Teaching and Learning

Readying learners for the new world of work

The role of digital badges in advancing skills-based education and hiring to meet the challenges and opportunities of the new world of work.

Jan 27, 2022

Higher education is having a moment of truth. Denying or embracing the macrotrends driven by ever more sophisticated technologies and rapidly changing demands in the workforce is likely to separate which institutions thrive, survive or struggle in the decades ahead.

For many institutions of learning, Open Badges offer a way to leverage robust technologies that help organize complex pathways into more flexible, responsive and relevant micro-credentialing offerings that can be both embedded within and separate from degree programs.

Three non-specific micro-credentials connect to create a completion badge with an arrow illustrating this forward momentum.

The speed at which digital credentialing programs have evolved is fast, even by higher ed standards. In a few short years, Open Badges have gone from being web-enabled credentials with a funny name to a core component of a system-wide, multi-faceted credentialing strategy.

In response, innovative universities and colleges have moved quickly to transform micro-credential skunkworks projects into cohesive digital credentialing strategies across campus and school systems.

Motivations for these programs are often multi-pronged. Improving student completion rates, increasing retention rates, signaling 21st century skills and competencies, thinking at a systems level how to put students at the center – these are just a handful of motivations for schools working strategically to leverage digital credentials.

A badge signifying program completion sits on a path leading out of an illustrated, non-descript higher education building.

More pointedly, however, many colleges and universities are thinking strategically about their role in preparing learners for the new world of work. Traditional students ages 18-22 need higher ed institutions to help them articulate what capabilities and skills they are gaining, whether it’s collaboration, leadership, critical thinking and creativity, as well as the more technical skills required for their chosen careers. Lifelong learners need higher ed institutions to help guide them through curated, vetted pathways punctuated with micro-credentials that work flexibly and economically with their busy lives.

We have much to learn from trailblazing schools and their innovative leaders about how to shape a digital credentialing strategy that works across, and often beyond, the institution. As calls grow for stronger connections between universities and the world of employment, we are watching in real time how leading institutions are using digital credentials to create those bridges.

A non-descript graph depicts three academic buildings, each one taller than the last, with the third reflecting an upward arrow signifying the need for a stronger connection between universities and the world of employment.

Skills-based hiring, upskilling, reskilling – what role will universities and colleges play in a decade forecast to be one of constant transformation not only for learners and workers, but also for employers and schools?

What does it mean for colleges and universities to be relevant in the quickly evolving learn-to-earn ecosystem? How can schools adapt to the new world of work while staying true to their core mission? How, exactly, are schools using digital credentials to help their learners prepare? Above all, we want to know what lessons they can share, what worked and what they would do differently.

At Badgr, we have conversations with the most leading-edge thinkers and doers about their strategy in a time of great change and uncertainty. We can’t wait to expand this conversation to include you and others who are on this same path.

Dr. Sheryl Grant, a woman with her hair pulled back, looks at the camera. She wears earrings and eyeglasses with rectangular frames.

About the author

Sheryl Grant, PhD is director of digital credentialing strategies at Badgr where she is responsible for the research, design and delivery of strategic planning and expertise in support of complex, multi-year digital credentialing programs.

Dr. Grant is among the change agents who helped build the field of micro-credentials and spearheaded the Open Badges movement 12 years ago with Mozilla, the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC. She has published articles, blogs, book chapters and the book What Counts as Learning: Open Digital Badges for New Opportunities, an early response to designing badge systems grounded in actual practice.

Are you interested in diving deeper into how micro-credentials can ready learners for the new world of work? Join Badgr and other higher education leaders as we unpack this timely topic.

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