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Re: The Ins and Outs of Digital Badging vs. Certification

Are there differences between digital badges and certifications? If so, which ones are more desirable? This blog answers questions about both. It also provides information about HPE training that supports certification and details little-known benefits that come with HPE-specific digital badges.

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If you think digital badging and certification are one and the same, you are not alone. Many do not know what distinguishes one from the other, but there are important differences between them. A question that may immediately come to mind is: which is better? But perhaps there is room for them to coexist and even create synergistic results.

Let’s start off by discussing some similarities between them.

  • Easily accessible and verifiable proof of your expertise

Both certifications and badges provide verification of your expertise in a particular skill or area of knowledge. You can instantaneously send links to online certifications or badges* containing pertinent information (your name, the organization issuing the document, the date received, the expiration date, and the skill or achievement and a brief description) to your employer. When it comes to applying for a new job or being promoted at your current company, validation of your abilities comes in handy.

*TIP: Live links to your documents prevent duplication and the creation of fraudulent copies so they boost employers’ trust and confidence!

  • Demonstration of your willingness to learn

Badges and certifications show that you are curious about a topic and motivated to learn—that you do not settle for existing knowledge. You push the envelope to learn more, and this reflects well on your character and credibility.

  • Record of your achievements

Keeping track of digital badges and certifications helps you reflect on and assess your own growth. The desire to earn your next certification or badge serves as motivation to stay engaged during training as opposed to tuning out or hurrying through it.

Now for the differences.

Certifications:

  • Assessment or exam separate from the training course

Certification usually requires you to pass assessments or exams given by third-party credentialing institutions. These assessments often have fees separate from the training course (on the other hand, fees for badging assessments are typically included with the training costs).

  • Certification for distinct purposes

There are different kinds of certifications. Indeed categorizes them into three main groups: corporate, product-specific, and profession-wide. Corporate certifications are created by an organization for its employees. Examples include “Goldman Sachs' New Analyst and New Associates certifications offered through Goldman Sachs University.” Product-specific certifications are also called role-specific certifications and they demonstrate skilfulness at working with a particular tool. Especially important for people in inbound marketing or information technology (IT) industries, these certifications are valued across different companies that use the same hardware or software technologies. Examples include SalesForce, VMware, Google Analytics, or HPE technology certifications. Unlike the other two certifications, profession-wide certifications are very broad: they do not apply to specific companies or products. Examples include Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certifications.

  •  Certification issuer

The institutions that issue your certifications matter, as employers trust them to give an industry-standard, up-to-date assessment. An employer’s trust in your certifications can give you a leg up against competitors in hiring situations, as you potentially save employers time and money by requiring less skills-based, or technology-specific training. People who already have jobs also benefit from certification, which qualifies them for promotions or pay raises. Global Knowledge’s 2020 IT Skills and Salary Report describes how “IT professionals who gained new skills and/or certifications last year received an average raise of $12,000-$13,000.” The same report discussed a particularly large discrepancy in pay between certified versus non-certified IT professionals in North America: those that are certified receive 8% higher pay than those without certification.

Digital badging:

  • Assessments included in training course

Digital badging is often offered by companies that create training. While specifics may differ among issuers, they are typically awarded after you complete a training course/learning path and pass an accompanying assessment. They provide motivation to complete training and are usually a smaller milestone than a certification. As previously mentioned, badging assessments are typically incorporated into training courses, so they don’t require additional fees or registrations. But just because they are more convenient to attain does not mean they are easy to attain or trivial in value. Badges still require investments of time and money, and they effectively encourage learning and have unique benefits.

  • Progressive documentation of your learning journey

Jonathan Finkelstein, founder and CEO of Credly discussed how badging promotes learning “by mapping a clear pathway for students, members, and employees to understand where they have been and where they are headed on their lifelong learning journey.” Finkelstein also mentions that reading well-articulated descriptions of the skills you achieved through training on your digital badge helps you “better advocate” for yourself by utilizing that language in necessary situations.

  • Shareable design

Digital badges are also optimized for sharing on social media. Many badging platforms have clickable buttons that make it easy to post achievements to your social media profiles or publish badges to your LinkedIn profile. Aside from purely showing off your awesome new abilities, displaying your skills on your profile is important for recruiting. They help you express and prove your specialities and skills, and they make it easy for recruiters and potential managers to quickly get a sense of your background.

  • Speed to attain

One advantage that badges have over certifications is the speed at which they can be developed and attained. Technologies are constantly evolving, and new courses and assessments can quickly be created with badges as the rewards: badges allow people to earn credentials for the latest innovations in a relatively short period of time. Certifications, on the other hand, may be expensive to attain and require lengthy preparation. Since they take extensive resources to develop, they are generally not built for change. So, rather than re-work certifications to keep up with changes in technologies, many vendors require a certification plus a badge.

Badging and certification preparation with HPE

In terms of certification, HPE offers engaging, comprehensive training to prepare IT professionals for certification assessments and exams. For example, our learning-as-a-service (LaaS) offering, HPE Digital Learner, has modular, self-paced online courses as well as industry-related books, videos, and practice guides that cover more than 65 certifications (see the list of certifications by vendor here). Customers have unlimited anytime, anywhere access to materials during their 12-month subscription period. In a survey conducted by TechValidate, 88% of organizations agreed that HPE Digital Learner prepared them to take certification exams. 

For badging, HPE has partnered with Credly to bring students free digital badges as they learn new skills. Students can earn badges for achievements of different learning levels and from different learning delivery formats: HPE Digital Learner, virtual instructor-led training (VILT),  instructor-led training (ILT), and individual eLearning courses. The full list of available badges can be found here. Each of the badges contains a detailed description of qualifications and an accompanying list of skills.* By clicking on the skill, you reveal more information.

*TIP: You can select skills from this list to add to the “Skills & endorsements” section of your LinkedIn profile or resume.

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When you click a skill, you are directed to a page with comprehensive job search information. You can filter for jobs by your country and state as well as see different job titles, salary ranges, and employers related to the skill.

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From there, you can click any of the colored bars to see a list of live job postings. You can even click the postings to be taken directly to the company’s website to apply!

So which is better?

Circling back to the question of whether digital badges or certifications are more desirable, the answer is…it’s a bad question! Digital badges and certifications should not be pitted against each other, because they are extremely complementary. People may earn and maintain a single certification in their career, but they can earn dozens or even hundreds of badges to update their skillsets and signal to management that they are growing and improving. Or, badges may be “stepping stones” that eventually lead students to certification.

Start your free trial of HPE Digital Learner to earn a digital badge today. HPE Fast Start badges are designed to be earned in 1-2 days.

Learn more about HPE Pointnext. 


Evelyn Ha
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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About the Author

Evelyn_Ha

I’m a passionate, creative, and dedicated Hewlett Packard Enterprise Education Services Marketing Specialist. Leveraging video, written, and social media content, my mission is to connect people with exciting technology and innovative approaches to advance the way they live and work. When not tackling the global IT industry’s complex riddles, you can find me traveling to unique places, soaking up the sun on the beach, or creating tasty baked goods for my friends and family.

Comments

What a great simple way to understand the differences and value badging and certification can bring.

Very informative and useful article!!