential as a certification holder. This is best illustrated by way of example.


Information security associations (ISC)² issues its CISSP certification to individuals who meet its rigid experience requirements and pass a written exam. Additionally, as an ANSI accredited certification, continuing education requirements are imposed on certification holders.5