The adoption of digital certificates for educational qualifications seems inevitable, it is a case of when, how and of course why? Combined with personal digital portfolios of learning evidence and experience this could provide a better way of matching candidates with jobs and lead to other benefits in terms of lifelong learning. It will involve change for both awarding bodies and learners from existing practices and the development of new business models that rely on leveraging the minimal cost of providing modern cloud-based information services to create a useful product. In our project we are working with two technical platforms that do this to provide innovative and useful services to their end users but charges them nothing – monetization comes elsewhere:
- The Google G Suite / Consumer is free to learning providers and learners and gains future customers for the consumer version of its products when the learners graduate.
- APPII does not charge awarding bodies, learning providers or learners for its service. It makes its money by providing services to employment agencies and employee checks.
The Scottish government report makes the observation that smaller countries can be more nimble in adopting digital technologies in their public services and recommends the development of pilot projects to explore the benefits in real practical settings. With one large dominant awarding body in Scotland (The SQA), that is a part of the public sector, a set of pilot exercises involving employer and industry representatives would make a lot of sense.
The independent nature of awarding bodies will mean each will follow their own path in this area. One motivation for change is working with a service provider like APPII as a marketing tool to make its qualifications more relevant and useful to prospective learners and employers. This in turn implies a changing (closer) relationship between awarding bodies and learners than the current one. Another factor in this future scenario is how the learning provider fits into this picture. We know that learners tend to identify with their learning provider (FE) rather than their awarding body. A digital certificate service that includes the name of the learning provider can also be an important publicity and branding tool for the provider with industry and potentially a communication channel with its own alumni. Again, a set of pilot projects would be very useful and should involve learning providers and industry and employer representatives as well. It would make a great deal of sense to have collaborative pilot projects including different awarding bodies who could learn from each other.