How badging by competency promotes the college-to-career path

Transcripts, certificates, and the like serve as the most commonly-accepted proof that a college graduate has met the graduation criteria of their program of study. While it is a fairly common practice for employers to accept such documents as proof that a recent graduate is qualified for a job opening, this process has a lot of room for improvement. The items below represent the top 3 reasons how badging by competency can offer more precise, robust, and useful data concerning the job readiness of a recent graduate:

  1. Transcripts Are General - Transcripts and certificates lack granularity and “targeted” specificity. Lists of course titles on a transcript (e.g., Front Office Administration, Customer Service Skills) or a program of study (e.g., Medical Assisting) on a certificate are not granular enough to help gauge whether the student’s coursework maps to specific job knowledge or skills. Additionally, they are expressed in academic terms, rather than in hiring terms. Competency badges are awarded for job skills and based on the demonstration of mastery, which means that employers can be confident that the results are granular and specific to the skills that they value most.

  2. Grade Inflation - GPAs are subjective and grade inflation is very real, which means that maintaining the minimum GPA required for graduation may not be an accurate indicator of competence. Participation points, effort, homework, and extra credit can inflate a student’s GPA, even if they have not mastered the skills that will help them succeed in their future profession. Competency badges that are awarded for demonstrating job skills through scenario-based assessment are more valid indicators of a student’s job-readiness.

  3. Inconsistency of Learning Hurts Everyone – Since the same certificate can be awarded to students with different learning experiences, badging by competency forges a direct connection between a student’s college experience and the workplace skills needed to qualify for employment. Thus, an employer can trust a badge more than a brand name.  Student transcripts often mask skills and abilities. Trusted badging highlights a graduate’s ability to perform job tasks.

To see how schools are currently using badging in their programs, click here http://www.slideshare.net/WonderlicInc/measures-of-vocational-proficiencies.

Comments

First off, Amanda, this is a tremendous read and there was definitely thought put into it. This is a great idea, and I think that some iteration of the concept is going to come to fruition in the future, but my only concern would be the validity of the qualification. Let me explain. In the digital era with its proliferation of photo editing software, I think that there may be some reluctance to accept badges on social media sites as the sole measure of one's qualifications. Prospective educational institutions and employers would need to know that there would be some way to forensically identify that the badge is true and valid. Simple watermarking may work, but people are fairly ingenious and tend to figure out ways around controls. The question remains; what's the way to secure the badges and prevent people from merely copying them and pasting them into their credentials? While it's true that the same could occur with one's 'official' educational transcripts, if someone has to investigate whether or not the candidate has indeed earned a qualification, it only takes a simple inquiry into that individual's past to ferret out the truth. Badges will need that same level of scrutiny to be successful. I'm not diminishing the idea, regardless. I agree that the conditions described in the article do indeed exist. There is plenty of inconsistency to go around and it's extremely difficult to establish whether or not people possess the skills they purport. Badging could definitely work as long as they're protected and certified to be true and valid.

Amanda Opperman's picture

Hello John, Your concerns about the validity of badges is an issue that I have addressed with nearly every client institution that I have worked with -- it is a very common concern! I am glad that you brought it up, and I am happy to address that concern here in this forum. A digital badge is the quickest way to certify whether someone is being truthful about their qualifications because the way a badge works is that it must be clicked on and opened up to verify its authenticity, and this process can happen as quickly as someone can grab their mouse. When a user clicks on the digital badge, it connects them to the badge certification site where the description of the badge, the recipient of the badge, the issuer of the badge, the expiration date of the badge, and other verifying credentials are housed. This is something that cannot be copy and pasted; it functions as a live link, so if the user clicks on the badge and it does not connect to the certification site, then they know that badge is not valid. The reason this is the quickest method is because other methods such as requesting official, sealed transcripts from a college or calling on references can take days or even weeks to complete. As an added layer or security, Wonderlic badges are only awarded when the badge recipient’s identity has been verified and their badge assessment results have been approved by a third-party proctoring service. Wonderlic’s badges also have the additional value of being developed with the direct input of over 100 employers and subject matter experts, and this helps our badges stand out among the rest! I appreciate your comment on this blog post, and I hope that you find this information useful. If you have any follow-up questions, please feel free to post them here and I will gladly reply. 

This makes complete sense, Amanda. It's very similar to the way SSL certificates work on secure websites. I appreciate your thorough explanation of the process. That said, your idea is really awesome! I hope I see it in practice someday soon.

Amanda Opperman's picture

John, I will keep you posted as we continue to compile some of our school's experiences into client stories. They will be in an easy-to-read narrative format that we hope will provide the community with inspiration for implementing digital badges at their intuitions. Stay tuned!

We are using badges in our non credit CBE Office Assistant certificate. Students who demonstrate mastery in the assessment for each module earn a badge and progress to the next module. Allows students, employers and faculty to really understand what competencies the student has demonstrated and is far more meaningful than the traditional transcript.

Amanda Opperman's picture

Using digital badges to track competencies between CBE modules is one of the next projects Wonderlic has on the horizon. We have a series of modularized CBE assessments called DALO (Direct Assessments of Learning Outcomes) that are perfectly suited for digital badges. It would be great if we could connect to learn more about your approach and the impact it has had at your institution - please feel free to email me directly at Amanda.Opperman@Wonderlic.com

Hi Amanda, it's great to see badges being used more the way that I think they need to go - tied to very specific learning outcomes and skills. The credibility of the issuer still seem to be the key factor in having badges taken seriously by employers - with absolutely no disrespect intended (I'm from Australia and haven't heard of your company), what assurances do you provide that a Wonderlic issued badge is a worthwhile? Is there national accreditation?

Amanda Opperman's picture

Hello Colin,

Thank you for your excellent question. I am very glad you asked it, because this is something that often comes up in our discussions with members of the higher ed community and the badge community. You are absolutely right, competency badges for job placement will not hold any value for the badge recipient if they are not respected and trusted by the employer. There are two ways that we can affirm the credibility of our badges:

The first is that Wonderlic has, for almost 80 years, been widely recognized as a leading expert in hiring assessments. We test thousands of job candidates every day across every industry in the country. Employers have confidence that a Wonderlic-issued badge comes from a thoroughly vetted, reliable, valid assessment process.

Additionally, we provide transparency into the process of our assessment development so that any employer can "peak under the hood" to understand how and why we test the competencies measured by our "badgeable" assessments. For example, we issue badges to students seeking employment as medical assistants; in order to to build an assessment that measures the competencies most important to job performance, Wonderlic worked with 100 employers and hiring managers who recruit and train medical assistants.

By drawing upon our hiring expertise and collaborating with employers to develop the assessments, we know that employers will trust the badges that we issue.

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