Sussing Out The Fakes

By June Ramli

Sydney, Dec 23: Possessing skills, knowledge and experience is extremely important, but businesses also need the evidence to prove their candidates have achieved what they say they have. 
Come Learning Vault to the rescue – as Australia’s first digital credentialing agency, offering digital credentialing, badging and certification solutions for individuals, institutions, employers, businesses, associations and governments. 
Digital badging allows organisations and institutions to issue secure, verified virtual credentials, ‘badges’ or certificates to prove an individual’s achievements or credentials.
It is also a simple, secure way to share verified achievements with businesses, employers, organisations, on your CV, or through your social media accounts. 
The evidence provided through digital badges helps businesses to mitigate risk and help prevent fraudulent activity.
Another huge benefit to digital badging is that it allows Human Resources departments to quickly spot highly qualified candidates online and evidently reducing the time spent searching for new team members. recently spoke to Nicholas Robert, Learning Vault’s co-founder and CEO, who gave us some insights on his company as well as this new era of digital credentialing.

How much does an organisation need to pay for a digital badging system?

Digital badging architecture is a lot more cost effective than people think, although it all depends on which organisation you go with as some have different payment models. For instance, Learning Vault has no lock-in contracts and no onboarding fees. Organisations can issue digital credentials almost immediately and only pay for the credentials that they issue, and these are based on a sliding scale of volume. If you were just purchasing one individual credential for one individual recipient, it can be quite expensive but no more than $5 per credential. However, if you are issuing 10,000 badges over a multiyear period, they can be around $1.50 and can be less if issuing more than that.
One of the things that need to be considered when you are looking at integrating a digital badging architecture is that you need to have the thought leadership around what you are credentialing and why you are credentialing. This is arguably the most important component of having a badging architecture because that lays the foundation and the rules around how you can issue meaningful credentials to recipients of those badges. 

 Example of the Digital passport: This allows an individual to curate their credentials and share a group of credentials easily. Image supplied.

What do you check before issuing digital badges to a certain organisation or company?

When Learning Vault is onboarding a client, what we look for is to understand the use case they are deploying for a credentialing architecture and help them create the taxonomy around what badges should be created for, what instance and how they are awarded. 
We work with a multitude of different organisations, which include the accredited space, non-accredited, membership-based bodies, and complete not-for-profit. We work to make sure that every digital credential that is issued is meaningful against the outcome they want for that recipient. Once we have accomplished that exercise and can understand the use case for that client, we work with the client to create the metadata for the badge. Part of that conversation is also around that verification protocol.
There have been organisations where we have had ethical concerns around the efficacy of issuing digital badges and as a result, we have politely refused to work with them. However, with most organisations having an understanding around what they want to credential and having an open conversation about what we should credential, the power of credentialing and what creates a meaningful experience for our recipient, allows us to work in hand to understand what the most effective strategy is for issuing a badge. Part of that then relates to how it’s verified and how robust and meaningful it is- not only to the industry, but also the sector. This also applies to the individual end user and any person that is then going to interact with that badge moving forward. 

Nicholas Robert. Image supplied.

What kind of checks and balances does an organisation need to do before issuing someone with a badge?

Organisations can issue digital credentials programmatically. The key foundation of this is part of the whole onboarding process and understanding the taxonomy behind who is being issued a credential and why they are being issued a credential. Additionally, what evidence needs to be required or submitted to the issuer before a credential is issued. Once this is completed and understood the roadmap of what success looks like for a recipient to an issuer for a badge to then be issued. We then look at how we automate that workflow, what evidence is required and how that evidence can be automated so that it uses computation as opposed to manual intervention. 

What is the turnaround time before a company can issue a digital badge to a member?

The process can be largely defined by the client that we are working with. The most important part from Learning Vault’s viewpoint around a credentialing architecture is the strategy that sits behind it and the thought leadership that relates to who gets issued a badge. This is after they have completed what, in terms of membership, in terms of professional activity, in terms of education, are the metrics that relate to the triggering of an issuance of that badge and to us that is largely the most important part of the process. 
We have created organisations and onboarded organisations within our architecture that have taken 48 hours from engaging with us to issuing their first badge. The vast majority of the thought leadership around their taxonomy had already been completed at their end. 
If an organisation has an appetite and interest in issuing digital credentials and has the staff available to be able to do the workshops with us to understand what success looks like for a badge recipient, we can typically have that client up and running within two to three weeks. Learning Vault’s entire onboarding team is Australia based and understands credentialing inside and out. This allows us to run in real-time workshops that allow Learning Vault to create credentials, understand your business needs, the use case behind the credentialing architecture and how we can easily deploy that and make it fit for purpose for your organisation. 

Example of the verification status of a badge which includes validity, issue date, issuer, the recipient and expiry info. Image supplied.

Have you ever refused to work with a certain organisation or allow them to use Learning Vault’s digital credentials and what happens if there is a refusal?

Learning Vault is built around the construct of ‘education should be freely accessible for all people’ and that credentialing services should be available and accessible to all organisations from all recipients. 
As the only Australian digital badging agency we have a moral and ethical imperative to make sure that all credentials that are issued, as much as possible from our viewpoint, have thought leadership involved in them to not degrade any of the credentials that are being used. 
We have had organisations engage with us that wanted to issue tens of thousands of credentials to people that they interact with but do not hold any meaning and are ultimately used as marketing tokens only. Generally, these have nothing to do with adding value to the recipient, adding value to the industry sector, or adding value to the organisation in which they work. We have strategically decided that there is a lack of cultural fit between our organisations and as a result won’t be able to continue to pursue a business relationship. We have politely gone in a separate direction, and we know that they have since engaged with another incumbent within the industry sector that are all about mass producing credentials. Whereas our future is to continue the understanding of what a quality credential looks like and how they add meaning into the workforce and for each recipient so that over time credentialing can be seen as the new pathway of credibility, validity, and verification of achievement. Part of that process is making sure that the clients that we are working with are issuing meaningful certifications regardless of what they are issuing, it needs to have value and meaning behind the persona groups that are interacting with that badge. Whether that is the earner, the interrogator, or the acquirer, which are the three personas that we look at when we are creating the metadata set with a client relating to a digital credential. 

Some companies now ask for Police Checks or Working with Children (WWC) checks before they hire someone, is this something that Learning Vault offers or is there more to it?

Police checks, working with children checks and other such mandatory required information is an important process when we are looking at certification and verification of a staff member as an entire entity. We work closely with a lot of varying organisations in relation to staff mobility (fit for work). What we have done is create a fit for work digital credential that allows an individual to bake within that their police check, Working with Children’s check, first aid certificate, drivers licence and maybe their certificate III in Childcare. By having all verifiable instruments within the one credential, the staff member can easily show their employer in one snapshot that they are ‘fit for work’.  What we do is we make that credential itself expire when the first datapoint expires. What that means is if your first aid expires in February and that is the first thing to expire, your digital badge will expire in February as well because you are no longer fit for work and that is the strength of a verification protocol. 
We can also look at integrating straight into a police check architecture, we can integrate straight into any system that produces those documents in real-time. We can integrate in, pass through the certificate or the licensing requirement, bake that into a credential and have that as a verifiable credential. It is up to each individual client how they want that credential architecture to work. 

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How does your digital badging differ from the government’s WWC or Police Checks?

We understand the importance the government has in the ability to issue verifiable documentation. We work with multiple different agencies throughout Australia and can understand that some have different time frames compared to others. Whilst we can integrate into the architecture, it becomes more of a prerogative of what our end clients want that process to look like and where are they getting the source of that data from. If we integrate straight into working with children’s check or police check architecture, we can automate issuing of credentials instantly. However, if we are being provided with that information by an employer or by a recipient, we need to then create and then bake into a credential and will have to wait just as long as the end recipient in order to obtain that information. 

How long does the digital badge go on for and does it need to be renewed for the next time that same person needs to be verified for another opportunity? 

Digital credentials are fantastic in the context of once they are issued, they exist in perpetuity. What this means is, If I am an issuer and issue one of my members a digital credential and that credential is valid for 12 months then it will only be verified as a valid credential for 12 months. Although after that, I always have it as a moment in time that I was a member of an organisation, but I will not be able to verify that credential because of the verification protocol that has been put on it. This means that if I have been issued a credential by an organisation that does not have an expiry date, that exists in perpetuity and it does not cost any more to the end recipient, the person they interact with and utilises that badge. That digital credential can be verified as many times by as many people as possible without any additional charges. That is the beauty of a digital credential. Once it exists, it exists as a metadata record assigned to that individual in perpetuity.

How many digital badges has Learning Vault provided to organisations so far?

Learning Vault has provided tens of thousands of digital badges, these can include and relate to course completions, professional membership associations, staff movement for work, webinar attendance, and professional development activities

Are these accreditations only applicable for those living in Australia or worldwide?

No, a digital credential crosses borders as a digital metadata record. Any computer can interact with the machine-readable data baked within the credential itself. There is mass utility globally for digital badging and we have clients all over the world. These include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, India and Pakistan. 
If you think of a standard such as accounting. The accounting standards are largely globally apparent, it holds value having professional currency from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction that is a verifiable instrument so that the (interrogator) can understand exactly what the recipient had to do to receive that credential. 

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Who are your competitors? 

Our competitive set is diverse. We would say even though we are the only digital badging agency in Australia, we have two incumbents; one being Badgr that focuses predominantly on the primary school sector and the second being Credly acclaim, an American based organisation. Each organisation has its strengths and areas of future development. We specialise in professional development, professional membership, and education more broadly.

What is your market share for your business to date? 

Our market share is continuing to grow on a global scale. It would be hard for us to determine the amount of the market we currently have as we are growing each day. In different industry sectors, we would have a higher portion of the market share compared to our competitors, but this would be market dependent.

What are some of the business expansion plans next year? 

Continuing to build on our technology with new adaptations across verifiable records including some exciting work with various governments globally. We are also working more in the private sectors and offering solutions that immediately create robust ROI (return on investments) for our clients and helping them understand the various use cases and the utility of compliant badging on a global basis. 

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