Blog posting date icon
min read

How Digital Badges can Take Associations Higher (in Member Rates)

Digital badges seem to be the new wave of education trends, so don't miss out. Allow your digital badge programs to add an extra level of value to your association's membership

Holiday Shaped Cookies on White and Grey Textiles

Education seems to be one of the most highly sought after resources that members look for in associations- and there are numbers to back that statement up.

In an article from WBT Systems, a recent poll found education to be one of the top member priorities in any association. Members were seeking a way to continue their professional education long after high school and college, and there’s a reason for this - money. With things like graduate and masters degrees coming at a high cost, many association members turn to the organization of their choice to gain the knowledge that they cannot afford from higher academic learning.

So, if your association wants to stay on top of its industry and keeps members satisfied, it needs to keep education as a priority in any member benefit. And with digital badges, your association can do just that. Offering digital badges gives your association the advantage of offering an educational course that members can use and showcase on their resume, on their LinkedIn profile, in email signatures, and many other places in between.

All in all, digital badges give members a chance to showcase their education without the fees of another degree. With that kind of value, chances are your association is looking to get on board and start offering digital badges. So, let’s take a closer look at what digital badges are and how your association can start offering them as an educational benefit your members will love (hopefully increasing your membership in the process!)

Digital badges: A source of value

As we briefly mentioned, digital badges allow professionals a way to show off the knowledge they’ve collected without the price of an advanced degree. These badges are evidence of accomplishments and achievements that many employers look for when hiring and filling job positions. Pew Research reports 87% of professional adults finding value in digital badges, ranking it as either “essential” or “important” to update professional skills through training. In addition, 49% of college graduates state that their college degree was not necessary in order to learn the skills needed for their current line of work. Similarly, 86% state they now are learning skills that were never taught to them in their time at college.

It’s clear that audiences aren’t finding value in the traditional style of education. But if that’s the case, then what type of value lies in digital badges? For those who aren’t looking for another degree, digital badges help freshen up a resume and make it appealing to employers. It also allows those who have spent a long time in their career to retrain and keep up with the industry without changing positions or going back to college courses to do so. Different from certificates and other print materials that show off an educational milestone, a digital badge is able to be attached to multiple digital platforms and viewed publicly by those who are looking for them.

As mentioned before, placing digital badges on LinkedIn profiles or in an email signature is an easy way to let other professionals know what type of information and skills they can expect from one another. It’s a seamless way to showcase professional capability and worth without having to read a person’s resume or look into their professional experience on other platforms. However, digital badges can also be places on many more digital platforms other than previously mentioned. There are even sites that offer something called a “digital backpack” - aka a tool specifically designed for showcasing digital badges (think of it like a boy scout lapel for the professional world).

So, now that we’ve uncovered a bit more about digital badges, how can your association get on its way to providing some of its own for members?

Create a digital badge program

With the value of digital badges laid out in front of your association, it only makes sense to create a digital badge program for your own. Depending on your industry, your association can offer a variety of courses that help members learn more about their profession and the skills required to keep growing. There are constant changes in the tech world no matter the profession at hand, and industry trends are always coming in and out of style, so programs can be related back to these growing trends and updates.

For example, let’s say your association deals with the medical industry. Based on your membership’s professional journey and the niche market you deal with, you can provide digital badge programs on the latest in medical updates, courses in how to use new technologies that relate to the medical world, and any other skill that your members may be looking for. Be aware that your association’s digital badge programs should be both unique and relevant to its market niche. You want courses that provide value to both the employer and the job seeker, making a cohesive program that adds value to your member’s resume once the program is completed and the badge is earned.

With the authority and credibility your association has already earned with members (and the industry community), you should have no problem creating badges that hold weight in the professional world. Create programs around your market niche, and you’re on your way to offering a highly valuable benefit to all members, from senior executives to young professionals.

Integrate technology that allows credential showcasing

Having digital badge programs of value is only half the battle- you need to make sure the technology your association uses supports these badges and showcases them on your member’s platform of choice. Using digital badge software services like Open Badges can make the process easy for your association. You can create portable digital badges embedded with metadata through the resources that these online tools provide, saving your association the time and frustration of spending hours in photoshop. Open Badges also offers the option for users to combine digital badges, making it easy to click one badge and see all of the knowledge achieved in the process.

However, while online tools are helpful, that isn’t to say your association can’t take the “do-it-yourself” route and offer its own digital badges without a digital badge tool. Create your own branded badges and embed the metadata that you’d like into the badge. Then, be sure the badge is able to be shared by members who’ve earned it on infrastructures that support digital badge sharing. If you’re looking for an example of an association that's conquered the world of digital badges, take a look at one association doing things right. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers a digital badging program to members looking to expand their knowledge on a specific facet of occupational therapy. It takes members through an educational course and asks them to pass their course with a 75% or higher - allowing wiggle room for those looking to earn the digital badge in question. Once the course is passed, members must apply for their digital badge, ensuring that the badge is only delivered to those who pass and are eligible. Badges are free of charge, making it extremely appealing to all members looking to enhance their education.

Your association can mirror the success of AOTA’s program and create a digital badge program similar to its own. Digital badges seem to be the new wave of education trends, so your association does not want to miss out. Allow your digital badge programs to take your association’s appeal (and its membership) higher and higher year over year.