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Why Are Digital Credentials Good for You?

Educators, staff, and administrators across Rutgers should consider the inclusion of digital credentials in expanding their learning and outreach opportunities for the ability of digital credentials (both digital badges and digital certificates) to document a baseline of learning that earners can share with those who recognize the importance of this level of comprehension. The spectrum of possible digital credentials at Rutgers is limitless and bridges the credit/degree, co-curricular, lifelong learning, and workforce development areas across the university.

Evidence of Accomplishment

As an example, a student's accomplishment of each of the liberal arts and science learning goals could be documented through a digital badge. This would help students better comprehend, appreciate, and verbalize their accomplishments. It would also make evident just how each goal was attained through the documentation supporting the badge. Take, for example, the areas within the New Brunswick Core Curriculum: Contemporary Challenges; Natural Science; Social and Historical Analysis; Arts and Humanities; and Cognitive Skills and Processes: Writing and Communication, and Quantitative and Formal Reasoning. A badging program for each would give evidence for what a student completing the core curriculum had accomplished in each area.  Utilizing digital badges along curriculum pathways empowers learners to align their achievements with the objectives of employers, internship managers, and graduate school admissions committees, and expand the success potential of students as they move forward toward degree completion.

Additionally, digital badges can provide learners with a way to talk about their learning achievements. Within focal areas of the undergraduate majors and minors, coursework and activities can be combined to provide the basis for a digital badge that students can promote to explore opportunities within their field of interest. Digital badges can be offered for University-wide techniques in research, lab work, and skills required to best navigate their student experience, such as the new Online Learning Skills badge developed by the Rutgers Learning Center. Earning this badge enables students to develop and document their abilities to participate in online instruction so that they have the proficiency needed for success, and faculty members can be confident that their students are participating in their online course from the same skill base.  

Digital certificates enable a learner to share their achievement of receiving a certificate from Rutgers digitally with their colleagues, friends, potential employers, and others.  Where a paper certificate in the past could only be referenced on a resume, a digital certificate enables the learner to share a link to the documentation of what they learned, how their learning was assessed, the skills they developed, and all of the essential information about the certificate program that is included in the metadata of the digital certificate maintained by Rutgers.

Career Opportunities

Digital badges that promote student learning that is co-curricular enable educators to use opportunities outside of the classroom to motivate students to apply, investigate, and expand their learning as they explore their fields of interest and gain experience before graduation. The career services programs that support our academic units can develop digital credentials to document a student’s networking abilities, their participation in career fairs, their industry research expertise, and the development of their e-portfolios. These digital badges can be “stacked,” or layered to achieve a progression of capabilities and achievements that build upon those that came before them, to demonstrate the student’s full preparedness to undertake the search for their post-degree employment. For our current and future alumni, these digital credentials can be updated to provide proficiency for career improvement utilizing technologies that have yet to be developed.

Across our more than 8,700 faculty and nearly 15,000 staff, digital credentials can and have been developed through University Human Relations, the Division of Continuing Studies, and the Office of Information Technologies to expand the abilities of our tremendous workforce to motivate members to learn new skills, expand existing mastery, and consider areas of improvement they may have never previously contemplated.  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our Division of Continuing Studies is helping faculty and graduate students expand their online teaching abilities by utilizing digital badges to document their progress through essential skills in this sudden and essential teaching requirement. The current pandemic has demonstrated how skill building can become a critical path in crisis management, and digital badging programs can provide an outstanding pathway to move participants through skill development and documentation while providing a source of pride and ownership when badge earners share their achievement on their social media networks. Through the Office of Information Technology’s access to LinkedIn Learning, Rutgers employees can choose from over 9,000 courses, videos, and learning paths to broaden their skills, explore areas of interest, and earn digital credentials to stimulate and motivate their dedication to learning and document their achievements. These also provide opportunities for Rutgers faculty and staff to develop new digital credentials to use and expand on these offerings from LinkedIn Learning in creative applications.

Rutgers University currently provides more than 5,000 non-credit programs enabling those of the general public to broaden their skills, explore new areas of interest, keep their certifications current, and achieve new levels of earning potential. Additionally, this provides exposure to the university to those who are willing to take that first step to see what they might be able to accomplish.  Within this portfolio of potential, augmenting these offerings with digital badges and digital certificates could be the motivation that encourages more non-traditional students to embark on a journey to expand their abilities, finish an incomplete degree, or even pursue a full degree program.


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