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Micro-Credentials: Building Blocks for 21st Century Digital Education

"Micro-Credentials" and Digital Badges will provide a foundation for better connecting employers with learners.

A key foundation for Scotland’s future digital economy and education policies and infrastructure are Digital Badge ‘Micro-credentials’.

As FutureLearn describes a Micro-credential is a “Certification of learning that can accumulate into a larger credential or degree, be part of a portfolio that demonstrates individuals’ proof of learning, or have a value in itself.”

They are offered by Education providers like the Open University and Glasgow University among many others.

The Digital Economy Skills Action Plan from Skills Development Scotland defines a strategy for their implementation:

    1. “Identify key digital economy skills competencies and aligning and developing micro-credentialed/short courses to address skills needs of employers.
    2. Implement micro-credentials based on the Digital Economy Skills Framework which allows individuals to demonstrate their competency.”

This tweet from Skills Development Scotland highlights digital badges offer an ideal starting point for modernizing education in such a way it supports the further modernization and growth of skills and employment.

Route to Work Pathways

They are especially potent due to their modular nature making them ideal for utilizing them to define a series of steps that constitute and lead to specific job roles. A great example of this is the PMI offering micro-credentials.

The QAA offers this detailed definition, highlighting:

“Micro-credentials have a key role to play in upskilling and re-skilling the workforce as short, credit-bearing courses that support a learner-led engagement in higher education which could be spread over many years.

Micro-credentials would not normally constitute an award in their own right, but they have standalone value and could also contribute to a recognised qualification. They also widen access to learners who might not have considered a more traditional approach to achieving a qualification, as well as potentially assisting with meeting skills needs for employers and learners.”


“While higher education providers have a long history of running short courses, micro-credentials are closely aligned with employability and also offer more structured opportunities for progression which brings new challenges.”

The BCS describes this as the future of professional development, with many organizations like Siemens using them this way. The Scottish Social Services Council using them to underpin workforce learning.

Writing for the RSA Jillian Linton provides a great overview of how badges can help jobseekers stand out from the crowd. This Lincs report examines how they are ideal for supporting adult learners, with both combined highlighting how they offer great potential for helping those experiencing difficulty with getting back into the workforce.

Digital Badges

Highlighting the enabling role of technology micro-credentials can be implemented and represented through ‘Digital Badges‘. These can enable gamified learning models through to providing a complete framework for a common, industry-wide credential recognition system.

As the Racoon Gang describe they provide a modular approach for rewarding achievements and encouraging motivation.

“With digital badges you don’t have to depend solely on exams and other conventional assessment methods. The badges can be associated with everything, including class participation, information retention, attentiveness, positive behavior, etc.”

In his article the Power of Digital Badges David Niguidula explains how they can be utilized to define learning pathways, steps of progress required to achieve the badge.

These journeys are often described as “quests”, highlighting the sense of adventurous fun and reward they offer students.

Vendor Solutions

A number of vendor options are available for implementing such a system:


A leader in this space is Digitary. As they write here Digital Badges in Education offer the ability for learners to establish portfolios and express knowledge. Critically they demonstrate how they can be applied across the entire educational ecosystem.

As this news highlights one of the first customers to harness this capability is the Association of the Registrars of the Universities and Colleges of Canada (ARUCC), choosing Digitary as the solution provider for the Made for Canada National Network.

This has been followed by launching ‘MyCreds‘, a national, bilingual credential wallet supported by a comprehensive website for Canada’s post-secondary community and learners.

This initiative means the Canadian higher education community is creating the very first online platform and national credential wallet for post-secondary learners. Once fully operational, the Network will enable 3 million learners across the country to access and share their official digitized post-secondary transcripts and credentials online – anytime, anywhere.

Also as they describe in this news the Irish education sector is adopting this approach too:

“EduCampus and Digitary are excited to announce an additional feature under the collaborative framework agreement, enabling all EduCampus clients from Irish higher education institutions to be able to adopt Digital Badges. Sitting alongside the existing Digitary CORE solution for the issuance of academic credentials, such as degree certificates, academic transcripts, European Diploma Supplements (EDS) and other official academic documents; Digital Badges enables institutions to recognise all kinds of learners skills, competencies and learning experiences.”


Another major player is Credly, who raised $11m in 2019 and were recently acquired by Pearson. Their CEO describes how they help foster a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

Users include Frederick College, where they highlight the value of digital badges:

  • Provide a more complete picture of your interests and experience
  • Show potential employers evidence of your up-to-date proficiency, relevant skill sets, and achievements
  • Help assist employers in matching you to their specific positions
  • Reflect your efforts to engage in more flexible ways of learning and scope of knowledge
  • Can be displayed on social media channels, LinkedIn, emails, and your resume
  • Display current knowledge in your occupational field and reflect professional development

They are widely used across industry, including learning platforms like Skilljar and Intellum, and corporate users like ISC2 and Cisco. They are also a great way to add value to your own technology product, for example Optimizely, a Digital Experience Platform, offers a digital credential using Credly. For developers seeking to achieve something similar there are Zapier integrations.


CertifyMe is a VC backed SaaS solution, based out of Bangalore India.

Their immutable crypto credentials use advanced technologies like the AWS Quantum ledgers to ensure your credentials are secure. 40+ features includes advanced options like cryptographic signatures based on RSA SHA-1 and Id Tagging.

Each of their credentials is enabled with a unique QR Code. Their Immutable Cryptographic Credentials can further be linked with the awardee’s unique identities like a Passport number, drivers licence, etc.

CertifyMe helps your awardee publish your credentials across 50+ social media platforms. Their certificates are also customizable to include a branding banner and a CTA button.

Other Alternatives

Other noteworthy vendors include CertifierVirtual BadgeSertifierBadgecertAccredibleBadgr and Give My Certificate. The principle features these vendors offer are:

  • Certificate creation – Create visually appealing certificates.
  • Issue certificates – Generate digital credential.
  • Manage certificates – Provide users with a dashboard for managing their credentials.
  • Verification – Authenticate digital credentials.
  • Social share – Enable publishing and sharing of credentials across networks like Linkedin.


Editor of On a mission to build a world leading Scottish digital nation.

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