Why Digital Badges are the Future of Association Education


Why are Digital Badges the future of Association Education?


The way we learn is constantly evolving. Association members use their professional social networks, curated feeds, and a myriad of other digital channels to enhance their professional skills. At the same time, the means whereby learning/training is recognized, accredited and validated is also changing. It is no longer a foregone conclusion that associations, organisations, employers, or individuals are happy solely with courses and training from traditional higher-level and training institutions. In fact, many organizations are working with online course providers like Udacity and Coursera to create specific courses that cover the skills gap between what higher education currently teaches and what is needed for the modern workplace. Specific industry-recognized skills and experience are highly sought after. Traditional diplomas, degrees, certification, and skills can quickly lose their relevance and become obsolete. It is the intrinsic, on-the-job skills and best practices that provide the most value and benefit to association members.

Digital Badges, and by extension Open Badges, are a part of these changes.

Perhaps initially seen as just an aspect of the gamification of learning, Associations are realizing that digital badges are in fact much sought after by their members. Whilst numerous studies have looked to the intrinsic motivational and social value provided by badges, it is as a means for continuous professional development that badges provide most benefit to members. A study by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) noted that a majority of millennials felt that they were not getting enough professional development, and that they value credentialing and digital badging. The study caught the attention of Associations Now, which noted in a recent article that "more than 90 percent of educational institutions are offering credentials and digital badges, in part, to serve their millennial students, who favor badging and certificates to traditional degrees".

Associations are in a great position to fill this gap for their members - the gap between traditional higher education and the growing requirement for a way to display evidence of authenticated, micro-credentials earned for professional skills and competencies. Digital badges can help to secure the future of your association education programs by increasing the relevancy and appeal of your programs to millennials and other members that are actively engaging in social learning.


Balancing Badges to Benefit Association, Employer, and Member Needs


Digital Badges Should Integrate Seamlessly with an Association’s Learning and Training

Digital badges derive their worth from the reputation and prestige that the awarding Association has built up. Employers will view digital badges awarded by associations with respect, because they recognize and value the reputation and quality of association education programs. Employers will look to association digital badging programs to confirm the validity and authenticity of badges earned by members.

A digital badging program should align itself with the association’s standards, best practices and frameworks, but digital badges also need to be attractive to both members and employers. How do you achieve both?

User Research on Digital Badge use within Associations carried out by WBT Systems, showed that Associations want to protect the relevance and reputation of their education programs. One way to enhance the credibility and usability of digital badging programs is to have it seamlessly integrated within the LMS, so badges are intrinsically linked with competencies, continuing education credits, certification requirements, or expiration terms for credentials, as relevant to your association's needs. When incorporated in the LMS, digital badges can provide the following benefits to associations:

  • Motivate continuous learning.
  • Increase course completion rates.
  • Drive engagement in the Association community.


Digital Badges Should Provide Value and Benefit to Members

Most importantly, digital badges must address member’s needs. Digital Badges provide members with control and ownership of their individual learning achievements. Members will identify skill gaps that they believe provide value and strive to earn digital badges in these areas.

Similar to any traditional award for educational or professional development achievement, members want digital badges to:

  • Display accreditation in their professional field.
  • Reflect the effort and prestige taken to earn it.
  • Show potential employers that they have up-to-date and relevant skills.
  • Share their achievements with peers and prospective employers.
  • Export for display in other platforms and social media.

The two key points in the above are the ability to share and export badges, so that members can display their achievements outside the LMS, making them visible to employers, colleagues and peers in their wider professional networks. Without the ability to share digital badges to social media and other platforms, the value of digital badges as a form of micro-credentialing is diminished for members.


How to Implement Digital Badges in Association Education Programs


Digital Badges Should be Easy to Produce, Manage, and Share

Digital badges are micro-credentials. They typically represent a smaller and more specific set of 'in-demand' skills than traditional credentialing systems. Badges must therefore be quick and efficient to produce, validate, and award to members.

With this in mind, TopClass LMS recently enhanced its social learning offering by providing an intuitive means to add, maintain, award, display, expire, and share digital badges for association education and certification programs.

Users can use the TopClass Badges Repository on demand to:

  • Add new Badges
  • Search, sort and filter Badges
  • Publish Badges
  • Determine the Criteria for How Badges are Awarded Automatically
  • Manually Award Badges to Recipients individually or in Batch
  • Determine how Badges are Performing

Digital Badges Repository in TopClass LMS

A simple, intuitive UI allows Badges to be created and published as quickly as possible with all the data required to ensure the integrity and validity of the Badge.

Create Digital Badges in TopClass LMS

Badges are also easily awarded manually to individual, or multiple users. The awarding details are captured and stored for later use by both Members and the awarding Association.

Awarding Digital Badges to Learners in TopClass LMS


TopClass looks to provide a rich, consistent member experience with regards to the integration and display of Digital Badges. For example, Members can view the Badges awarded by Learning Products in the LMS Catalog:

View Digital Badges in the TopClass LMS Course Catalog


TopClass provides individual tailoring of Badges to all users. Members can determine the digital badges they wish to earn, and how these badges are displayed to other Members via their LMS User Profile.

Digital Badges on the Learner Profile in TopClass LMS

The TopClass LMS Badges Showcase allows digital badges earned to be ordered, hidden, and viewed. They can also be exported as Open Badges to allow members to display their digital badges in other systems (via Mozilla Backpack), and on social media, such as their LinkedIn profile. Similarly, digital badges earned for external training which are compatible with OpenBadges, can be imported into the digital badges showcase TopClass LMS for display on the learner's profile. This ability to share and import digital badges for all training completed, enriches the value of digital badges for members and helps to increase engagement with association education. certification and micro-credentialing programs.

TopClass LMS Student Profile with OpenBadges


Do you have plans to secure the future of your association education programs by incorporating digital badges to ensure the relevancy and appeal of your programs to millennials and other members that are actively engaging in social learning?


We would love to show you what you can achieve with digital badging in TopClass LMS - request a demo today so we can explore the future of your association education programs together!



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