Digital Credentials


A digital credential is a web-based verification of a person’s knowledge, skills, and accomplishments, including course or program completion.

Digital badges are a form of digital credential that indicate an accomplishment, skill, quality, or interest. Digital badges can be earned in a variety of learning environments.]

Digital credentials are becoming the new building blocks of a system of verified learning. Compared to courses, credentials typically have a smaller scope, allowing for more detailed definitions and more specific assessment of skills and capabilities. To be widely adopted, digital credentials require valid and reliable assessments and a marketplace of recipients that rely on verified skill assertions (i.e., higher education institutions and employers). 

A 2021 report from Credential Engine cataloged nearly 1 million credentials. Badgr and Credly are supporting the development of digital credential marketplaces that serve issuers (schools, colleges, and training organizations) and receivers (higher education institutions and employers). These marketplaces integrate with widely adopted learning management systems (such as Canvas) and distributed ledger learner record systems (such as Greenlight Credentials). Digital credentials are collected in learner records aligned with IMS or xAPI standards. 

Institutions’ websites often advise learners that their alternative credentials can be shared in a number of ways, including:

  • A link, PDF or QR code. (QR code linked to a credential can also be shared).
  • On social and professional networks and platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Through a unique link sent via email or embedded on a resumé, website, or  email signature. 

Because of the evolving, and sometimes conflicting, terminologies used in computer science, computer security, and cryptography, the term “digital credential” has multiple meanings. For example, sometimes passwords or other means of authentication are referred to as credentials.

Related Terms

Digital certificates

Digital learning records


Verifiable digital credentials


Stanford Online offers two types of digital credentials: a badge for a completed course, and a certificate for a completed program. The digital credential will allow learners to:

  • Share accomplishments with their network.  The digital badge or certificate can be easily displayed on a LinkedIn profile or other social platforms, as well as career sites, online resumés, in email, or as part of a digital signature.
  • Verify their credentials to employers. Stanford Online credentials are 100% authenticated and secure, so they provide immediate verification of a credential, speeding up employer verification processes.
  • Communicate the scope of acquired expertiseBecause a digital badge will include a course overview and a list of core competencies and skills, it will show a detailed explanation of the work done to attain a certification.


Digital Credentials Consortium


McClennen & Vander Ark, GETTINGSMART (2021)


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