Digital badges: Pinning down employer challenges
Keywords:digital badges, digital credentialing, employability, online learning, skills development, graduate recruitment, employment, micro-credentials
Digital badges hold considerable potential for employers and recruiters, as they evidence accomplishments of skills and competencies at a more granular level than a traditional degree certificate. Badges are a validated, online graphical representation of an achievement, which is accomplished by undertaking criteria-based learning activities. Despite the established educational benefits of badges in higher education, limited research has been conducted into employer awareness, acceptance, and use of digital badges in recruitment practices. To address this research gap, a mixed method study combining quantitative and qualitative data collection was conducted before and during the COVID-19 health pandemic. Approximately 700 employers were emailed and invited to complete the initial survey and 73 responded. One of the major survey findings is that 97% of respondents were unfamiliar with the concept of digital badges. Significantly, however, despite the lack of employer awareness there was no widespread resistance to the concept of badges, but a strong appeal for further clarification of their value, credibility, and security. Analysis of the data reveals stronger partnership working, between the higher education sector and employers, is pivotal to establish effective digital credentialing systems. Recommendations for higher education institutions have emerged from this study, which aim to balance pedagogical digital badge practice with employer needs. Such synergies are crucial to address the changing skills agenda, to prepare students to thrive in physical and virtual work environments. Given the paucity of research in this field, further studies are warranted, to investigate the impact of digital badges on the employer community.
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