Digital Badges and Certificates – do they have value in your “Do It Yourself” Learning Ledger?


The Woman’s Learning Studio

Digital Badges and Certificates – do they have value in your DIY Learning Ledger?

Jane Hart, whom I follow, had some intriguing quotes from her favorite April blogs in her blog this week. One of them was by Ralph Thomas from the  EreMedia blog entitled When It Comes To Career, It’s Up To Every Employee To Stay Relevant. I clicked on the link and read the blog. In it Thomas chronicled the rise and demise of various companies, and their workers, who did not keep pace with changing moires and trends in their industries. Here is an excerpt:

The workplace of today is changing, and workers’ skill sets must keep pace with employers’ expectations. However, who determines that expectation if your livelihood is dependent on some employer to make the right strategic moves? They lose, and ultimately, you lose.

For this reason, every one of us must have a career strategy, and that strategy should be guided by your industry’s trajectory. You should be fine-tuned to the intricacies of your profession.

You have no choice. You have to self-develop to stay relevant. Always remember that YOUare in charge of your career  Never get sucked into the “company knows best” approach to your career.

Doris and I have been “preaching” the DIY lifelong learning philosophy in this blog since we began in 2013. Keeping up with your career industry, changing to a new career, or seeking volunteer opportunities all require updating existing skills, acquiring new skills, and exploring what skills are needed to succeed.

Last week’s blog, New World of Work, PKM, and Learning Ledger of the Future, introduced the digital Learning Ledger as a wave of the future that will capture and document all of  your learning in one place, open to employers, your learning networks, work teams, and others that might be interested. Although the digital Learning Ledger is still on the horizon, we can start collecting our learning experiences now to show what we know and are able to do.

Many digital learning opportunities (such as MOOCs from major universities, online courses, private learning companies such as, or Treehouse for learning how to code) offer certificates of completion and digital badges for specific tasks along the way. You may have seen these displayed on websites, LinkedIn profiles, blogs, or digital portfolios. They are becoming more prevalent.

What are Digital Certificates and Badges?

Brad Zomick identifies 5 classes of online credentials in Prove Your Skills: Test-Based Online Credentials from by Brad Zomick from 2013:

  1. College degrees: Online, blended, or on site BA, BS, MA, MS, PhD from an accredited college or university. These degrees still have the greatest value.
  2. Test-based credentials: earned by taking multiple project-based or multiple-choice tests in various skill areas.
  3. Online badges: individuals can demonstrate job skills, educational accomplishments, online course completion, specific tasks along the way, or just about anything else that a badge creator decides.  A ‘badge’ can mean almost anything.
  4. Completion certificates: Documentation of completing all the segments of a course. Like badges, completion certificates can mean anything from passing tests to viewing all the video components without documentation of learning.
  5. Online certificates: Earning an online certificate from an online college, a company or an industry-specific organization is typically much more  involved than the other credentials, and are often connected to specific job functions.

Zomick states: Among alternative credentials, online certificates currently command the highest value and are nearly comparable to a traditional degree.

He believes that alternative credentials are going to gain more prominence as time goes on. He says:

The future of education is free — free content, courses and textbooks. However, without a way for students to validate their knowledge and prove their skills, this is only one step (albeit a significant one) towards reforming higher education. Many are now beginning to attack the problem of accreditation — helping develop the next generation of certificates, badges and credentials that will allow self-learners to prove their knowledge in order to get employment and advance in their careers. The race is on to (slowly) replace the college degree as the primary way for companies to evaluate and validate talent.

Mozilla, the open source company that powers the internet browser Firefox among other initiatives, created a badge backpack in 2012 in concert with the MacArthur Foundation to house digital badges you acquire. Since they are an open source company (no proprietary copyright or use fee – their code and products are free), they believe in open source badges. Their wiki describes open source badges this way:

A digital badge is an online representation of a skill you’ve earned. Open Badges take that concept one step further, and allows you to verify your skills, interests and achievements through credible organizations and attaches that information to the badge image file, hard-coding the metadata for future access and review. Because the system is based on an open standard, earners can combine multiple badges from different issuers to tell the complete story of their achievements — both online and off. Badges can be displayed wherever earners want them on the web, and share them for employment, education or lifelong learning.

Their backpack houses your badges in one place ( a beginning ledger). Here is the infographic of their open badge and backpack concept:

The Open Badge and Backpack from Mozilla:

These badges have set criteria associated with them, so each badge has requirements for being awarded. The requirements or skills associated with the badge are visible. In other words, each badge gives you the information of what was achieved and accomplished to be awarded. Unlike the casual badges that can mean anything, these badges have gained some traction and are now awarded in conjunction with IMS Global Learning Consortium that uses them for credentialing, learning management systems such as Canvas, and the MOOC company edX. The badges are now under the auspices of edX (a MOOC conglomerate of Harvard, MIT, and Stanford among others) and Concentric Sky, and the open badging system is now called Badgr.


Does Displaying Digital Certificates and Badges Matter?

In a follow up article on, What’s It Worth? Certificates, Badges and Online Portfolios, Brad Zomick has this to say about the impact and usefulness of displaying digital certificates and badges:

A certificate of completion doesn’t mean very much. It’s a bit like when you got a trophy in 3rd grade soccer simply for showing up. Many online course providers dole them out to students who have simply sat through the entire video, including learning libraries like There is also a “badge of completion”, which is nearly identical except that a badge is a bit more digital.

…there is anecdotal evidence to support that a certificate alone is not enough to land you a job.

The perceived value of certificates of completion and badges will vary in value from employer to employer. Employers who have actually taken online courses and even learned their trade via an online learning platforms will have a better appreciation for the time you spent and the badges you earned. The majority of traditional employers, however, will not be intimately familiar … and will look upon these badges and certificates with skepticism.

Badges awarded by Badgr have more validity as they are associated with edX’s prestigious universities and have criteria associated with them. Displaying certificates and badges on your LinkedIn profile or other professional profile next to the corresponding job or project description adds validity to all badges and certificates. It does not hurt to display them, but putting them in context with your work elevates their importance.

Zomick suggests using an ePortfolio of your work with badges and certificates embedded in the appropriate places next to your work. Actual examples of what you have done with the skills you have acquired to do the work have the most validity to employers. Sounds like a Learning Ledger, doesn’t it?

Have you acquired digital credentials? Do you display them on your professional sites? What has your experience been with displaying them?

Resources used for this blog:

Wikipedia: Open Badges:

Skilled Up: Prove Your Skills: Test-based Online Credentials

Skilled Up: What’s It Worth? Certificates, Badges, and Online Portfolios

Mozilla Wiki: Open Source Badges

EreMedia: When It Comes To Career, It’s Up To Every Employee To Stay Relevant

Featured image of badges and certificates from the talented artists at Pixabay

Mozilla Backpack infographic from the Mozilla wiki

To learn more about the author, click on the link: Lisa 


Net Literacy, the Mary Riggs Community Center, and IPS Work to Donate an Additional 1050 Computers

Net Literacy, Mary Riggs Community Center, and IPS are working to distribute computers repurposed at Broad Ripple Magnet High School to the families of K12 IPS students and to afterschool programs that support IPS.

“Liz Odel,” said Daniel Kent, “has been leading the charge in facilitating the distribution of computers to dozens of IPS schools.” According to Kent, IPS families have received more than 200 computers last month and 100 have been staged to be transported by IPS Transportation to North West High School. In total, IPS families and afterschool programs have received more than 18,000 computers.

“I’m really pleased that we are able to donate higher end computers to the K12 families,” Kent said. “All of the PCs are dual core machines with 2 to 4 Gig of Ram. They have plenty of horsepower for students to use them to complete their homework Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations.” Included on the computers is Open Office, and other applications that help students take advantage of their computers for school work.

For more information, email me at danielkent(at)

Harshman Middle School Uses Net Literacy Computers to Make STEM Learning Real World and Relevant!

Students in Ms. Caren Lettofsky’s computer science classes, at Indianapolis Public School’s Harshman Middle School, learn about computers by reassemble their own computer.

Ms Lettofsky

First, Ms. Lettofsky first has the students build a virtual computer, using a website created by Cisco. This site walks students through various steps to build a desktop computer. This part of the website gives hints and guidance as to what to do. Once the students has completed this part of the website, the students then move to the next phase of the website and build the computer without any added help. Ms. Lettofsky also has the students complete a worksheet where the students must explain, in their own words, what the various parts of a computer does.

Virtual Computer Assembly Application

Learning then becomes very real for the students. Students, in teams of two, work on computers provided by Net Literacy. First, each team completely disassembles the computer. Then the hard work begins as each team reassembles their computer.

Two students at Harshman

When each team believes they have reassembled the computer correctly, the team presents the reassembled computer to Ms. Lettofsky. The computer is then connected to a keyboard, mouse, and monitor and powered on to make certain that it was correctly reassembled and properly works!

Two Girls at Harshman

Finally, then the hard work begins as each team reassembles their computer and presents the reassembled computer to Ms. Lettofsky to make certain that it was correctly reassembled and properly works! Now for some of the students, here’s the best part!

Hands at Harshman

Students whose family doesn’t have a computer at home gets to take the computer they just reassembled (together with a monitor, mouse, keyboard, and cables) home! Students can now use their computer for homework and learning. This is very important because students with a computer at home are 7% more likely to graduate from high school.


“It’s fun!” – J. D.

“I couldn’t believe it when my computer worked! I didn’t think I could do it.” – J. G.

“He’s been talking about this all week! He hasn’t been this excited about school for years!” – Grandfather of R. S.

“I really love seeing the kids go from ‘I can’t’ or ‘This is too hard” to ‘Look what I did!!’ It’s a real confidence booster!” – Ms. Lettofsky

Click on the link letters to Net Lit to read the students’ thank you notes to us!

Net Literacy congratulates Harshman Middle School and Ms. Caren Lettofsky for teaching in an innovative and engaging real world manner!

CodeNow Teaches Students How to Code

CodeNow (a non-profit organization) focuses on developing the next pioneers in technology by teaching underserved youth foundational skills in computer science and programming with the objective of narrowing the current digital divide. The organization teaches high school students the basics of computer programming and computer science in free, extra-curricular, off-campus trainings and boot camps. Each student who completes their program receives a netbook, mentoring and assistance finding internships.

Working with numerous partners, the organization successfully launched its pilot program in DC in August.  In 2012 CodeNow will expand to four cities.

As founder Ryan Seashore says, “coding is the new literacy, it gives youth the ability to create and innovate.” This fantastic program gives high school students the tools to Win the Future.

To learn more about their program, go to or follow them on twitter @CodeNowOrg.

Read more:

Public-Private Partnerships to Bridge Africa’s Digital Divide

Innovative partnerships involving governments, software giants and telcoms will accelerate connectivity and bridge Africa’s gaping digital divide.

Experts who met at a just concluded third edition of the Africa Public-Private Partnership Conference in Nairobi hailed the potential of structured collaboration between the public and private sectors to transform Africa into an ICT hub. Zaki Khoury, the Regional Manager, Global Strategic Accounts, Middle East, North, West, and Central Africa as well as Pakistan and Turkey at Microsoft, underscored the potential of public-private partnerships to promote universal access to ICT services in Africa.

Khoury noted that Africa is a frontier market that has attracted investments in ICT sector as the GDP of many countries expand. “We have ICT hubs in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. This calls for a revaluation of our business model to engage more with governments and private companies and leverage these partnerships to accelerate connectivity,” says Khoury.

He continued “Microsoft adopts public-private partnerships to maximize on the resources, leverage our technology and scale up our execution together with governments and other companies.” Khoury stressed that structured public private partnerships are critical in addressing social challenges such as provision of quality education and health services.

“These partnerships have boosted quality and competitiveness of the education system. They have increased collaboration among students alongside connectivity with teachers to create greater knowledge forums”, remarked Khoury.  Mainstreaming ICT in the education sector in Africa will boost skills and competitiveness of the youth in the job market.

Khoury vouched for digital learning in schools to prepare students for a knowledge based economy. Microsoft has partnered with Kenya’s Ministry of education under a “Partnership in Learning” project to develop digital curriculum for schools.

“We will in the next three years help Kenya progress towards digital literacy,” says Khoury. He cited the “Microsoft Digital Literacy” initiative that has helped streamline technology enhanced learning in schools.

Read more:

JobScout Teaches Job Skills Using Online Game

JobScout is like many of the start-ups launching on a daily basis in Silicon Valley, except for the fact that many of its users do not even know how to use the Internet yet. A project that has been supported and seed funded by the California State Library, JobScout is a platform that provides an interactive online environment that uses game design to teach job-hunting skills and the digital literacy basics that are necessary for finding employment. Users will be able to get support in the pilot phase at nearly 140 pilot sites at library branches in California, including locations in Los Angeles County and San Jose. The libraries, a place of resources and community for many potential users, will provide entry points and guidance for new users.

Users earn badges for lessons completed and can track success and progress. Characters greet users as they enter and complete lessons. A job aggregator lets users know of the latest jobs available in their area that meet their interests. A resume builder function enables users to create a resume and print it to submit. A variety of resources for job hunting are contained in one database, streamlining the job seeking process.

The basics of the Internet that are second nature to some are thoroughly covered: Opening and using email, submitting a query on a search engine and using Facebook and LinkedIn to create profiles and find job opportunities. While the content is geared towards users finding, applying to and acquiring jobs, the lessons teach skills that reach far beyond their immediate goal.

The system’s do-it-yourself methodology and technology that learns with the users as they use it will provide an educational experience parallel to other platforms that have proven successful online. A variety of online initiatives, whether Khan Academy for math and sciences or Code Academy for the advanced Internet user who wants to pick up programming skills, have proven that self-paced and enjoyable online learning experiences are the future of education, regardless of the subject.

True access includes the appropriate infrastructure, access points, hardware and digital literacy skills to be a participant in our online community. In an era of development and companies focusing on “social,” inclusion is critical.

The platform launches this Wednesday with a live demonstration online and can be found at

Read more:

Freedom Rings Partnership will bring Internet access, training, and technology to low-income residents of Philadelphia

The Freedom Rings Partnership is a $25 million federally-funded initiative led by the Urban Affairs Coalition and the City of Philadelphia, with Drexel University as a major partner.

The Freedom Rings Partnership is made up of grassroots organizations, government, and universities that will bring Internet access, training and technology to residents in low-income communities.  This multi-year initiative officially kicked off on January 17, 2011 by sponsoring the signature project of the MLK Day of Service – refurbishing used computers to be distributed back into the community, assembling digital literacy kits, and hosting a high-tech scavenger hunt called “Race to Connect.”

“The goal of the Freedom Rings Partnership is to help eliminate the digital divide by enhancing and expanding underserved communities’ knowledge of and access to the Internet so they can acquire information about employment, education, health, and community and economic development, said Matlock-Turner, President and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition. “This project will open doors, enhance lives and create access and job opportunities through technology.”

The Freedom Rings Partnership will reach over 100,000 Philadelphians with information about the importance of broadband to their daily lives; provide hands-on training to 15,000 people at over 130 locations citywide, including 77 public computer centers; and distribute 5,000 “netbooks” to public housing residents who complete technology skills training. Public Computer Centers (PCC) will be located across Philadelphia, primarily in north, south and west Philadelphia.  Locations will include a variety of recreation centers, health and social service organizations, workforce development agencies, and nonprofits. In addition, 4 mobile computer labs will travel throughout the city to provide training and Internet access to underserved communities.

The first Graduation Ceremony for the Freedom Rings Computer Training Program, held Aug. 11, 2011. Each graduate to complete the program walked home with a free Dell netbook computer. Courtesy of GPUAC.

For more information, please visit:

Grandchildren and Grandparents Team up to Increase Digital Literacy in Serbia

In Belgrade, Serbia, there was an unusual event which took place for grandparents and their grandchildren. The event was organized by local NGO IAN (International Aid Network).  Teams were formed, and consisted of a grandparent who was older than 55, together with their grandchild who was younger than 13.

Teams who had previously passed the qualifications had the task to efficiently and as accurately as possible provide numerous / various answers to interesting questions in an online quiz whilst using the internet to search for necessary information.

The contestants showed that grandchildren can play an important role in bridging the digital divide which exists between generations, by teaching their grandparents about the computers as well as the internet.

The most competitive team, winners of the final round, were Darinka Despotovic and her granddaughter Marija Simeunovic, who, for their efforts, won a laptop computer. “We are thrilled to have participated in an event such as this. It means a lot to me to know how to use a computer as one can find a wide spectrum of useful and interesting information on the internet thus extending their knowledge base and broadening their horizons. Even now that I am retired, I am able to participate, while my granddaughter comes to my aid whenever it is required.”

For more information, please visit:

Innovative Website Helps Facilitate Home Learning is a K-12 learning platform produced by nonprofit, CFY, and designed to help students, teachers, and parents find and use the best digital learning activities available online, including games, simulations, and videos. Students and parents can find fun and engaging activities to reinforce classroom learning and spark new areas of interest. Teachers can create and assign playlists of activities for their students, using high-quality teacher plans created by classroom teachers from around the country.

A Digital Literacy’s Editor’s Choice Award!

Check it out by clicking on the screenshot below.