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IBM wins top industry award for innovation in digital credentials

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By David Leaser (@david_leaser)

In just a few short years, Open Badges have barnstormed into the digital credentials space, providing a unique way to issue a digital credential which can be shared instantly on social sites – the perfect marriage between social media and credentials/recognition. Badges can be issued for a wide variety of activities, like course completions or proof of a real skill, achievement or competence.

Winner of the 2017 ITCC Award


IBM has become a leader in this digital credential disruption. Now, its IBM Open Badge Program, co-sponsored with Pearson Acclaim, was awarded the prestigious Information Technology Certification Council’s (ITCC) Innovation Award.

The honor is awarded to organizations who have developed a product, service or initiative that resulted in a positive impact to IT certification industry. To be selected, the winner must demonstrate it produces value for one or more stakeholders within the IT certification and testing industry and can help individuals more accurately demonstrate their skills and abilities.

From Left: Kristin Gibson (ITCC Chair), David Leaser (IBM senior program executive) and Beverly Bone (IBM Certification manager for Systems)

IBM Open Badges are transforming the digital credentials space

The IBM Open Badge Program was officially launched in 2016 and now manages more than 800 badgeable activities. In one year, the program issued digital credentials to nearly 200,000 people. IBM has created a heat map of talent in more than 158 countries and is driving real value for its stakeholders.

Open Badges are disrupting the certification space, particularly in the IT sector, where labor market and technology changes have accelerated the pace of change; the world need’s a credential program that can move quickly to recognize “liquid skills” which may change every 60 days.

But Open Badges were designed to complement, not compete, with certifications. Where a certification is an activity itself (usually an exam), a badge is a digital representation of an existing activity, like the completion of a class, an assessment or a demonstration of skills or abilities.

Certifications can benefit greatly from Open Badges and, in fact, create more demand.

How can Open Badges improve certifications?

  • Badge certification exams

By issuing badges to certification holders, you can dramatically increase the social media exposure for the certification. Where a handful of people may see a paper certificate hanging on a wall in a cubicle, hundreds or thousands of people will see the digital representation of the certification when it is shared in social media.

  • Create progression activities

In karate, after you earn your green belt, you typically want to earn the black belt. Similarly, by issuing badges for small, bite-sized activities that lead up to a certification, you will increase the likelihood the earner will continue all the way to the certification exam. Badges help get people on the “leader board” by making it easy (and rewarding) to start the journey. In a recent limited study, IBM saw certification exam pass rates increase by double digits when the test takers first earned progression badges.

  • Issue continuing education credits

If you earn a certification every two years, how will you show the world you are current in technology in between exams? Here is where badges can complement certifications by providing “continuing education” credentials for skills which are more “liquid.” Badges also provide a way to keep certification holders engaged beyond the test, maintaining a relationship with the test taker until the next release of the certification.

  • Create specialty credentials.

By layer badges on top of certifications, an organization can created specialized, differentiated credentials. For example a certification for project management can be enhanced with badges for an industry or functional role, like healthcare, energy, security or marketing. Imagine the possibilities?

Can Open Badges extend the shelf life of certifications?

Yes. With technology changing so quickly, how can you create a certification program which has a long shelf life of, say 24 months? Perhaps the T-skills model is the answer, where certifications provide core, essential and foundational role-based knowledge. Badges can then be layered or stacked onto the certification to represent deep skills in areas where technology is changing more frequently.

The IBM Open Badge Program provides more incentives than ever to earn credentials because of the value they provide building social eminence and signaling skills and employability in ways not possible before. The transparency in badges makes it easy for employers to see and verify what knowledge, skills, passions and abilities a credential represents – at the nano level. And credential issuers can now create programs which are far more relevant and tailor-made for industries and lines of business.

Want to earn an IBM Open Badge?

ITCC Award

The ITCC (IT Certification Council) awarded IBM its 2017 Innovation of the Year Award.

IBM only issues badges for resume-worthy activities; you cannot receive an IBM badge just for showing up.  But IBM has developed badges for every level, from introductory skills to advanced certifications. So, you can earn an IBM badge by completing a selected activity, like a free online course in, participating in a Bluemix function, completing select IBM certifications, contributing to developerWorks or passing a selected course at one of IBM’s Global Training Providers, including Arrow, Avnet and LearnQuest. So why not earn your first badge today — and then post it automatically to your LinkedIn profile — to see how badges works and how it may benefit you? Go to IBM’s Open Badge site to get started right now! Here’s a video to show you more!


David Leaser is the senior program executive for innovation in IBM’s Training & Skills organization. Leaser developed IBM’s first cloud-based learning solution and is the author of a number of thought leadership white papers on talent development, including “Migrating Minds” and “The Social Imperative in Workforce Development.” Leaser has trained more than 4,000 clients and developed more than 30 technology training manuals and video tutorials. You can reach David on LinkedIn or Twitter @david_leaser.

IBM is actively helping the world solve the talent gap, and the IBM Open Badge Program is just one example.

To find out more, please join the conversation on our websites and social networks:

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